Tuesday, 22 September 2009
Random House launches print on demand program

Random House Australia (RHA) has launched a print on demand (POD) program that will allow it to produce single copies of out-of-print titles.

The program, which has been 18 months in the planning, is in partnership with Sydney-based SOS Print+Media and will cover out-of-print in-copyright Random House titles that sell nine or less copies per year. (Books which sell in small quantities of 10 or more fall into the publisher's short-run program.)

Random House sales director Gavin Schwarcz told WBN the program would ensure the publisher's books stayed in print, but that it was as much about meeting customer expectations as making a profit.

‘It's a reduced margin for us,' he admitted. ‘The author will make the same [royalties on these books], but it's all about service. I think with the world the way it is, the consumer nowadays just thinks if they want something they don't understand why they can't get it.'

Schwarcz said the POD initiative would mean booksellers could satisfy customer requests and added that such a program could even help to promote some out-of-print titles.

‘A book like Leaning Towards Infinity by Sue Woolfe, for example, maybe a lot of stores have forgotten it but they see it on this [POD] list and think they could [sell it again],' he said.

Other authors on the 30-plus launch list of POD titles include Josephine Tey, John Fowles, Robert Hughes, Barbara Thiering, Fiona Horne and Kahil Gibran, with more titles to be added in future.

Schwarcz said that while the provision for POD ‘hasn't been in previous author contracts' Random House had contacted authors and agents to add a POD provision to contracts for those on the list.

While adding Australian titles to the POD list was ‘about our contracts with the authors', Schwarcz said ‘one of the exciting parts' of the POD program was the international side. ‘We'll get all the film for the printing from the UK,' he said. ‘We can get it faster for the person that wants it and there's the environmental benefit of not flying it over.'

Schwarcz said RHA was excited about the initiative, which he explained was only possible now because the costs associated with such an offering had come down. ‘In educational publishing price is not so sensitive,' he said, referring to the fact that POD programs have previously been taken up by educational publishers. He said that costs were now low enough to offer a price that trade consumers would be comfortable with. ‘We are the first trade publisher to do it,' he added.

Schwarcz believes initiatives such as this are the way of the future. 'We'll iron out the bugs,' he said, but added that eventually ‘all other trade publishers will go down this track'.

As to why the publisher decided to launch its own POD program rather than partner with Angus & Robertson on its Book Espresso Machine initiative, RHA managing director Margie Seale told WBN that while 'there may be a number of ways to manage our POD programs in future and a range of methods we and our bookselling customers will deliver to consumers', digital file management concerns meant that 'at this early stage while we assess demand we are choosing only to sell physical copies to our customers for them to on-sell via their usual channels'. 

'Digital file management is key to digital publishing and POD runs from digital files. Like all major publishers, RHA is understandably extremely protective of our authors' works,' she said.

randomhouse pod digitisation