Digital Book Production: The Demands of On Demand
The rise of ebooks in the trade segment (and of integrated learning systems in the education segment) has also impacted the migration from offset to digital. Wherever ebooks and print have combined in some way—as opposed to one replacing the other—the ability to digitally manufacture the printed components has become paramount. Keep in mind that, since the advent of desktop publishing in the 1980s, almost all books are "born digital." Printing is simply one of several output options.
Effects for Small Publishers and Printers
In Part 2 of this series, we will look at the impact of digital print on large publishers and their printing and distribution partners. However, the effects on smaller businesses are remarkable. In some cases, digital print is the primary reason for a company's existence—or at least a major contributing factor in its economic survival.
Academic and nonfiction book publisher Gorgias Press (www.gorgiaspress.com) in Piscataway, NJ, would not even exist were it not for digital printing, according to President, Editor-in-Chief (and Rutgers lecturer in Syriac) George Kiraz. The publisher produces about 50 titles per year, including highly specialized academic works as well as rare, out-of-print titles in the public domain. Press runs are typically around 100 copies, occasionally as high as 1,000, and sometimes as low as one. The great majority of the content is black-and-white, with less than 10 percent color—mainly in the form of inserts. Books are currently printed on an EP press, although Kiraz is considering moving to inkjet if the quality continues to improve—and the costs continue to decline.
"On-demand technology made it possible for us to start this company," says Kiraz. "Without it, there wouldn't be a Gorgias Press. We would not even have started." Kiraz, a former technology company executive, founded Gorgias Press in 2001, after the dot-com crash, with an investment of only $20,000. The for-profit operation has always had to keep costs strictly under control. While each title can sell for as much as $150, margins are still low. According to Kiraz, the automation made possible by digital print allows the company to have only a five-person staff.