A sizable risk
Offset printing, of course, requires new plates for each job and hence comes with a higher initial cost than digital. Once the offset press is running, however, the actual cost of applying ink to paper does become smaller compared to that of a digital press. With the cost per unit dropping as the print run increases, publishers have to order print books in bulk for an offset printing project to remain cost-effective. Needless to say, offset print technology comes with a sizable risk of unsold inventory. That’s why more and more publishers opt for print-on-demand (POD); an inherently digital print technology.
Did you know? According to InfoTrends, books are one of the fastest-growing applications moving from offset to digital. The institute expects no less than 22.7 billion book pages will be printed digitally by 2019.
Disrupting the book publishing industry
Not requiring any plates, digital printing has a much lower set-up cost than offset. This, along with the speediness of the digital printing process, allows publishing agencies and self-publishing authors to affordably print books on demand instead of having to forecast demand and risk overruns. While most books today are still printed by offset, digital printing is undeniably disrupting the book publishing industry in several ways as we speak.
Not having to order in bulk anymore to remain-cost efficient, publishing houses who opt for print-on-demand are increasingly moving to a zero inventory model. Some even remove warehouses from their supply chain altogether and expand their sales abroad by adopting a print-and-distribute model, outsourcing to foreign printing partners in the area where the demand occurs.
POD also opens doors to a new type of revenue stream, including the revival of out-of-print titles (which are too expensive to print in bulk yet can still count on a small and loyal following). Additionally, the speedy nature of digital print enables publishers to react immediately to sudden surges in demand, e.g. when an author passes away or makes the headlines.