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Self-publishing News: Is Print On Demand The Answer To Publishing’s Paper Crisis

Self-publishing News: Is Print on Demand the Answer to Publishing’s Paper Crisis

In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway looks at how print on demand might solve publishing’s paper shortage.

Dan Holloway head and shoulders

ALLi's News Editor Dan Holloway

The new Self-publishing News Podcast is out in which Howard and I discuss, among other things, why Amazon removed indie authors' books without warning or explanation earlier this year. I very much look forward to seeing many of you on tonight's #indieauthorchat at the usual 3pm Eastern, 8pm UK time when Tim will be leading a discussion about location independence.

Print On Demand and Publishing's Paper Crisis

The rising cost of print is a growing concern. And one of the consistent reasons for that rise is a shortage in the supply of suitable paper. Last week a major webinar of US industry insiders discussed how to tackle the issue. Many of the discussions, which the industry seems to be treating like brand new problems, will prompt many of us in indieland to say, “Oh, are you starting to catch up?” Vast print runs, for example, for the sake of the lowest unit cost, are not the solution (is this part of an industry finally figuring out returns are a bug not a feature?). And nor is squeaking by on smaller “just in time” runs.

One thing everyone seems to agree on is that the future needs to hold more print on demand. And that is something very much of interest to us. One of the interesting things in the discussion is the note on book formats. If publishers move more towards print on demand for more of their titles, there will also be a drift towards standardized print offerings. These will help reduce the current main barrier to print on demand: cost. It will also mean our books will become even more indistinguishable from traditionally published titles on the shelves and tables of bookstores. It's also worth remembering that, as we learned at Futurebook, print on demand is the least damaging form of print in terms of carbon footprint. Saving paper saves more than cost.

World Book Day Survey Shows The World Loves Poetry

Going wide is one of those terms we mention a lot. As indies, it means making our books available in many formats, on many platforms, in many places. It may seem “easy” to use Amazon for everything but it’s easy to forget just how few local markets that gives us access to. And access to different markets matters. Because you never know where potential avid readers may be.

This Thursday is World Book Day. And to mark the occasion, Study in Switzerland carried out a survey to discover more about the world’s reading habits. It’s a simple study, carried out using Google, with a great infographic. But don’t let that obscure the valuable information. If you write in a particular genre, then knowing which countries do and don’t read that genre is really useful.

Some of the findings are what you would expect. Romance is popular everywhere, for example. And some of the presentation feels as though it has a touch of “spot the stereotype” about it. In the Netherlands, they like thrillers, in Norway they like Nordic Noir, for example. But any market insights are interesting to the people who write for those markets. And that includes the Latin love of horror and European fondness for fantasy. And of course, the fact that these results come from monitoring Google has an added implication for SEO.

But the revelation that struck me most is the one I’ll save for last. And it’s an insight we’ve had before, from Ingram Spark’s Robin Cutler no less. But many still refuse to believe it. Poetry is popular. Really popular, and pretty much everywhere. As a poet whose sales are closer to those traditionally associated with the genre, I’m on notice to take going wide more seriously in future.

Still No Indies on World Book Day List

And while we’re on the subject of World Book Day, I’ll say what I would say every year if I hadn’t got tired of doing so. Looking through the publishers whose books it promotes is dispiriting. A couple of exceptions aside, this is a who’s who of the Big Five. I don’t want to grinch on initiatives that get people reading. But it would be wonderful to see indie authors on the list, introducing people to the full range of this wonderful world of reading.

How Big a Trend are NTFs?

Non fungible Tokens (NFTs) have been in the news a lot this past year. While to the casual observer it may seem like they are taking over the creative world, to the cynical world it must feel like so much smoke and mirrors.

A major study by Fiverr offers an insight into the real size of the NFT trend, a market worth $44bn (!) in 2021. The study showed that there was a huge leap in the number of freelancers undertaking work on NFT projects. Between Q3 and Q4 of 2021, the number of people offering NFT related services on Fiverr grew by 278%. And their earnings grew by 374%. As well as demonstrating that there is (at least some) money in the NFT business for creatives, this raises interesting questions. Such as whether freelance artists migrating to NFT work from other fields (like cover design and illustration, for example).

Waterstones Buys Blackwell's

Forgive me a really local story. One of the great things about being based in Oxford is having the world famous Blackwell's on my doorstep. I've been lucky to gig there many times, and they've been incredibly supportive of my books. Now they, formerly the UK's largest independent, have become part of the James Daunt behemoth. Only time will tell what that means.

Might print on demand solve publishing’s paper shortage? and other top #selfpub news stories for #indieauthors, in one quick read, by #ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes #digitaleconomy #publishingopenup Click To Tweet

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Author: Dan Holloway

Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines, which has appeared at festivals and fringes from Manchester to Stoke Newington. In 2010 he was the winner of the 100th episode of the international spoken prose event Literary Death Match, and earlier this year he competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available for Kindle at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Transparency-Sutures-Dan-Holloway-ebook/dp/B01A6YAA40


This Post Has 3 Comments
  1. Many moons ago, Dan, I worked in a bookstore, and I noticed then the casual attitude towards unsold paperbacks. Some publisher reps simply ripped off the front covers for the inventory people to count, and the rest of the book went in the bin.
    Print on demand is a far more efficient use of resources.

  2. NFTs are 100% a scam and any author who willingly participates in such nonsense will come to regret it. Literally the only upside anyone can cite is “it’s a thing to sell and make money” and if that’s the only justification you can come up with for any action, you’re scraping bottom.

    Frankly, it’s irresponsible to exhort anyone to participate in anything NFT/crypto/blockchain-related without displaying a much deeper understanding of the subject than is typically given. A shrug and a half-hearted “this is a popular thing now” is an unacceptably shallow characterization for something so utterly awful on every level.

    NFTs are digital ephemera for rip-off artists and ‘influencers’ searching out further paths to turn their followers’ pockets inside out, not creative writers. Write books and publish them, that’s what writers do. Don’t fleece your readers with Ponzi scheme scams. And when you do, don’t be surprised when your readers rightfully turn on you and stop buying your writing because you proved yourself untrustworthy.

    1. I might not agree with everything you say (though a lot, yes) but:

      “it’s irresponsible to exhort anyone to participate in anything NFT/crypto/blockchain-related without displaying a much deeper understanding of the subject than is typically given”

      is spot on. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been trying to encourage authors to learn in depth about technology for many years (and educate where I can) – it’s only when we know something about a hyped subject that we will know if and when we are being scammed.

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