While everyone is very much focussed on 3D printing right now – and understandably so – we should remember that this isn’t the only disruptive printing technology to emerge in the past decade. The first real mover and shaker in that department was ‘POD’…

For those who aren’t aware of the term, ‘Print On Demand’ refers to a certain type of publishing that allows you to print off copies of your books as and when you need them in a short space of time. What this means is that a publisher no longer has to print thousands of books and store them in a warehouse hoping they’ll sell… Now they can simply create the digital file and distribute them only when orders come in. They might still get returns from bookstores that order more books than they need, but it still represents much less of a risk for those companies.

If eBooks don’t stand a hope of completely destroying traditional publishing though, then POD still has a very real shot at it. Here we will look at how they’ve already seriously overturned the publishing industry and how they threaten to transform many more businesses in the near future.

How POD Has Changed Publishing

While POD has obvious and very big potential benefits for publishers, it also presents a number of serious dangers.

As mentioned, a publishing company now has the luxury of printing off their books only when they get orders, avoiding situations where they end up stockpiling thousands of copies of a book that won’t sell.

At the same time though, this is also a luxury that’s now available to writers themselves who can opt to completely bypass traditional publishing companies. Sites like Lulu.com and even Amazon now offer a way for anybody to print their books themselves and then sell them directly online. A publisher can still be useful for editing, marketing and distributing the book… but in terms of getting a hard copy of the book in their hands there’s no need for an individual to use a publishing company at all. And that means they get a much bigger cut of the profits.

For most smaller authors this isn’t going to be hugely useful – someone like you or me would struggle to sell copies of a book we published ourselves. But say a ‘big name’ author was to move to POD like Tim Ferriss, they’d be able to generate enough buzz on their own and could cost publishers millions.

As for ‘vanity publishers’, there is now very little need for them to exist at all. These are companies that offered to print copies of books for thousands of dollars but leave the marketing to the author themselves. Anyone could use this sort of printing and thus it really was an exercise in vanity. Today authors can do this themselves though, so many vanity publishers are struggling.

The Future

In the future though this technology is set to mix things up even more. Some book stores and libraries for instance already have ‘book printers’ that customers can use to print the books they want. If a book isn’t available off the shelf, then they can simply print out what they are looking for right then and there.

In the further future we might get to the point where you can buy these types of printers for the home. Thus you would never need to head out and buy a book at all – you could instead just download the file, buy some paper and some ink and have the book in your hands. This would be a solution for anyone who didn’t like the sometimes restrictive nature of eBooks and would force publishers to adapt in a big way.

Other businesses could use this too – being able to publish new leaflets and instruction manuals right there on their premises with no need to outsource. This could be devastating for many businesses, a huge advantage to many more, and ultimately a massive win for the consumer.

Author Bio: Warren Brown is a freelance blogger and an ace creative write with many years of experience writing for top blogs. Warren has written on a myriad of topics and has written several posts for us.

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