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RE: Changing the game

Just a few additional comments, if I may--and thanks for the 
clarification about the $8,000, Jean-Claude.

Here are the basic facts about digital printing vs. offset 
printing. Because of the setup costs for the machinery, offset 
printing was traditionally not economical for printruns below 
500. When digital printing began to provide competition to 
traditional offset printers, they lowered their prices, and it 
makes sense--if you want the highest quality--to print your 
initial 300-500 cloth run by offset. (Many offset printers also 
added digital to compete for the business.)

For paperbacks, especially if you are unsure of the market for 
course adoption, it is less risky to use digital printing because 
one can start off with relatively modest printruns, say, 100 or 
200 copies, to "test the market"; in the industry, this is known 
as SRDP (short-run digital printing).

Pure POD comes into play when sales drop below a certain annual 
level (presses set this threshold at different levels); then a 
digital file exists at a place like Lightning Source, and copies 
are printed on demand only, with no existing inventory kept 
(unless there are returns from bookstores). Although in theory 
with digital printing the unit cost for copies does not change 
with larger quantities, as it does with offset, in fact the 
processing charges still make it less expensive to print 100 or 
200 copies digitally all at once than to do them POD, one at a 

So there are still some economies of scale at work with digital 
printing, though much less dramatically so than with offset 
printing.  So, at our Press (and many other presses these days), 
books go through a life cycle of a first cloth printing in 
offset, an initial paperback printing with SRDP, and then POD at 
the end--indefinitely, by the way, so that publishers are right 
to claim that no book needs to go out of print anymore.

As for OA versions generating sales of POD copies, well, that is 
what we have been counting on for our Romance Studies series 
books, which are far more typical scholarly monographs than 
Benkler's book that Jean-Claude offers as an example.  Whatever 
success a few high-profile authors like Benkler and Larry Lessig 
may have had with OA texts generating hard-copy sales, it is 
certainly premature to predict that the same will be true for the 
vast majority of scholarly monographs. Wishful thinking will not 
make it so!

Sandy Thatcher
Penn State University Press