Print on Demand (POD) for Libraries, from ALA/ALCTS/PARS

“Staying Alive: Books through Print on Demand Technology,” an ALA/ALCTS/PARS Program  (Saturday, June 29, 2008, ACC Room 304a-b)
Presenters include:

  • Brian from Bridgeport National Bindery
  • Lynne Terhune, Wiley & Sons, Print on Demand
  • Beth, New York Public Library, head of access, espresso book machine
  • University Conservator from the University of Iowa, and that will be posted on the ALA wiki.

Brian from Bridgeport National Bindery
Brian began by speaking with the importance of the printing press in the history of inventions, and the lose-ability of books. With digitization, how print on demand works. Conceptually, take a collection of print files, order them, have them printed. Print file can come from many sources (author, digitization, existing electronic files), to get people interested make the lists from bookstores, catalogs, company websites, others. Printing and binding the books has to be done quickly, hours and not days. POD, customer normally doesn’t know where the book comes from.
Keys to successful POD:  rapid and high quality copies
Strengths of POD:

  • Low inventories
  • No/low production costs until order is placed
  • Highly dynamic; allows rapid changes to content
  • Allows nearly all titles to be ‘in print’


  • Production costs per title are more expensive
  • Not as effective for instantaneous wide distribution (Harry Potter stock everywhere at once).
  • Some limits in size, print quality, and binding options

What Option to Choose: Choose by cost effectiveness
Now librarians don’t need to buy a rare book when finding it. In his experience with Brittle and SlavCopy at the University of Kansas, would make multiple preservation photocopies of books using a list-serve to see who was interested.
Bridgeport doing microfilm digitization, also doing printing and binding of ETDs, and doing retrospective dissertation scanning, POD will get larger as more people want print from digital more easily.
Lynne, Wiley & Sons, Print on Demand
Lynne Terhune, spoke on Wiley’s Global POD/USR Program, and they want all items available through it. POD is not inventoried nor returnable, but USR materials are. Print on demand/Ultra-short Run Library to fill orders, materials all available, no more out of stock, order ships the same day just like it was on the shelf. Some books have increased sales when put online, cash flow has improved, working with authors, no obsolescence, green advantage. Sales are doubling or tripling by year for the items in POD, from 2004-2007 went from 5 to 50 thousand. Industry-costing means that POD is generally a penny and up per page.
Beth, New York Public Library, head of access, espresso book machine
Beth spoke on NYPL’s experiment printing books from OpenLibrary using an Espresso machine for patrons. On Demand is the company that sells the Espresso Machine. When the NYPL team visited On Demand, they knew they’d need faq sheets and they’d need to pre-select titles to keep from overwhelming the public. Ultimately, they offered 13 books, 11 from Open Content Alliance, and two contemporary books were from authors who allowed their books to be printed this way. They also limited by book length, and titles were limited because almost all needed some tweaking, and of course quality going in determines quality coming out. Before the machine is usable, need to make upfront decisions and digital files need editing. The 1.5 machine espresso version is around $150,000, but version 2.0 may be cheaper, however it’s still expensive to digitize and format materials for print.