Lindemann feels one of the keys to success is eliminating as many human touches as possible, from the order entry stage to final production. However, he says, “We still like to have human interaction with our customers, and we still like to have a human eye check files as they come in to some degree. You have to be careful about the steps in which you introduce automation.”
He also believes it’s crucial to keep up with technology advancements in printing. If you waited too long to get into digital printing or on-demand work, you may find customers have found homes elsewhere, he says.
Training or Hiring the Proper Skills
In offering on-demand books, hiring the right kinds of people is essential, Lindemann says. “Quality control is the biggest thing,” he notes. “You have to hire employees who care about producing a good product. You can train them on what to look for and what makes a good product, but they have to inherently have the desire to make sure good products are being produced.” Possessing strong IT skills in the shop is also important. When tackling shorter-run, on-demand work, files have to be processed more quickly, and you must target the elimination of as many human touches as possible, Lindemann says.
Stempler feels those just starting with on-demand books need to train or hire people skilled in selling the product, as well as the in-house prepress capability. “But producing on-demand books is really no different than producing marketing collateral, brochures, or anything you would print digitally,” he says.
The Future of On-demand Books
As mentioned earlier, experts like Stempler and Lindemann are convinced the category of on-demand books is truly a growth area. Lindemann believes the greatest growth ahead will be witnessed in two areas.
One is in producing galley proofs or initial test market copies, he reports. Publishers may want to print 200 or 500 copies of a book they plan to sell millions of. That test market run is generated to learn, first, if something is wrong with the book, and second, if there seems to be as large a market as anticipated.
“The other growth area is in backlist titles,” Lindemann says. “These are titles that might have been great sellers in the past, but are now selling maybe 1,000 copies a year. With shorter-run technology, we’re able to produce those 1,000-copy runs at a nominal charge compared to what was paid in the past.”
Stempler says the physical book’s demise may occur someday, but today is not that day. “It’s a significant revenue stream and earnings opportunity,” he says. “And for the foreseeable future, we see growth, not decline.”