On-Demand for Dummies
I recently bought a book. An honest-to-goodness, printed-on-paper book. And, I bought it in a small, local bookstore.
This summer, I had been fascinated watching the Tour de France, and struggled to understand all the events within the overall event. I went to Amazon to find a book that would help, but quickly found that I really needed to thumb through the actual books to see which one I wanted.
So, I went to one of the big chain bookstores and found lots of books about Lance Armstrong and some about the Tour itself, but they mostly told me what I had already figured out. I decided my best bet was “Tour de France for Dummies” and that I would support my local bookstore—Written Words in Shelton, CT.
The store owner, Dorothy, explained that this was a print on-demand book. She could order it, and I’d have it within the week. This was interesting: I had thought that one-off, print-on-demand production was the province of Amazon, and was still not very prevalent. And, being a paper guy, I was fascinated. Where was it printed? What paper? What press?
Dorothy had some other on-demand books in the store and she showed them to me. She said they were different; the covers were glossier.
When my book came in it looked great. We compared it with other “Dummies” books, and they certainly looked alike. The bright yellow bands and the yellow type in “For Dummies” were an excellent color match, and the solid black background was perfect.
On a closer examination, the cover of the on-demand version did indeed look glossier, while the black on the offset version was a bit deeper. In addition, the text paper in the on-demand version was whiter and brighter, similar to the copy paper I use in my office.
I had to know more, so I spoke with Lynn Terhune, global digital print administrator at John Wiley & Sons, the book’s publisher. Lynn explained that in the fiscal year ended 2010, the company printed 650,000 units on-demand. This represented a very small percentage of its total, but was growing at double digits.
As to the book itself, Lynn explained that the cover was printed at on an HP Indigo 5500 press with a film lamination that gave it the extra gloss. The offset versions of the “Dummies” books are printed with a double hit of black ink, which explained the slightly denser black. The text was printed with an Océ VarioStream 9000 press on Glatfelter DigiBook 50 lb., 512 ppi, 92 bright stock, the same brightness as my copy paper.
I had more questions, and Lynn referred me to Charles Marshall, vice president of research and development at Lightning Source, an Ingram Content Group company, and the book’s printer. Lightning Source specializes in books on-demand.
Charles explained that the text paper was a proprietary sheet, made to Lightning Source’s specs for weight, color, ppi, smoothness and porosity. He also explained that the cover was a sheet specifically designed for HP Indigo presses, and most likely was a 90 lb. cover weight. Extensive quality control procedures are in place to assure print quality and color uniformity for consistent branding.
Very interesting. And, by the way, it was a good book.