On Demand Printing – Too Little too Late – The Broadcast TV Conundrum

Publishers Weekly has published a post describing a new on demand printing initiative:


“Kodak is working with On Demand to integrate the Espresso Book Machine, currently available in only a handful of bookstores and libraries, with the KODAK Picture Kiosk at 105,000 locations worldwide. The integrated kiosks, which will begin to go live late this year in the U.S., will have more than 7 million books available through On Demand. The kiosks will also have the capability to handle self-published books…..”

The problem with this announcement is that it is solving yesterday’s problems which were:

  1. Buyers only being able to purchase what was on the bookshelves at their local store or waiting weeks for an order.
  2. The high capital costs for booksellers from holding inventory and high return rates for books.

The advent of eBooks and the ability to read them on readers and in applications in other tablets has solved most of these problems. Years ago I would have said this could have been a short term runaway success but now it faces the broadcast TV conundrum. In order to support the costs of creating high quality TV (or paying for sporting content) under the current models you need a massive audience. Once the attention of that audience is fractured and the audience starts to disintegrate then your income falls and cost cutting on the production side alienates more viewers.

I have only purchased couple of non fiction books in the last 18 months. Please note this is a slight change on my post:

Why Would You Publish a Book About the Future Without a Kindle Version? (or another e-book version)

because on a recent US trip I saw two books I really wanted to read on multiple plane trips and I hate not being able to do that on taking off and landing.

Lots of people I talk to say they still like the feel of books and bookstores and are aghast when I predict the future is eBooks. All of these people are over 30 and most of them are over 50. So if you couple a dying demographic with the advantages of purchasing anywhere and being able to share and access extra content through a tablet or e-reader the likely volumes of print on demand books are much smaller than they might have been 5 years ago. That means the business model for return on the capital investment is under great threat.

For instance I met author Dave Gray in Providence Rhode Island last week and he was able to email me a copy of his new book Connected Company to read on my iPad and I immediately purchased his previous book Gamestorming via Amazon. That model totally kills going to an on demand book store for me – and I would have been a big user 5 years ago.

Addendum: The ABC Gruen Planet did a pitch contest last night for ad agencies to create an ad pushing us back to printed books and away from e-books – a must watch:


Paul Higgins


Why Would You Publish a Book About the Future Without a Kindle Version? (or another ebook version)

Or why you have to remove all possible friction in your customer’s buying decisions

I went to Amazon to look at purchasing James Howard Kunstler’s new book yesterday after seeing a couple of recommendations from people in my social network that I trust.:

Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation

As far as I could tell there was only the hard cover version.

I don’t know about everyone else but I have stopped buying non fiction print version books.

That has happened for two reasons.

The first is convenience. I now carry an iPad almost everywhere I go and the Kindle application works fantastically well. For non fiction books the opportunity to dip back into them and find notes that I have made is important for my work and thinking. I am also constantly referring to my favourite books and authors and the convenience of being able to open up the iPad and show people the book is a nice thing to do.

The second is the ability to make a purchase decision when I want to and have the product straight away. Particularly for the non fiction books that I purchase it is highly unlikely that they will be available locally. Therefore I have to order them in which can take quite a while. The Amazon system is great in terms of being able to order and download immediately.

The fact that I could not get the book straight away means my attention has gone away from it and I may never return. I am constantly talking to clients and in my keynote presentations that they are not competing with their standard competitors any more. Now that my attention (and my money) has gone somewhere else it might not be focused on a different book, it might be focused on backing a Kickstarter project, or making a charitable donation, or buying a new music album. The demands for my attention are myriad and are coming from all sorts of places that were not there 5 years ago.

So why would you publish a book without an easily obtainable electronic version in this day and age. All you are doing is putting an obstacle in my way of buying your product. The same applies to lots of other product and service offerings. In a modern world you cannot afford to do that for long.

Paul Higgins

ps: I still buy printed versions of fiction books because I like the idea of reading in bed with a book and the same on planes for take-off and landings. We are all dinosaurs in some part of our behaviour!