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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Amazon & On Demand Publishing

(Via IHT)Amazon.com can sell books and can make them now. Amazon purchased BookSurge, a book printing business that specializes in so-called on-demand printing. BookSurge, is among a handful of companies spawned during the dot-com boom that rely on Internet technology to print a few books at a time, or even one at a time. The services have been most popular with writers who are unable or unwilling to strike deals with publishing houses, and who do not want to spend thousands of dollars to complete a print run of, say, 2,000 books on a traditional offset press. Publishers, too, have used digital printing companies to satisfy small orders of obscure titles. Amazon appears a good match for BookSurge's would-be authors, as it attracts more literary types than any other electronic commerce site. Sales of books and movies, made up the bulk of Amazon's $2.6 billion in North American media sales last year, revenue that also included music. "That's remarkably robust, given that it's Amazon's oldest, most mature business and book sales garner profit margins of 20 percent to 30 percent, compared with consumer electronics, which generate profit margins of 10 percent to 15 percent. Amazon has created proprietary software programs that automate the printing process to the point where even single-copy print orders are profitable, despite a final price for the book that is comparable to that of books produced through traditional means."For a print run of 10,000 or 50,000 books, the manual costs can be spread out," Holt of BookSurge said of nonautomated operations, but for smaller print runs, labor costs ruin the operation's economics.

Besides lean manufacturing, other elements have helped make these services look attractive.Print quality & perceptions about on-demand publishing have also changed. With costs down and quality up, though, self-publishing has become more acceptable. And thanks to the Internet, authors have a greater chance of actually distributing their books. Looks like a cool marriage here.

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