Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What is POD?

I read and hear so often that POD is self-publishing. Even when people are told the difference between POD and self-publishing, they won't stop using POD as a synonym for self-publishing. THEY ARE NOT SYNONYMOUS.

I'm going to try one more time to explain what POD, print on demand - not publish on demand, means.

First of all, POD, digital printing, is a form of technology that is used to PRINT material. It is not a type of publishing, even though it is often used by publishers and by people who self-publish.

We can find print on demand publishers or print on demand services, but those names simply mean that they use digital technology, not that POD is what the publisher or service provider is called.

Digital printing allows a complete book to be printed and bound in a matter of minutes. The process is used for smaller numbers of books to be printed. Offset printing results in a lower cost per copy, but a much higher initial outlay, because 1,000 or more books must be printed per run. Digital is technology that works better for smaller runs. Offset is not cost effective for small runs.

So, if you use the term POD to mean self-publishers or self-publishing, don't be surprised when I scream.


Rena said...

Thanks for posting this, Vivian. I know I've looked up POD before to learn more about it. Your post is really helpful.

WillowRaven said...

I have heard that POD technology is not used by 'real publishers' or 'traditional publishers'.

That simply is not true.

Even the large 'traditional publishers' use pod technology.

KittyNadem said...

LOL! Loved your post, Vivian, I never knew that POD wasn't another term for "self-publishing" seriously, before I read your article, I used to be one of those people who made you scream. But, now I know, POD and Self-Publishing are TWO, SEPERATE, very different things.

Thanks for posting this, Viv!

Heather Paye

Donna M. McDine said...


Thank you for the the clarification. This certainly clears up things for me.


Holly Jahangiri said...

With the quality of print-on-demand as high as it is, and given the economic realities that challenge the publishing industry in the first place, I have to say that anyone claiming that "real publishers don't" isn't up to speed.

Printing technology is evolving rapidly. Offset printing can actually be fairly wasteful, and is better suited to high volume print runs. That's fine, but it discourages anyone from taking a chance on the marketability of new voices.

I'd be willing to bet that only a veteran of the printing industry could readily tell the difference in quality; most readers wouldn't notice and wouldn't care if they did. POD is that good.

We should get this "publish on demand" out of our vocabularies and go back to calling it "vanity press" like we always have - because there IS a difference. The only truth is that both vanity press and legitimate publishing houses CAN and DO use print-on-demand technology when it suits their business needs. But it's also true that both use offset printing when it suits their business needs. So it's irrelevant.

Vivian Zabel said...

Considering quality of books, many people consider digital printing (print on demand, not publish on demand) better than many books printed by offset. The paper is often better quality as well as the print itself.

Hmmm ... interesting.

Also, Holly, you are so correct, all kinds, sizes, and types of publishers use POD when it suits their business needs, even the major publishing houses do.

So, we need to be sure not to call vanity press or self-publishing POD. The two types of publishing may use offset or they may use POD, but they never one are POD.

Kipp said...

I understand that the print quality of digital print on demand has improved greatly over the last few years. I haven't heard any specific discussion regarding binding... is there a difference in the quality of binding provided by on demand printers as opposed to offset printers? Or does it just depend on the individual company?

Vivian Zabel said...

The quality that I've seen for the past six - seven years has been excellent. I don't know about before that.

The bindings in the books I've seen have been better than for offset books, which have pages that come loose very easily.

Holly Jahangiri said...

I think, to be fair, different print vendors will offer differing quality with regard to binding - and it may be a case of "you get what you pay for." But binding is generally a separate step from printing, and there can be a wide range of options to choose from (or very few options, depending on the vendor). They're generally very good, though. I have no complaints about the paper, print, or binding on any of the print-on-demand books I've seen over the last decade.

Dan Case said...

Actually, POD is just one type of digital press. It usually refers to an all-in-one printing and binding machine. Here's a really cool video of one in operation:

Holly Jahangiri said...

Good point, Dan! The one I was picturing didn't include the binding, but you're right. Thanks for the cool and informative link!