Andrew Sullivan’s print-on-demand (POD) experiment continues apace, with interesting results so far:
How did we get the price down by half? We did it the way publishing houses do it – with a twist. We didn’t guess the demand or market test it, we simply asked for pledges. We crowd-sourced the price. We got enough pledges to do a print run of 2,000 which brought the price down to $16.25. But unlike the publishing houses, we’re not pocketing the difference. We’re handing it over to you in a lower price.
The idea of pooling demand for a print-on-demand book, then using that aggregated demand to drive the per-book cost down, is interesting to me. Provided it doesn’t cut into the profits of the publisher (in this case, Blurb), there’s no reason not to do this, and particularly so for impending releases. (Pre-ordering of content is now quite common in the games biz, but there’s rarely a break on price for ordering early.) Here consumers win twice: they can elect to order prior to availability as a convenience, but can also drive the price down in the process.
In Sullivan’s case, however, the price drop seems to be a one-time event:
A catch: Once those 2000 copies are bought up, however, the price will return to $29.95, so secure one today.
I wonder if this is necessarily the case. It may be that there simply needs to be an additional mechanism added to the purchase of a POD book: one that offers to delay shipment until a certain number of offers are stockpiled, at which point the price drops accordingly. How much book-buying is spur-of-the-moment, and how much is for later gifting? Would consumers be willing to defer a purchase to save a few bucks? Or, once the purchase decision is made, will people see paying more (full retail) as the cost of getting it sooner? How can demand be pooled more than once? (For example, can I have the option to get a book now for the regular price, or choose to go into a pool of people waiting for a lower price?)
In the end, I think Sullivan’s example not only blazes trail, it indicates that self-publishing and POD are going to continue to evolve to meet market needs. The landscape we see today is not going to be the landscape we travel tomorrow.
— Mark Barrett