Skip to Content

'POD technology is changing the publishing world'

20 March 2006

Many writers may not realise how very profoundly print on demand technology is changing the publishing world. At least one reason for this is that it is no longer possible for the reader to tell whether a book has been printed using print on demand or a traditional batch printing process. The quality of POD has improved enormously and, judging by what was said at the London Book Fair recently, the capacity to print colour books using the same process is not far off.

Publishers are increasingly opting to keep their backlist, or at least that part of it which is selling quite slowly, in print using print on demand. For a small annual fee, a book can be kept 'in print' indefinitely. Eventually, this will mean an end to the heartache of having your book, once it's been published, go out of print because the sales do not justify a reprint.

POD has also accelerated the increase in the number of titles published. Already growing fast, this figure has now exploded. Six years ago the number of titles published in the UK was 94,000, last year it was nearly 200,000. In the States this is happening even faster. Last year individual categories such as poetry grew by an astonishing 60%, compared with the previous year.

Self-publishing is of course the reason for this. As it gets harder to find a publisher, more and more authors are deciding to try publishing their own work. With prices coming down, self-publishing is no longer the expensive business it used to be. With the assistance of Amazon and EBay, titles with a tiny niche market can now be published and find that small number of interested readers. Curiously, like many current trends in the book world, this seems contradictory. Many publishers are cutting back the number of titles they publish. This frustrates the hugely increased number of writers working away and trying to get published, and some of them will turn to self-publishing. But the advantage is that it can function as a form of market testing.

There have been some notable success stories amongst self-published books. G P Taylor's Shadowmancer was one of these and Stephen Clarke's A Year in the Merde another. The Valley of Secrets by Charmain Hussey went for a £300,000 advance, having come to public attention after 20 years in her bottom drawer. Of course, these books did have the readability that earned them their bestselling status, but other manuscripts may languish forever if nothing is done to bring them to public attention. At least writers can now seize control of their own destiny. It's not easy, but POD makes it much cheaper than it used to be and it's pretty exciting to hold your very own book in your hand for the first time!

What is self-publishing?

Our self-publishing service

Print on demand from our Inside Publishing series