(POD) refers to a complete publishing system that
includes both printing on demand and distribution
through physical and electronic channels. A POD system
is based on digital printing technology and an
information-based structure that connects the printing
house to the distribution network.
The Internet is the main means of
communication in a POD system. Order processing in the
network, transmission of digital content, and title
information all are made via the World Wide Web by the
participants in this system: the POD publishing house,
printing company, and distributors. The beneficiaries of
the system are book wholesalers and retailers: local
bookstores, some libraries, and online bookstores.
Through retailers, printed books go directly to
customers, your readers.
printing technology uses high-tech machines (digital
printers and binders) that can produce a book quickly
and with excellent graphical quality. The system’s
computer receives the finished files containing your
book (a PDF for the bookblock and a TIFF or PDF for the
cover), and produces the book according to established
technical specifications. The
machine also automatically binds your book and
attaches a cover, offering several options
(paperback or hardback, perfect bound, saddle stitch,
etc.). From a commercial point of view, the most
important feature of POD machines is the ability to
produce one copy of a title at the same per-unit cost as
an order of several copies. One-book-at-a-time printing
is an advantage for both press companies and authors
submitting titles (by waiving the investment in a
minimal number of print copies), as well as retailers,
who can order any number of copies through their
distributors, or can order one or more directly to test
the sales potential of a title.
To download a short video showing the POD production
and distribution processes, click here .
processes for transmitting information and processing
orders and payments work as follows:
The author sends the material to the POD
publishing house, which creates the finished book files.
The publishing house sends the order for a new title
setup to the printing company (also called the aggregator),
providing it with the finished files and the marketing
information for that title. After title setup and the
acceptance of the proof copy by the author, the title is
included in the digital catalogue and the book goes into
production (see the section titled Publishing
steps). The distributors and some wholesalers and
retailers have direct access to this catalogue, through
which they order titles according to their own marketing
strategies. Some distributors stock copies of the title
for future sales. The other retailers use distributors'
The POD publishing house offers a discount
(from the book’s list price) to distributors. As this
discount is higher, the book is distributed to more
levels (wholesalers – retailers) and has a greater
chance to be stocked in inventories. In turn, the
distributor offers a discount (lower) to the next
distribution levels. The retailer can sell the book at
less than the list price (as low as the discount of the
previous level allows in order to make a profit).
An order goes from a wholesaler or retailer
to the distributor and on to the aggregator, which
fulfills it by sending it to client's address. The
aggregator accepts direct orders from some online
retailers like Amazon. The publishing house may, in
turn, order copies of its own titles in any quantity.
When an order from a retailer is fulfilled:
– the retailer pays the distributor the book’s list
price less the agreed discount.
– the distributor pays the aggregator the list price,
less the discount offered by the publishing house.
– the aggregator pays the publishing house the list
price, less the discount offered to the distributor, and the printing
– the publishing house pays the author the
compensation agreed in the publishing contract.
this process, the distributor is the main engine—it
not only transmits and collects orders in and from
several directions, but it also plays a part in the
marketing and promotion of the titles in its catalogue.
This marketing is basic, but the POD system allows the
publishing house and the author to manage the marketing
of the published titles. The author may use all the
Internet means to promote his or her book in order to
grow sales (see the section titled Distribution/Marketing).
To see an illustration of the communication and
commercial relationships between the various parts of a
POD system, click here.
systems have expanded quickly in the United States,
capturing over 30% of the book market at present. It has
also penetrated a few European countries like the United
Kingdom, France and Germany and continues to expand due
to its advantages over traditional publishing (see the
section titled Advantages of