If it works for hamburgers and computers, why not for books? What if you could only sell 100 copies of a book but you could still, at least, break even?
Books would never need to go "out of print" again due to lack of sufficient demand.
IUniverse has changed the publishing world forever with its new Print On Demand (POD) all-digital publication of physical books, together with its breadth of services as a publishing portal.
UMI had been offering Books On Demand for at least 20 years (remember, UMI is the primary periodical & phone book microfiche source for libraries) but this is SO much cheaper!
Advances in technology first made POD pioneer Ingram's Lightning Print (now Lightning Source) possible.
What is different now is that the book comes from the author in digital format (from his or her word processor program) or is transferred to a digital format and then the publisher's computer takes it from there. The finished book can be produced in less than 30 seconds for under $5 per copy. (Larger runs are still more cost-effective done by offset printing.)
As Lightning Source's Web site points out, with POD no capital ever has to be tied up in slow-moving inventory, there are no shipping and handling costs, and you get reduced ordering and administrative costs. Plus no more costly overstocks (too many copies of a book no one will buy), and, best of all, no more missed sales.
Vanity press has been around as long as mainstream publishing has. (Vanity press is where the author pays personally to have the book published, usually for copies to give friends and family members.)
What is different now is that such "self-published" paperback (and now hardback books as well) books now have ISBN numbers, just like mainstream publishers' works, and can be found side-by-side on brick-and-mortar bookshelves, particularly at Barnes & Noble stores, with covers and binding just as professional looking as their mainstream cousins'. Any retail bookstore anywhere in the country can order one for you easily, using that ISBN.
People talk all the time about how hard it is to "break into" publishing. Publishers like to publish books by authors with a successful track record, preferably veterans of the New York Times bestseller lists. There are fewer mainstream publishing houses now and most are owned by mega-conglomerates who really don't care about books but rather about the "bottom line". So how does a good but unknown author get his or her first book published if he or she can't even get in the door of a mainstream publishing house?
This complaint may become moot in the not so distant future. According to a recent article [May 2000] in the Houston Chronicle, Publishers Weekly estimates that on-demand printing may account for 30 percent of publishing in the next three years. Large book wholesalers are even now scrambling for digital partners to create their own e-imprints.
XLibris, in partnership with Random House, for example, will even publish an author's book for free!