for book retailers
Tree Books is a micropublisher
-- we don't own printing presses or warehouses or distribution, we
subcontract all these functions to existing industry. There are already
companies that do production, order processing and fulfillment, and do
it very well ... we leave it to them. So although we're small, there's
risk in dealing with us, because you won't actually be dealing with us
– just your existing suppliers. We publish,
but we don't manufacture or supply.
- Do you have a returns policy?
- We don't do returns (there's no publisher's
warehouse). Our books are produced using print on
demand technology by established companies already embedded
in the supply chain.
does that work, compared to normal
- If a shop
stocks a POD book, the customer sees
no difference. If the shop is out of stock and a distributor has a few
copies, then again the customer sees no difference. If the distributor
isn't holding any stock either, the order cascades down one
more level, to the computer systems of a POD manufacturing plant. The
customer's book-order joins a queue, and is printed to order,
on demand. The book gets tagged and sent to the distributor,
and then passes back along the chain as usual. The whole
process is highly automated, and the aim is to try
fulfill "zero-stock" orders without adding more than a few
working days or so to the customer's wait time. If the plant
has a rush of orders, it may take a little longer. If there is free
stock in the supply chain, the usual (shorter) fulfillment times apply.
other companies choose to carry stock, and how much, is (of course) up
are supply times better or worse
- A little
of both. Print on demand
means that a book effectively never goes out
of stock: the printing plant counts as an additional "virtual
that distributors can fall back on if physical stock is
at the cost of an additional delay to order fulfillment. If
decide to speed
things up by carrying stock themselves, then it's the best of
worlds– speedy supply with no unexpected "book droughts" between
printings when there's a rush of orders for a particular book. However,
the fact that the book is always available "on demand" means that shops
and distributors have less of an incentive to carry
significant amounts of stock, and the
fact that they can't return any unsold stock also makes them
more cautious about ordering in advance. Bookshops that do
carry POD titles sometimes microstock –
carry just enough stock
to cover immediate short-term sales, and order replacements
as needed on a day-by-day basis.
- The discussion above refers to paperback
production: since POD hardback production requires
more human involvement, lead-times for hardback books can be
significantly longer than for paperbacks.
- But what about long-distance delays?
- Our current POD contractor gets around this by
printing on both sides of the Atlantic, in the UK
and in the USA. If you order a book in
Manchester, England, the book will be printed in the UK, if
it in Chicago, it'll be printed in the US. Either way, the
book gets fed straight into the local distribution chain, avoiding
additional international shipping costs and delays.
- If you order from another
part of the
world (such as Australia), and your local distributor
doesn't carry stock, then yes, ordering stock only after it's
sold is going to be a slow process. It seems likely that the
larger POD companies will eventually extend the "local
production" model to more areas, but for now, local printing basically
applies to UK/Europe and the US.
else is in the works?
- Martin Hutchinson's
Book, "The Abyss
of time: An architect's history of the golden ratio"
is now out in paperback (1st July 2008).
version of the "Relativity ..." book is scheduled for 15th
- Why didn't you release the hardback version first?
releases usually come about a year before the paperback, which forces
readers to choose between buying an expensive hardback or waiting for
the paperback to come out. We wanted to try to maximise availability
the book by releasing it as an aggressively-priced paperback, and we're
now putting out a hardback version for the benefit of people
who prefer that format.
the situation with bookseller's margins?
version of the relativity book, and the paperback of "Abyss" both have
fairly standard bookseller margins.
retailer margin for the "Relativity" paperback is quite tight,
we wanted it to come in at GBP10-00 / USD15-00.
"Print on demand" costs are comparatively high per page, and this
book was nearly four hundred pages ... if its any consolation, we
our own margins even more than yours!
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