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What's All This POD Stuff About Anyway?

Veruca Salt from Charlie & The Chocolate FactoryIn Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the over-indulged little princess Veruca Salt famously demands “But I want it NOW!” in such whining tones that everyone cheers when she finally gets her just desserts and plummets down the garbage chute.

Despite us definitely not condoning such atrocious behaviour, we believe very firmly in delivering books precisely when the customer wants them.

With traditional publishing, the publisher takes a massive gamble and orders a print run, frequently of 5,000 copies. If these sell well, they may order a reprint and if it’s deemed to be a best-seller, it may increase to many more than the original print run.

However, if they don’t sell, the publisher is left with a stack of books that no-one wants to buy and a rather bad case of egg on his or her face. The excess books are then a problem for someone and either have to be sold off at very low prices – have you ever seen books in the discount stores or for 1 penny online? – or they are pulped, destroyed at a cost to the publisher and of course, to the planet.

Enter POD or print on demand.

This is a relatively new way of delivering books to book stores, online retailers and individuals. Instead of taking a wild guess how many people might buy a book, the digital files needed to print the book are held by a print on demand printer, waiting for orders to come in.

If over the course of a day 27 people purchase your book, at the end of that day, 27 copies will be added to the print queue. The pages and covers for these copies will be printed and everything will be assembled into fully finished books, packed into mailers and sent off to each of the 27 people.

It’s a pretty automated system, there are no large piles of books sitting around gathering dust, no disappointed customers being told the last one has just been sold and that the publishers aren’t reprinting them and there is definitely no pulping!

The prospects for the future of print on demand may be even brighter. In certain book buying venues across the world, our POD printer has installed machines which can print and bind books in just a few minutes. The machine will store popular books locally but if you request something it doesn’t have the machine can download it from a central server right there and then.

I for one would hate to see physical, printed tomes disappear entirely to be replaced by digital downloads and these new methods of delivering beloved books make the future for the printed word a little more secure.

Yours in a jiffy,

The Team