Back List On Demand
A print-on-demand deal struck by production managers at Harvard University Press (HUP) promises to save the press time and money, while boosting incremental income through increased sales of back-list items.
The print-on-demand deal with Acme Bookbinding, Charlestown, Mass., could also put back-list titles into the hands of readers faster than ever before in the publisher's 94 year history.
The move is a sea change for HUP, which previously avoided print-on-demand (POD) due to concerns over the business model employed by POD services.
In most cases, POD service providers get a piece of the royalty action, and exercise some level of creative control over the look of the finished product.
PROBLEMS WITH POD
These issues, plus concerns about POD's ability to produce bindings of quality comparable to offset printing, prevented HUP from embracing the approach-despite POD's capacity to cut production time and costs associated with short runs of back-list items.
"We have been thinking about producing our back list through on-demand printing for a long time, but we couldn't find a suitable product," says John Walsh, production manager at Harvard University Press, in Cambridge, Mass. "We wanted a well-bound, well-printed volume in hardcover that closely matched the standards [of the original edition]."
Economic realities clouded that vision. The old titles didn't offer sufficient sales volume to warrant offset publishing in volume, and offset's costs are too high to justify the short runs a small back-list inventory requires.
The turning point: a casual conversation between HUP production manager Walsh and the president of Acme Bookbinding of Charlestown, Mass., HUP's trade binder for 20 years.
The rights and royalty problems were quickly resolved: Acme wasn't interested in muscling in on Harvard's turf.
That, plus the efficiency of Acme's print-on-demand platform, which uses Hitachi's DDP 70 MicroPress, meant the cost of producing one-off titles or short runs finally fell into line for HUP.