Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Paperback book 'Print On Demand' services in India; Pros & Cons wrt Offset printing services

Today I spent a lot of time reading up and browsing about Print On Demand in general and Print On Demand (POD) services in India. I had mail exchanges with the same correspondent mentioned in my previous post today (29th Mar. 2017), Indian Correspondent shares self-publishing experience first with Power Publishers and recently with Amazon Kindle, http://ravisiyer.blogspot.in/2017/03/indian-correspondent-shares-self.html. I have shared those mail exchanges in this post.

First let me say something about Print On Demand (POD). Given below are extracts from the wiki page, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Print_on_demand, (note that the wiki page, when it talks about many traditional small presses adopting POD, seems to be referring to the situation in USA and Western Europe, but which does not seem to be the case in India, as of now):

Print on demand (POD) is a printing technology and business process in which book copies (or other documents) do not print until the company receives an order, allowing prints of singular or small quantities. While other industries established the build to order business model, "print on demand" could only develop after the beginning of digital printing, because it was not economical to print single copies using traditional printing technology such as letterpress and offset printing.

Many traditional small presses have replaced their traditional printing equipment with POD equipment or contract their printing to POD service providers. Many academic publishers, including university presses, use POD services to maintain large backlists (lists of older publications); some use POD for all of their publications. Larger publishers may use POD in special circumstances, such as reprinting older, out of print titles or for test marketing.
...
Print on demand with digital technology is a way to print items for a fixed cost per copy, regardless of the size of the order. While the unit price of each physical copy is greater than with offset printing, the average cost is lower for very small print jobs, because setup costs are much greater for offset printing.

POD has other business benefits besides lesser costs (for small jobs):

* Technical set-up is usually quicker than for offset printing.
* Large inventories of a book or print material do not need to be kept in stock, reducing storage, handling costs, and inventory accounting costs.
* There is little or no waste from unsold products.

These advantages reduce the risks associated with publishing books and prints and can result in increased choice for consumers. However, the reduced risks for the publisher can also mean that quality control is less rigorous than usual.
...
Self-publishing authors

POD (creates) a new category of publishing (or printing) company that offers services, usually for a fee, directly to authors who wish to self-publish. These services generally include printing and shipping each individual book ordered, handling royalties, and getting listings in online bookstores. The initial investment required for POD services is less than for offset printing. Other services may also be available, including formatting, proofreading, and editing, but such companies typically do not spend money for marketing, unlike conventional publishers. Such companies are suitable for authors prepared to design and promote their work themselves, with minimal assistance and at minimal cost. POD publishing gives authors editorial independence, speed to market, ability to revise content, and greater financial return per copy than royalties paid by conventional publishers.
...
Niche publications

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 jobs uneconomic.

The local history of a small community is well adapted to print-on-demand, as these books are invaluable to libraries, museums and archives in that small community but are limited in their marketability outside their home region. Public libraries which normally avoid print-on-demand tomes due to their lesser quality will readily make exceptions if content is appropriate for a local topic which cannot be addressed by more conventional means[citation needed].

Many of the smallest small presses, often known as micro-presses because they have inconsequential profits, have become reliant on POD technology and ebooks. This is either because they serve such a small market that print jobs would be unprofitable or because they are too small to absorb much financial risk.

--- end extracts from wiki page on POD ---

Ravi: I think the Niche publications paras in the extract above matches to a large extent with my need to print appropriate content from my blog(s) as book(s). I expect a very small number of people to be interested in buying and reading my book(s), and so I think I can say that I am trying to serve a niche book buyer & reader market.

Given below is an edited mail exchange that I had with the above mentioned correspondent, a large part of which dealt with POD services in India. Note that the mail responses are not sequential at times e.g. I have responded to some mails from C in response(s) later to my immediate mail response(s).

Correspondent (C) wrote (slightly edited):
Dear Ravi

Here is the link to my book in amazon.in ---.
---

Ravi (R) wrote (slightly edited):
Noted. Good to know that it is available at Rs. 199/- (ebook version). [Printed book option is not available for this book on amazon.in.]

Have you thought of printing this book in India using Print-On-Demand printers? Here's one POD service offering listed on the web from Chennai: http://www.bhavish.co.in/corparateProfile.php. You have to click on Services on the top menu bar to see the POD services part.
---

C wrote:
Dear Ravi

I did not know of any print-on-demand services in India. Thanks for telling me.

I should probably talk to Bhavish and see what they have to offer.

So far, I put my efforts towards getting the PDF manuscript and cover into the precise form required by Amazon. This took some effort as it is only after the book is formatted that you can see where layout changes need to be made. When all that is done, you know how many pages the book will have in the new format so (a) you can put the right chapter numbers in the Contents page, and (b) work out the spine thickness as that is required to fix the cover image size.

I say this at some length because I know you will understand that all this takes days, not hours. Each upload of the content and the cover took about 20 mins and the formatting then took another 10 mins or so. You have to get all this right, to your satisfaction, so that the book is presentable and comparable to a properly designed book.

It is quite possible that Bhavish will have a different set of requirements, though it would make sense for them to follow the Amazon instructions. The Amazon process is entirely automatic, with no human interaction at all -- very impressive! Bhavish could be more accommodating if they have people who can make the minor changes that their process may require.

A major advantage of Amazon is that they will handle the ordering, payment, printing and shipping of each copy. They are geared for all this. Not sure how this will be handled by Bhavish.

Thanks again. I'll talk to Bhavish.
---

R wrote (slightly edited):

Here's a very interesting site for print-on-demand in India, https://pothi.com/how-to-publish-printbook/. The company main guy seems to be an IIT Kanpur (Comp.Sc.) & CMU (Carnegie-Mellon Univ.) alumnus, Abhaya Agarwal, https://pothi.com/about/.

A 75 page book at default options here: https://publish.pothi.com/tools/price-royalty-calculator/?nav=distribution, is quoted with printing cost for 1 copy as Rs. 129 (and 100+ copies at 103.2). The minimum reasonable MRP seems to be Rs. 160.

Now, even these prices would be too high for my needs. I am looking at something like Rs. 50/- max for an around 75 page no frills, no colour, plain text paperback book. But perhaps you may want to check out with these people about print copies for your new book in India as it may turn out to be cheaper than Amazon's POD + shipping costs to India from abroad.

For my needs (Rs. 50/- max for 75 page paperback book), I think it is becoming clear that Print-On-Demand will be too expensive.
---

C wrote:
Thanks. I have heard of Pothi but know nothing more than the name. I should check this out as well.
---

R wrote:
Hope I am not flooding you with info. I think this will be the last POD India mail I will send you today.

Here's a Chandigarh based self-publisher with a barebones plan (free publishing) at zero cost to author and a POD offering - White Falcon Publishing, http://www.self-publish.in/plans.html!

Here's the cost & royalty calculator page: http://www.self-publish.in/royaltycalculator.html. A 75 page 5 inch x 8 inch paperback book has a cost price of Rs. 60/- and a minimum MRP of 85/-.

In its FAQ: http://www.self-publish.in/faq.html, under Printing questions, it quite convincingly answers questions about benefit of POD over offset printing, whether they use POD or offset printing for bulk orders etc.

In the same FAQ under Pricing & Royalty, it states that author is charged only cost price of the book as against list price for the market. It also clarifies that the author need not purchase any copies upfront.

Its terms & conditions page, http://www.self-publish.in/terms.html, seems quite friendly to the author, is rather short and does not have too much legalese. I did not see any exclusive lock-ins on distribution and printing mentioned on it or elsewhere on the main parts of the website. So I think somebody who already has an ebook on Amazon Kindle platform can additionally use White Falcon Publishing for printed book sales of the same book!

Hmm. So if I have understood this properly, I could first get an Amazon Kindle ebook version done of my book (75 pages) at no cost to me (as I will use free services like free cover page services, to get everything done; I am fine with OK quality on this stuff). Then I could use White Falcon Publishing's "free publishing" package/option and provide the same ebook contents with some format changes if needed, for printed copy sales.

And, very importantly for me, I could order even as less as 50 print copies of my 75 page no-frills book at Rs. 60/- per copy (plus shipping) coming to Rs. 3000/- + shipping!!! That sounds like a wonderful, wonderful deal for my (limited) needs! The MRP would be Rs. 85/- and so that's significantly more than the Rs. 50/-, I ideally wanted. But, for a start, this would be fine! I mean, in the very improbable case that the book does have significant demand, I could ADDITIONALLY use some other offset printer to print 1000 copies for around Rs. 30,000/- or so and then sell the book at Rs. 50/- MRP. This option to additionally use another printer would be possible as there does not seem to be any exclusive print & distribution lock-in in White Falcon Publishing's terms & conditions.

The great thing in what I have mentioned above is that my expense for the initial print of 50 copies and shipping would be in the range of a very affordable Rs. 4000/-. And no exclusive lock-ins for print & distribution.

Thanks for bearing with me on this one. I am pretty EXCITED as I see all these possibilities available in India today, as seen from my Internet browsing. Though one does not know whether they will live up to what they have said. Maybe there are hidden traps. Let us see.
---

C wrote:
I don't want to handle the ordering and shipping of books. I need a POD service that will do all that (for a charge) and transfer the balance to me. In other words, customer pays Rs.100 (for example) for the printed book; the POD service collects the money, deducts their charges for printing, shipping and overhead, and sends me the balance every month.

From 1 July, this will become more complicated with GST charges. Not sure how that will need to be handled.

I need to think about this.
---

R wrote (slightly edited):
Thanks --name-snipped--. Noted all your responses (including the earlier ones). All the best with your efforts to explore POD printing options for your book in India, which is cheaper for your readers (those that prefer printed book) than Amazon USA's POD option with expensive shipping to India (from USA, I presume). Do let me know if you get some POD facility in India which meets your needs.

The sales tax and other tax issues at bookseller level is something that I need to understand at least at a top-level. I think so long as I use author-ordered print copy books (at cost price) as complimentary/promotional material without charging anybody, then I am not doing any sales and so do not get into any sales tax issues. The physical shop bookseller (as well as any Internet based bookseller) who sells the copies, needs to handle the sales tax part, and perhaps order additional copies if they are interested, from the self-publishing company (say over the Internet).
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[I thank wikipedia and have presumed that they will not have any objections to me sharing the above extracts from their website on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever.]

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