Print on Demand : PODvantage

DQI Bureau
New Update

Writers have always wanted their creations to reach a wider audience. The

printed word has been a great medium and has inspired authors to publish their

creations. From the ancient times of bhoj-patra to the sophisticated offset and

laser printers and modern day digital e-books, publishing has come a long way.


Traditionally, books have been published only through brick-and-mortar

publishing channels. Modern technology, however, has ushered in a revolutionary

new concept of self-publishing. And the technology thats driving this concept

ahead is called print on demand (POD).

The Idea Behind

POD is not new in the digital world. Since 2003, a website called has enabled users to order customized coffee mugs, posters,

t-shirts, and so on. The fun part is that you can even use your own designs and

there is no minimum or maximum cap for order quantity. About three years ago, a

new dimension got added to this technologyknown as self-publishingthat enabled

ordinary writers to publish their work.


During 2006, when the popularity of photo sharing sites like Flickr was at

its peak, websites such as Blurb came in with services that could convert your

photo stream to a glossy coffee table book. Services like Lulu went a step ahead

and started offering self-published books through on-demand publishing. And this

step paid off. Last year alone, 98,000 books were published by Lulu using POD.

Recently, the big daddy of online book selling, Amazon has also started its own

self-publishing service through its subsidiary, CreateSpace.

Indian companies are also trying to catch up fast. As of now, CinnamonTeal

(established in August 2007 by Goa based couple Quennie and Leonard Fernandes),

and (established in July 2008 by IITian duo Jaya Jha and Abhaya

Agarwal) are leading the pack. There are other players like, who

impose some restrictions on the minimum number of copies that they can be


Jaya Jha says that the POD technology is being used extensively for corporate

printing (variable data printing, short-run brochure printing, etc) and for

personal gifts segment (poster, mug, t-shirt printing), but in book publishing

it is still in an experimental phase. The potential is certainly huge, but the

stakeholders in the system have to come together and accept the changes in the

workflow it demands to be able to exploit this technology to the fullest. This

includes everyone from the printers, publishers, authors, distributors, and

retailers, she says. Leonard Fernandes is also very optimistic about the future

of POD in India. The market potential is huge when one considers that about

80,000 titles are published in India by mainstream publishers and the industry

is growing at a rate of about 10-12%. When one considers the scope of the

application of POD in regional languages, the potential is enormous, he says.

With the changing world, our reading habits have been

changing too. The concept of e-book doesnt sound alien now, and we read

more online than we do otherwise. And with that people are now realizing the

drawbacks of traditional publishing and marketing as well. 50% of the books

in the UK are never read. This figure must be similar for other nations

7000. These unread books are converted back to pulp or dumped, since most

are not printed on recycled paper. The amount of carbon emissions in

printing these unread books is staggering. Its like putting 1 lakh cars on

the road (source: Even if you dont think of trees, the

environmental damage is not justified.

It feels good, thus, that e-books

are slowly replacing the traditional ones. Digital books are cheaper, save

paper, and your computer and mobile phones can store hundreds and thousands

of them without occupying your drawing space. Then, there are umpteen e-book

readers like Amazons Kindle and Sony e-Reader, that also allow you to stay

connected and read newspapers and blogs as well. For authors, this opens

doors for a totally new breed of readers to tap.

In traditional publishing, books are printed in an estimated quantity and

stored by the publishers, distributors and retailers. In POD, on the contrary,

the digital copy of the publication is stored in a computer along with its

design, layout and content and its printed and dispatched whenever the

publication is ordered. Using POD its affordable to even print a single copy.

The best part is, there are no inventory to manage and no headache of keeping

track of unsold copies. A major reason behind the growing popularity of POD is

the growing awareness on environmental problems associated with ruthless


Vanity Affair?

If you are an author and wish to get your work published, you will first

have to search a publisher who would be interested in your work, and if you are

lucky enough, also pay you a royalty. Not surprising, a lot of authors fund

publishers to get their work published. Obviously, you would find it hard to

market such books; the best you can do is distribute the copies to your friends

and reviewers. Self-publishing makes this task painless and you can achieve

similar results without spending a fortune. If you know how to operate a

computer, then you can even save on the cost of typing and composing. Your work

can be ordered by anyone with an Internet connection. Websites like

help you track the sales of your book, and the royalty you earn. There are also

discounts on bulk and self-purchase.


Self-publishing is not vanity publishing. We ask authors to

print just five books at a go for private circulation, or to have the books

reviewed and then let the market determine the demand

Leonard Fernandes,

co-founder, CinnamonTeal

POD is meant for niche publications and thats where it

works best. And, as is the case with any product, those who are able to

market are able to sell. Passive authors are not able to sell

Jaya Jha,


But doesnt that make self-publishing vanity publishing? Fernandes explains

the difference, We have never asked authors to print 500 books and go market

them. We ask authors to print just five books (or may be even lesser) at a go

for private circulation, or to have the books reviewed and then let the market

determine the demand. We are still in talks with three distributors for sales in

physical bookstores, but presently we do list the books online on our bookstore and on Jha clarifies that POD is not for

mass markets. POD is meant for niche publications and thats where it works

best. And, as is the case with any product, those who are able to market are

able to sell. Passive authors are not able to sell, she informs.

And one could find proofs of POD slowly moving from vanity publication to

mainstream publication as well. Cambridge University Press sold 10,000 titles

recently using Lightning Source. Even big publishers nowadays consider POD for

printing old, out-of-print books. The newer publishers, on the other hand,

prefer POD technology to evade the high costs associated with traditional

printing, warehousing and unsold books.


Who Should POD?

If self-publishing is no more vanity publishing, then what kind of authors

go for it? A lot of people coming to our website have absolutely no idea about

how to go about publishing their books. They recognize the value add POD (and

our whole platform) brings to self. This leads to lower upfront investment, no

headaches of inventory management, shipping, collecting payments, etc. POD is

also suitable for people looking for publishing books as memorabilia.

Personalized books form very attractive and value-for-money gifts. Books of

collections of writings are also popular, says Jha.

POD Innovations helps you publish old and

out-of-print books. The non-profit website lets you search over 20 lakh

freely available titles from and Google Book that you order

using POD facility.

FaberFinds ( also lets you

order classic titles.

Bookmobile service is a van equipped with a satellite connection, laptop,

laser printed and a book binding machine, that keeps doing rounds in schools

in the US, and makes available free titles from for as little as

$1. The project was also brought to India in 2003, and CDAC and the

Government of India had ambitious plans to increase the number of

Bookmobiles to fifty. However, there seems to be no buzz about the

initiative now. The project website is also not

operational anymore.

Fernandes narrates the case of a college in Pune that had a class size of

four and an ever-changing syllabus. They chose POD for their textbooks so that

they could print only four copies and change them the next year if need be, he

says. Then, there was one gentleman from Bengaluru who published his

grandfathers poems for circulation within his family, he adds. Both Jha and

Fernandes mention that POD can be used to test the market and get feedback

before hitting the market with bulk production.


Marketing Dynamics

When you are the publisher of your book the onus of marketing the work lies

on your head too. Fernandes suggests, There is no point marketing a book in

places where its not related to. For example, a souvenir for an alumni meet

cannot possibly be sold outside the alumni circle. POD publishers should create

awareness about the concept of POD and be imaginative about where this concept

can be applied, Jha believes that the best place to market POD books is online.

The book should be an extension of authors online presence through blogs,

social networks and other social media outlets. He has to pique readers

curiosity so that they buy the book. It is important to communicate clearly as

to what this new book will give them which they did not have earlier, she says.

Self-publishing through POD technology is an attractive option gaining ground

among authors, not only in English, but in Hindi and regional languages as well.

It opens new doors for budding authors who are unable to find publishers, and

for writers who only want to reach out to a close circle of readers.

Ravishankar Shrivastava and Debashish Chakrabarty

The authors are freelance writers