Monday, August 28, 2006

Thoughts about POD books

John Fox and I exchanged a few thoughts about Print-on-Demand books and our experience with them in the comments section of a previous post. I thought some of the readers might be interested and perhaps provide comments about their own experience.

DW: I was interested in the opinions of authors who elected to go with POD, so I looked through the messageboard of one of the larger POD companies. A broad range of experiences were present, from complete nightmare (i.e. binding falling apart;your cover, someone else's text inside, etc....LOL) to guarded satisfaction. One thing I was struck by is the cost. It remains almost prohibitively high, even with the 2nd and 3rd rate paper and binding materials, and was not helped by ridiculous shipping prices. At least for that firm, a lot of kinks need to be worked out.

JF: The other thing about POD is that bookstores will not carry the book. So your sales are directed toward nontraditional markets. POD books tend to look cheap too. I have zero personal experience with POD but I have heard and read some bad stories about the process. I do not know if Amazon will carry POD. Perhaps some of your readers know the answer to this.

DW: Amazon carries many POD books (I've purchased a few CW ones myself). Lots from Authorhouse.

JF: What are your thoughts on the look and feel of POD books?

DW: I've come across a few decent hardbacks but the great majority have the killer combo of high price/poor quality. Print quality is very mediocre all around, and the reproduction of photos and drawings are problematic to put it kindly. The paperbacks have been just awful. I have maybe 3 or 4 pb CW books from various POD outfits and they all have very lightweight wrappers, cheap paper, and terrible binding (all spines are warped and/or creased to some degree). As you can imagine my own little sampling has left me far from impressed with the current level of technology.

JF: This has been my experience too. In fact several years my book came out I heard of a book on a sister regiment in the same brigade. Thinking it might offer me some good info I ordered the $35 paperback off the website. When it came it was such poor quality I could only laugh. You know what they say about a sucker born every minute. It looked like they had gone to a Xerox machine, cut the pages with scissors and then glued a paper binder around the whole mess. This is precisely the reason that bookstores don't want to have anything to do with POD books.

Even with good quality POD books you still see some disappointing aspects of the technology, especially with the reproduction of the visual aids. The lack of a consistent print quality (odd font changes, some pages lighter or darker than the others, etc.) is another common negative feature. I do understand this stuff is still in its relative infancy, so I look forward to seeing where we are a few years from now. However, the much needed hurdle of lower prices with increased quality isn't something many companies are good at these days!

One of the best examples I've come across is my review copy of Fred Ray's sharpshooter study (only the review copies were POD), but even then photos and drawings can still look slightly faded or a little pixellated, for lack of a better description.


  1. Yeah, the POD experience was an interesting one, and I do think that the POD advance copies were better than the usual bound galleys.

    I went with Booksurge, which is owned by Amazon (the other POD biggie is Lightning Source, owned by Ingram). The quality was excellent but still not up to offset, particularly for the graphics. But it gets better every year.

    As for the economics. the best look at it I've seen it at Foner Books ( You can make money that way, but you need the right book.

    Booksurge just came out with a requirement that publishers have a 1M liability policy, so I don't think I'll use them again.

    Fred Ray

  2. An outfit called iUniverse did a pretty good job with Ray Mulesky's book about Stovepipe Johnson's Newburgh raid "Thunder from a Clear Sky". An attractive cover, except for the silly part with the drops of blood falling out of the cannon mouth.


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