The COVID pandemic that brought the world to its knees over the last couple of years has been horrific. Businesses have folded. People have died in their numbers. The mental health of millions has been affected. It certainly has not been an easy time. But as with everything, the troubles wrought by the pandemic have also forced people to question how they do things and why? It has been a time for reflection and interrogation of the status quo. Where once working from an office was considered essential, now many businesses are downscaling. Travel budgets have been slashed as Zoom meetings have shown themselves to be perfectly effective. And while some businesses have folded completely, there are others that have managed to pivot effectively or adapt the way they do things to ensure that they are not only sustainable but that they can also emerge on the other side of the pandemic stronger and more robust.
Prior to the pandemic, the world of printing was an industry in flux. Changes in the way that things had been done for decades were underway. The migration to digital was already well underway. The pandemic had the effect of accelerating things significantly, however – and mostly for the better.
For a very long time, South African publishers who held the local rights to major international titles and best sellers had a very specific way of doing things. Volumes were large and sales expectations were high. In many instances, the books themselves had to be shipped from abroad with serious implications from both tax and foreign exchange perspectives. Not to mention logistic concerns and the risk of holding too much stock of titles that ended up flopping. Even some of the best authors have titles that fail to crack it. But things have changed, and they have changed for the better. If you are a publisher, it is time to bid farewell to the nightmare of the past. Here is how and why…
If you compare the number of books sold in South Africa to those in the United Kingdom or America, the local market is very small. By way of example PrintWeek suggests that while more than 200 million printed books were sold in the UK in 2020, South Africa trails in the distance with a total of around 11 million books sold. Given the limited size of the market in South Africa, it is often hard for publishers to be able to justify printing locally. Immediately that means that books set for sale in Africa must be printed abroad as part of a major job-lot with books destined for many markets around the world. This means that the local agenda is compromised and that local agents are beholden to the schedules and demands of other territories. If only it made financial sense to print locally… Well, now it does.
The idea of print on demand is something familiar to many people. Indeed, writing for Printful.com blogger Una Berzina-Pudule notes that such has been the rise of POD that it has grown by 12% over the last 4 years. While typically, it is associated with small orders for those who are self-publishing, it doesn’t have to be. In the same way that a self-publishing writer might make use of a book of one solution, a larger publisher can produce large volumes. The premise is the same. You only print and pay for what you need. And given the scale of the operations of companies like us at Print on Demand, the size of the order is largely irrelevant. With the ability to print at 6000 pages per minute it doesn’t matter if you are looking for a single copy of your dad’s book of fishing anecdotes or 30 000 copies of the latest Lee Child thriller – your order will be filled in next to no time.
Anyone who has worked in publishing will tell you that the printing of a book is only the start of the logistical nightmare. Once a book has been printed there is then the small matter of shipping and distribution. There is warehousing and then there are returns – so often an issue when large amounts of books are printed and given to retailers on consignment. These are all labour intensive, admin heavy jobs that can take up an extraordinary amount if time and effort. But Print Volume solutions are set up to take care of all these issues for you. Your printer will almost certainly be set up to manage quality control and distribution (two elements along with speed that form the very cornerstones of a successful volume print operation). Then there is the small matter of never needing to print more copies than you actually need or can sell. You only ned to print once the order has been placed and confirmed – so the days of needing to shift deadstock at below cost price just to clear out a warehouse or to help with cash-flow are a thing of the past! It’s time to celebrate.
First up, make sure to equip yourself with the right knowledge. This is a solution that exists, and it exists where you are. Then do the maths and see how much it is likely to improve things for you – both financially and logistically. The joy of this solution is that you can simply Google a phrase like ‘volume print South Africa’ to find a partner who will deliver you the service that you have been waiting for.
There are partners out there, waiting to make your dreams come true. Embrace the move, it is a step that you won’t regret, and which will almost certainly act as a game changer for your business.