An article by Dan Carnevale of The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on the popularity of digital printing, or print-on-demand, technology in the printing of scholarly monographs. Cheaper than traditional offset printing, digital technology has led both to a rise in the often-scorned vanity press, where writers can publish their books for a fee, and to huge savings and gains for American academic publishers, for which a typical title sells only a few hundred copies in its first few years.
A major challenge facing academic publishers in the use of on-demand technology is its association with the vanity press movement, which is associated with low-quality content, editing, and production values. Jane Bunker, editor-in-chief at the State University of New York University Press asserts that “the availability of on-demand printing has not had an influence on the process of deciding which books to publish. And while printing costs have gone down, the rest of the process — decision making, editing, and formatting — is still just as expensive.”
Also to the benefit of academic publishers, on-demand printing quality has increased substantially over the past 10 years. Facing a bookstore that refused to buy books that were digitally printed, “Eric Rohmann, director of sales for Princeton University Press … showed the client [a digitally printed book] side by side with a traditionally printed book. ‘I handed him two books, and he couldn’t tell,’ Mr. Rohmann says.”
Thanks to MaudNewton.com for the link.