Sunday, June 19, 2011

POD's tipping point approaches

A recent Publisher’s Weekly article (available only to subscribers) discusses Print-On-Demand (POD) technologies, with particular focus on the Espresso Book Machine (EBM) by On Demand Books (ODB). The simplified concept behind POD is to enable bookstores to print needed books while eliminating storage stockouts, expanding inventory options while reducing actual physical inventory, and reducing other supply chain costs, thereby reducing total costs while enabling more content sales.

The EBM, which according to the story now retails for $185,000, is one option that bookstores today have to fulfill book orders in-house. ODB CEO Dane Neller says the rise of e-books has contributed to some of the EBM’s success by opening up new opportunities for print. He is also quick to point out that the EBM is not a POD solution, but a sales solution.

In the last year, ODB established a partnership with Xerox. According to Xerox’s first Thought Leadership Workshop about the EBM, many bookstores are using the EBM to compete with Amazon. For some stores, they see the book machine as the “salvation of the neighborhood bookstore,” says Jeffrey Mayersohn of Harvard Book Store. Stores that have book machines are seeing great growth at about 1,000 to 2,000 books per month in some cases.

Other options in the print arena include Hewlett-Packard’s Raptor machine, which has been in testing with three college stores for the last year. A philosophically different approach to the in-store solution, the Raptor could provide EBM with direct competition.

Recognizing that not all stores can invest in an in-store solution at this time, and seeing that there are other challenges to building a successful POD business, NACS Media Solutions (NMS), a subsidiary of the National Association of College Stores, is currently running a pilot program to create a regional POD network that can enable short runs of 1 to larger runs of 1000 or more, with rapid turnaround. The regional approach offsets downtime and will expand to provide printing "close to to the point of consumption" in order to reduce shipping and other supply chain costs. The NMS service will also utilize a cloud-based repository and include other service offerings designed to increase store success at POD.

We will be releasing more information about this program, our partners, and the pilots as we proceed over the next few months. If all goes well, NMS expects to do a soft launch in January, with a full launch expected perhaps as early as next March’s CAMEX.

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