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Re: Changing the game

Responding only to one technical item in Jean-Claude's post.

JCD notes that John Thompson suggests that for print runs under
300, POD is the preferred method.  This is not quite accurate.
The choice is not between POD (literally printing a book when an
order comes in) and "batch" (printing several copies at once).
The choice is the kind of printing equipment one uses, whether
digital or offset. Offset presses are now more efficient than
digital equipment (the Xerox DocuTech machines are the ones most
often cited) for quantities of perhaps 300 or more.  But that
figure varies; for some equipment the line may be at 500 or even
750 copies.

If you are printing 200 copies, you almost certainly will use
digital equipment, but it is still "batch" printing.  The batch
is simply smaller.

The industry term for this kind of thing, whether printed
digitally or with offset equipment, is SRP, for short-run
printing.  For all the talk of print on demand, most operations
are in fact SRP:  a small quantity of books printed at the same

The reason publishers still use batch printing, regardless of the
equipment, is that it is cheaper (and may have higher quality).
If you think you can sell 1,000 copies in a year (not to mention
if you think you can sell a hundred thousand or millions, as is
the case for the new Dan Brown novel), it is less expensive to
print the books all at once and put them in a warehouse.  If you
think you can sell 3 copies, well, POD makes sense.

These are no longer strategic decisions.  The practical course a
publisher takes is to create a digital "master" of a book.  That
master can be used for offset printing, digital printing, the
sale of PDFs or ePub formats, or any number of other things,
including presumably the sale in a format compatible with the
Apple iTunes store (if one believes even a fraction of the
chatter on the new media lists about Apple's alleged new ereading
device).  It's digital first, print second.  How long before the
print versions disappear, I leave to others to predict.

Joe Esposito

On 10/8/09 11:20 AM, "Guedon Jean-Claude"
<jean.claude.guedon@umontreal.ca> wrote:

> A little belatedly - I am on the road again -, I would like to
> respond to Sandy's interesting remarks.
> The CDN$ 8,000 subsidy to Canadian university press does not
> cover the whole cost. It was never meant to cover the whole
> cost, and if my earlier reference to this programme led Sandy
> (and perhaps others) to think that it did, then I must not have
> expressed myself as unambiguously as I should have. The
> programme allows young scholars to compete for these funds to
> get a book published. They can do it in two ways: either
> applying directly to the programme or, once provisionally
> accepted by the press, applying together with the press. The
> majority of authors follow the second path for reasons that
> should be fairly obvious: being backed by a press gives added
> weight to the request.
> The costs mentioned by Sandy are, of course, of the highest
> interest. What puzzles me a little is that, in 2005, John B.
> Thompson in Books in the Digital Age seemed to indicate that,
> already, the cost of printing on demand was cheaper for up to
> 300 copies than using batch production. Four years later, these
> PoD costs must be even a little lower. Why is batch retained?
> The Canadian subsidies programme is not directly related to OA
> although I argued (when I was VP of the Canadian Federation for
> the Humanities and Social Sciences) that the use of public
> money would justify placing older, out-of-print volumes in
> electronic OA Prior agreements with outfits such as e-brary
> seem to be in the way, or at least this is what I was told by
> some people connected with some of these presses. Some of them
> added that "out-of-print" was an obsolete conmcept... No
> comment!
> In my opinion, based on what I hear from sources such as HSRC
> in South Africa, ANU Press in Australia, Athbasca in Canada,
> etc. books in OA in the electronic format tend to stimulate the
> sales of paper. I know tht I bought my copy of Benkler's Wealth
> of Networks after having browsed at length through the
> electronic copy that is available on the Net. For this reason,
> I continue to think that this trend will ultimately develop.
> Going back to experiments like OAPEN, despite the irate
> comments of a member of this list. It will be interesting to
> see how the European presses involved are going to evolve new
> products. Some very interesting innovations may emerge thanks
> to the leeway granted to these presses by that grant. I know I
> will be monitoring these very closely and with great interest.
> Jean-Claude Guedon
> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu on behalf of Sandy Thatcher
> Sent: Tue 10/6/2009 10:16 AM
> To: liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu
> Subject: RE: Changing the game
> I would be very happy if universities would more broadly spread
> the cost of supporting the system of scholarly monograph
> publishing in a collective fashion. This was a recommendation
> made back in 1979 by the National Enquiry into Scholarly
> Communication. We can all see how completely unresponsive the
> university community was to that recommendation.
> I daresay, with all the budget crises affecting universities
> today (I hear that faculty at the University of California
> don't even have phones in their offices anymore), there is no
> chance whatsoever of this happening anytime soon, if ever. Nor
> is it likely in the U.S., where "big government" is a fear of a
> large segment of the population, that we'll see any widespread
> federal government support for subsidization either. And
> Jean-Claude should realize that, in the humanities at least,
> what public money is available hardly ever funds 100% of any
> research project. So, an NIH-type mandate is likely to prove
> ineffective.
> Canadian press directors can speak for themselves, but I feel
> confident in predicting that $8,000 does not come close to
> covering the full cost of publishing a monograph, OA or
> otherwise, for them. My guess is that these presses also, like
> ours, have to depend on some sales in the normal marketplace,
> whether for e-editions or POD editions, to cover their costs.
> I would estimate $20,000 to $25,000 for a monograph of average
> length just to publish the first copy, exclusive of any costs
> associated with paper, printing, binding, warehousing, and
> distribution.  So Jean-Claude's assumption that $10,000 per
> book would do the trick is off the mark also.
> For our Romance Studies series, which is offered OA, we still
> have to sell between 100 and 150 copies of each title in cloth
> and between 500 and 600 in paper POD just to break even.  None
> of our books in the series so far has yet to reach that point.
> Now, if we were to abandon prepublication peer review and rely
> on just post-publication review alone, the costs would lower
> significantly. But then how different would we presses be from
> commercial publishers? And what would our "brand" then be worth
> to faculty who need to get tenure and promotion?
> I share Jean-Claude's enthusiasm for OA as an ideal for
> monographs as well as articles. I just don't see how we can get
> there anytime soon without a huge sea change in thinking within
> university administrations about how to pay the costs.
> Sandy Thatcher
> Penn State Press