What Is Print-on-Demand?

Print-on-Demand, or POD, is an exciting printing technology that has revolutionized the publishing industry in the last ten to fifteen years. POD is an automated digital technology whereby individual copies or small print runs can be produced and shipped to order. As the technology has grown, it has eliminated the need for large, offset print runs—allowing millions of new authors to see their work in print at a fraction of the cost. The desktop publishing era, fueled by innovators such as Steve Jobs, increased the demand for high-quality publishing for the masses and continued to drive advancements in printing technology. Now every writer has the opportunity to turn his or her work into a premium book without spending an exorbitant amount of time or money.


How Does POD Work?

Print-on-Demand is a surprisingly simple technology. Just as any computer or tablet can save files a user creates, so can the servers and databases utilized by printers with POD technology. Once an order comes in, the proper book file is selected in the computer and sent to the printer. The process is very similar to printing a letter—or tickets to a movie theater—at home. Once the printer receives the file, it prints the book’s interior, cuts the pages, and sends them to the binding machine. A brand new cover is placed on the book, and it is sealed with the binding. Within a few minutes, you have a brand new book ready to ship to an eager reader!

Here is video of a type of POD using the Espresso Book Machine:

What Are the Advantages of POD?

The benefits to POD are numerous—and critical to the future of the publishing industry. Before POD, traditional presses had to print an extraordinarily large number of copies in order to make printing cost-effective. Standard offset print runs were in the thousands, putting a heavy financial burden on independent writers without a traditional publishing house to help cover the costs.

Even if an independent author could afford a large print run, there is a secondary issue of storage. Once all those copies are printed, they need to be safely shipped and securely stored while awaiting purchase. Retailers have limited space, both for display and storage, so they do not want excess inventory unless it’s a bestseller. As a result, largely unknown authors do not stand a chance selling their books in a physical store, especially on a national level.

That’s where the true advantage of POD comes in. Now, digital files can be stored with the printer, and copies can be printed one by one or in small amounts, as needed. Once printed, books can be shipped directly to the buyer, eliminating the tremendous costs associated with the traditional publishing model. POD allows authors to publish from the comfort of their own homes and sell their books online—without nearly as much financial investment as required a few decades ago.

With its ability to cut costs, eliminate storage issues, and provide easy online availability, POD technology has opened up the publishing world to a whole new population of passionate writers ready to share their stories!