Just-in-time printing

Lifestyle/Technology | Print on demand gains favor

Issue: "The audacity of real change," Aug. 23, 2008

When Scott McClellan's memoir of his days as Bush press secretary became a surprise bestseller and publisher Perseus ran out of books, it turned to Lightning Source, a print-on-demand (P.O.D.) company. Lightning Source president David Taylor told Bookbusinessmag.com, "We got the file from them on the Monday morning . . . and we were printing the first books that afternoon. . . . We actually moved over our entire casebook production to just that book for a period of 48 hours. We printed several thousand copies, and those were orders that otherwise would have just [been lost] or would have not been fulfilled."

Up to now P.O.D. has focused primarily on self-published books, but technological improvements suggest that mainstream publishers may increasingly rely on it to fill in gaps and avoid overprinting titles. P.O.D. allows anyone to get published and put out a book that at least looks good: According to Books In Print publisher Bowker, traditional publishing was flat last year, with 276,649 new titles and editions printed (up only about 2,000 from 2006), but with 134,773 P.O.D. titles (a five-fold increase from 2006). Many of those titles are reprints of public domain items, but many are also short runs of self-published books.

Just-in-time writing

For all you with an unpublished mystery novel in your drawer, or you who are going to write a mystery novel some day, a new opportunity is coming up. The Killer Nashville Conference, sponsored by the Southeast Regional Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, is giving a new award, The Claymore Dagger Award, "for fiction that has suspense or a crime as a primary focal point." The contest is open to published and non-published writers, but the submitted manuscript can't be under contract with a publisher or agent. Deadline for entries is May 5, 2009. For more information go to: killernashville.com/Content2008/­awardsclaymore2008.htm

Spending for school

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A recent survey showed that even in a tight economy back-to-school shopping is still big business. The National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts that K-12 back-to-school spending will come to more than $20 billion this year. That's a lot, but it doesn't compare to the $43 billion per year that Americans spend on their pets, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association.

The NRF survey of more than 8,000 respondents showed that families plan to spend nearly $600 on school-related purchases, including clothes, school supplies, and electronics. That's about $30 more than last year. Many families plan to use part of their IRS stimulus checks for back-to-school shopping-especially for electronics like cell-phones and calculators. Target, WalMart, and other discount stores will be the big bene-ficiaries, but the survey also suggested a growth in online spending spurred by high gas prices.

Green fatigue

"Green Issues" of popular magazines haven't sold well on newsstands. According to Portfolio.com, Time's Earth Day issue was the third-lowest-selling issue so far in 2008. Elle, Discover, and Vanity Fair also reported below-average sales for their special issues focused on the environment.

Susan Olasky
Susan Olasky

Susan pens book reviews and other articles for WORLD as a senior writer and has authored eight historical novels for children. Susan and her husband Marvin live in Asheville, N.C. Follow Susan on Twitter @susanolasky.


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