First, let’s be clear on what I mean when I say POD books. This term has become so misused and misunderstood that it has actually resulted in lost sales for many. This doesn’t need to be the case.
POD stands for PRINT ON DEMAND. You’ll notice the word PRINT. Not publish or promote, PRINT!
POD is the process used by PRINTERS to eliminate the need for excessive runs of print copies. The printer simply waits until there is an order and then prints the specific number of copies ordered, removing the immediate potential for wasted paper.
I’m not sure why POD books have received such a negative reputation, but most booksellers and librarians, and now due to the overwhelming number of authors arguing about it in public forums, readers equate POD with lower quality books. This simply isn’t the case.
For over a decade, a multitude of publishers, both big and small, have been using the POD method for fulfilling orders.
The quality of the written word is determined well before the actual book ever goes to print, thereby eliminating the misconception that POD books are “bad.” It needs to be understood by all that POD, the method of printing does not account for the number of poorly written and edited books being sold in the market.
The biggest problem with the misunderstanding of POD is the ability for companies and authors to market and promote the books. However, with the proper education within the retail (and library) industries, bookseller and acquisition librarians could not only increase their potential sales and titles available, but could increase the variety of stories available to their readers.
Readers crave originality. They are tired of reading the same recycled stories by the same authors. Yet, they are deprived of any freshness in their choices, because the larger and more traditional publishers are reluctant to take any financial risk on the newer and more exciting stories written by unknown or new authors.
I would encourage everyone in the book industry to educate themselves and to recognize the value of POD books and to acknowledge the potential for increased sales. Give new authors a chance to prove that they have writing skill and the ability to tell a good story, no matter how many copies of their book is printed at one time.
Furthermore, consider the environmental impact of POD books. A traditional publisher may print 5000 copies of a paperback novel by a new author, and only sell 1500 of them. This means that the remaining 3500 unsold copies will be put into waste. Had the publisher used the POD process to print those books, they would have simply printed the 1500 copies as the orders came in and eliminated the waste. If you did this for 10,000 books in one year, imagine how much paper would be saved and thus less trees.
Bottom line, POD is not the work of Satan. It is simply a process used to print books in smaller quantities. Sorry, Dude, you don’t get credit for this one.
My final point refers to the availability and returnability of books produced using the POD process. The status of returns is not determined across the industry, it is determined by the specific publisher or author. This means that it is an unfair assumption for a bookstore not to carry a POD book, without first determining its returnability status.
We all have choices, but when we make a choice, that doesn’t give us the right to complain when that choice cause a problem.
I hope that after reading this post, more people who speak ill of the POD process will reconsider their “choices” and give authors a fair chance to sell books and entertain readers.
Originally published at ©Life as a Publisher by Karen L. Syed
This can be reproduced in it’s entirety with no additions or corrections.
Hi Karen, I just wanted to know I nominated you for the One Awesome Blog Award (updated by me from One Lovely Blog Award). Cheers! Jerri
Great post, Karen. Maybe we should call what those in the traditional book business do “Pulp on Demand.” At the very least, we ought to call it wasteful.
Just a couple of things: You are correct (as usual) throughout, especially when restricting yourself to books with no or few illustrations, other than line drawings.
The technical process of POD is not designed to produce high quality illustrations in color or subtle shades of gray. There’s already a really good process for that, called offset. It’s expensive, compared to the digital process used for POD. The other thing is that there are printers who use poor quality cover stock and binding methods which have contributed to the questionable reputation of POD books.
I have been arguing this for well over five years. People persist in stubbornly clinging to their misconceptions, as if admitting POD = PRINT on demand, NOT PUBLISH on demand, would be tantamount to having “I’m an idiot!” tattooed across their foreheads for ever having shouted from the rooftops that it meant anything else.
POD refers to high-speed, high-quality printers that do exactly what you described here, period. It’s unfortunate that both “print” and “publish” start with the letter “P” as this has confused any number of people and repetition of the misinformation has made others doggedly determined to continue spreading it.
I hope that your post here has an impact where many others have failed over the years.