Monday, June 29, 2009


POD, or print-on-demand, may or may not be the wave of the future, given Kindles and other e-readers, but if you are curious as to how these Expresso POD machines work, have a look at the vid on the sucker. A bookstore in Vermont, recently featured in a Boston Globe story, calls its machine "Lurch ..."


Evan Robinson said...

$.01 (1 cent) / page COGS isn't bad. That means a 400 page trade paperback costs $4 to produce, plus royalty (7.5% - 15% of cover price), plus amortization on the equipment ($100,000 at minimum), plus profit.

Off the top of my head, you could produce that 400 page trade paperbacks for total COGS (including consumables at $.01/page or $4/volume, amortization at $2/volume, author royalty at $2/volume, publisher royalty of $2/volume) of about $10, which means the bookseller could sell it for $15 and make $5 on it. Inventory risk is virtually eliminated and replaced with amortization on a capital asset (which can be sold, repossessed, or rented instead of owned).

I think if I had a bookshop -- especially a textbook heavy one -- I'd be looking into this machine and the available IP for it.

My greatest fear would be that publishers wouldn't be happy with $2/volume in exchange for losing inventory risk and would want higher royalties, thereby either squeezing the authors or the booksellers.

I wonder how accurate (and precise) that $.01/page is. Does it vary by page size (could you use different paper sizes for smaller books and would that save money)? If it ran up to $.012 per page or down to $.008 per page, that could make a significant difference in the economics, since 40% of the COGS I've listed above is the consumables.

William Adams said...

Printing smaller size books to save money is only going to work if they're a reasonable derivation of a folded (standard) stock size --- IF the machine has folding capability or if one is able to trim down larger stock in such a way as to get 2 or more leaves from a single sheet.

Apparently it does have a trimming capacity:

So that might be the case, though it would make for a much more complex mechanism (either one prints on the sheets in some sort of imposition, then cuts them then re-arranges them, or one cuts the sheets, then prints on the cut pieces) which I would frankly be surprised at --- paper is cheap enough that if one prints a 4.5 x 4.5 book I suspect that one would have 73.25 sq. in. of trimmed waste x one-half the number of pages.

Of course the clean, trimmed stock would be readily recyclable and if collected in quantity and kept clean would be worth a bit more than the pennies per ton one usually gets.


Dan Moran said...

Paper is dead. The economics don't work when devices like the kindle are available.

The kindle's not great; no modern e-reeder is. But great's coming. We'll end up with devices in a variety of form factors, all costing about $30 or $40 -- about the cost of a hardback book today. You can read ebooks on your phone (not bad, even today); you can read them on a 6" device, a 9" device, or a tabloid size device. They'll be in color, they'll play video and music, they'll run all day on a single battery charge ... and eventually some bright souls will sell one that's waterproof.

Once I can read in the tub, I may never buy another paper book again.

Writers are nervous about this, with some cause -- piracy has harmed the music business as it once existed and is threatening movies and television -- but I do think there's at least a chance this works out better for writers, if not publishers. Busting out of the pack of million-book-a-year publication will be a lot harder than it used to be when you and I got started, but if any substantial fraction of your readers are honest enough to pay for their text, you'll make much more per purchase than you did back in the day.

Might not work out that way. But it might. We can hope.

J.D. Ray said...

I'm not ready to declare paper dead, but it's certainly in the last stages of its life. A mortal blow will be when Apple releases a 9" iPod Touch (iPhone sans phone function). Palm could have done something like this years ago, but didn't. Maybe they didn't have the vision, or maybe the market wasn't ready; hard to say. Google is actually well positioned to do this now, with their Android platform and Google Books storehouse. If they create some sort of payment system for books like Apple did for apps on the iTunes App Store (developer gets 70% of gross revenues), I think it would be a hit with both writers and readers.