Here’s a POD, There’s a POD, Everywhere a POD POD
First what is POD? This is really confusing. There are iPod’s for music, pod casts for recording, pea pods, pod people from the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Printing on Demand (pod).
Since I’m a print broker and this blog concerns itself with printing, publishing, and [other] observations you could guess that the pod I’m concerned about is Printing on Demand. By the way, that’s a darned good phrase. Whoever came up with it should write political slogans, you know, the kind of things that sound good but have no real substance. After all, if you wanted something printed why not have it done on demand?
“My good sir, I demand my printing.” Wha? What does it mean? The phrase by itself is meaningless, but it has impact. It lets the customer feel that they are in charge by being able to demand it. How often if life do we get to demand anything? Demands usually cause trouble, but here’s the printer giving you permission to DEMAND something. That’s refreshing, don’t you think?
First, printing on demand is a misnomer. It is not a printing method at all. The method is called digital. Think of POD like the term quick print. Quick printing is offset printing utilizing faster turnarounds, smaller runs, and cheaper methods, like using paper plates instead of metal. There is no printing process called Quick Print. And there isn’t a printing press called an “on demand.”
Digital printing burst onto the printing scene just a few years ago. The computer industry spawned it, and in fact, the printing you do on your office laser jet is digital printing. The difference between the commercial digital “press” and your office printer boils down primarily to speed and sophistication.
So what’s the big deal? Oh my friend, it is a very big deal because Printing on Demand is revolutionizing the field of publishing. Until it came around, it wasn’t economically feasible to print just a few books. To prepare an offset press for printing requires several steps that we call “make-ready” in the biz. The time and materials, such as plates, and file prep, have front-end costs. With POD, many of those front-end costs don’t exist. if your electronic file is right, the setup is virtually done. Now is the beginning of the golden age of short-run publishing.
If the price is better why isn’t all printing POD? Because, it isn’t always better. For all the hoopla, POD has a serious weakness. It is great at micro print runs, like quantities between one and five-hundred, but can’t keep up with offset printing at around one-thousand. If you wish to print say 2,000 books, offset printing will offer a much better price, but if you only want 50, POD beats offset, hands down.
What’s the future of Printing on Demand? Who knows? I suspect that someone, somewhere soon will figure out a way to make digital printing more economical for longer runs and offset presses will quickly disappear like dinosaurs. That day isn’t here yet. For the time being I recommend digital printing for short runs and offset printing for larger. Here’s a pretty simple guide: 500 or less = digital, 1,000 or more = offset, between 500 and 1,000, get a bid.
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