Print on demand is a new way printing technology that makes the production of a certain very low print runs possible.
The ultimate in print on demand is the production of one copy at a time. This is only possible using new digital printing techniques.
Unlike the so called short run printing, it defines traditional printing in small numbers for a very limited stockholding; while on demand printing enables the printing as a specific response to a customer order, thus, on demand prints will never go into stock.
As a formal definition of print on demand and short run printing is that – print on demand is a fairly recent technology that uses digital printing techniques to produce standard print books in a rapid and cost-effective process.
While short run printing is a traditional way of printing for just what its name imply – a short print run.
It means that in traditional printing, the more quantity you print in one run, the cheaper the cost of each unit.
The advantage and disadvantage of print on demand:
The main advantage of print on demand is that the cost of printing does not occur first. Therefore, the initial cost of inventory is only the cost of setting up the digital files to print the book when an order occurs.
One disadvantage is that it takes a very large investment to control quality and to manage the flow of books printed one copy at a time.
A second disadvantage is that bookstores and wholesalers do not order stock of books printed one at a time. Therefore such books are always “special order”, which diminishes sales.
Higher unit production costs, compared with offset, can also make it difficult to give a book an attractive retail price.
Also short run printing has its own advantage and disadvantage: One advantage is that its better quality control and potentially lower unit cost, compared to print on demand. Another is that it allows production of stock for wholesalers and retailers to order, which they do.
Its disadvantages: short run printing does not totally eliminate warehousing and inventory costs as one off print on demand does.
The best use of the print on demand is from the point of converting thousands of titles to one at a time print on demand availability, increasing sales and reducing warehousing costs. While short run printing is best used
a) when the title is expected to sell more than 100 but fewer than 1,000 copies per year
b) when the publisher wishes to minimize the initial investment in a title, but wishes to sell through bookstores.
According to statistics, small publishers release about 50,000 new titles per year.
The average number of copies printed is 3,800; the average life of the book is nine years, or 420 sold per year.
For many of these 50,000 titles short run is optimum because of the savings in initial printing costs and storage costs—especially considering that if demand actually justifies it, the publisher can switch from short run to offset at any time.