Publisher Shifts From Offset Books to E-Book/POD Model

By | August 20, 2010

If you have been following the PrintCEO blogs you know that there is a lot of interest in e-books. E-books are becoming more popular by the minute thanks to devices like the Kindle, Nook, and iPad, but major publishers have been hesitant to go all in—until now.

Mass market romance publisher Dorchester Publishing has dropped its traditional offset printing business in favor of an e-book/print-on-demand model effective with its September titles that are “shipping” now. President John Prebich said after retail sales fell by 25% in 2009, the company knew that 2010 “would be a defining year,” but rather than show improvement, “sales have been worse.”

While returns are down, the company has had a difficult time getting its titles into stores as shelf space for mass market has been reduced, Prebich explained. Dorchester recently let its field sales force of seven go. The editorial team remains intact, although Prebich said the number of titles released monthly will likely be reduced from over 30 to 25. He said the schedule for 2011 is set and Dorchester has books in the pipeline through June 2012.

Dorchester will continue to do print copies for its book club business and has signed a deal with Ingram Publisher Service for IPS to do print-on-demand copies for selected titles. According to Prebich, some e-books that are doing well in the digital marketplace will be released as trade paperbacks with IPS fulfilling orders; the company, however, will not do any more mass market paperbacks for retail distribution.

Prebich said Dorchester’s e-book business has had “remarkable growth,” which he expects to double again in the next year. Still, digital sales accounted for only 12% of total revenue prior to the company making the transition to the e-book/POD model. Prebich conceded that Dorchester will have lower revenues, but he expects margins to improve.

He said the company is working out a new royalty rate with authors. Editors are talking to authors now about the changes. “We hope they’ll stay,” Prebich said. Dorchester’s e-books are available at most major vendors and are compatible with most platforms at an average price of $6.99. Trade paperbacks will be priced in the $12 to $15 range.

We have been seeing a shift from offset books to on-demand books for years. Do you think this is the first of many publishers that will accelerate the shift from offset books to both on-demand and e-books?

Howard Fenton is a Senior Consultant at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers, in-plants, and manufacturers on workflow management, operations, digital services, and customer research.

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