On-Demand Printing Could Revolutionize Publishing Industry

By Barker-Benfield, Simon | The Florida Times Union, January 11, 1999 | Go to article overview

On-Demand Printing Could Revolutionize Publishing Industry


Barker-Benfield, Simon, The Florida Times Union


About 30 years ago, Sue Spencer of Jacksonville wrote African Creeks I have been Up, about life with her mining engineer husband and their children. First The David McKay Co. and then Bantam Books published the book, which went into six printings, and she enjoyed a certain national celebrity.

Now comes the sequel, More Creeks I have been Up, which she is publishing herself -- one copy at a time on good quality paper.

She is able to do this -- and make a profit -- thanks to a technology called on-demand printing, which promises to revolutionize a big part of the publishing industry, experts say.

Instead of the expense of guessing how many people may buy the book and then paying for a big printing run, one copy of the book is stored digitally on a computer disk, printed out as needed, then bound and shipped by the New Jersey company Spencer is using.

Cost of the set-up of her book is about $450, she said.

The firm will register the book on Internet buying services such as Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. Spencer also is using an editor friend of hers in Fernandina Beach, Emily Carmain, to help market the book, which will sell for $24.95 hardback and $15 in paperback.

Spencer will get about $4 for each copy sold.

The digital printing technology makes use of lasers and toner powder. It is in essence a very fancy and expensive version of the familiar office photo copier and is most suitable for black-on-white printing jobs.

Being able to print one volume of a book at a time and still make money will have a major impact on the economics of publishing, said George Alexander, editor of The Seybold Report on Publishing and a veteran analyst of the industry.

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