Digital technology is ideally suited to publish small print runs of posters (often as a single copy) when they are needed. The introduction of UV-curable inks and media for large format inkjet printers has allowed artists, photographers and owners of image collections to take advantage of print on demand. For example, the National Gallery, London installed a print on demand system in July 2003. The system increased the number of images available as prints from 60 to 2,500.
Some companies specialize in POD booklets, catalogs, and/or magazines.
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The introduction of POD technologies and business-models has fuelled a range of new book-creation and publishing opportunities. The innovation in this space is currently clustered around three categories of offerings .
POD fuels a new category of publishing (or printing) company that offers services directly to authors who wish to self-publish, usually for a fee. These services generally include printing and shipping a book each time one is ordered, handling royalties and getting listings in online bookstores. The initial investment for POD services is usually less expensive for small quantities of books when compared with self-publishing that uses print runs. Often other services are offered as well: formatting, proof reading and editing, and so on. Such companies typically do not spend their own money on marketing, unlike traditional publishers. Some POD Players are focused on serving this author segment. Their offerings are tailored to disintermediate classic publishers. For authors who wish to design and promote their work themselves, POD companies focus on the low-service, low-cost end of the market. For authors, the potential benefits of POD publishing are several. They include editorial independence, speed to market, ability to revise content, and greater share of royalties kept compared with traditional publishing.
Among traditional publishers, POD services can be used to make sure that books remain available when one print run has sold out but another has not yet become available, and to maintain the availability of older titles whose future sales may not be great enough to justify a further conventional print run. This can be useful for publishers with large back catalogs of older works, where sales for individual titles may be low, but where cumulative sales may be significant.
Print on demand can be used to reduce risk when dealing with "surge" titles that are expected to have large sales but a short sales life (such as celebrity biographies or event tie-ins): these titles represent high profitability but also high risk owing to the danger of inadvertently printing many more copies than are necessary, and the associated costs of maintaining excess inventory or pulping. POD allows a publisher to exploit a short "sales window" with minimized risk exposure by "guessing low" - using cheaper conventional printing to produce enough copies to satisfy a more pessimistic forecast of the title's sales, and then relying on POD to make up the difference.
Print on demand is also used to print and reprint "niche" books that may have a high retail price but limited sales opportunities, such as specialist academic works. An academic publisher may be expected to keep these specialist titles in print even though the target market is almost saturated, making further conventional print runs uneconomic.
Many of the smallest small presses, often called micro-presses because they have inconsequential profits, have become heavily reliant on POD technology and ebooks. This is either because they serve such a small market that print runs would be unprofitable or because they are too small to absorb much financial risk.
Print on demand also allows for books to be printed in a variety of formats. This process, known as accessible publishing, allows books to be printed in a variety of larger fonts, special formats for those with vision impairment or reading disabilities, as well as personalised fonts and formats that suit the individuals needs. This has been championed by a variety of new companies, the current market leader being ReadHowYouWant