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Current Books-on-Demand Publishers

> Print-on-demand as I understand it is your
> local bookstore carrying only 1 or 2 copies of a title (if at all) and
you walk
> in, tell them what book you want and they download it and print it
> "on the spot" (hours, days, whatever).  Has anyone ever seen this in
> If it exists I'm sure it's on a very small scale.

As far as I know this hasn't been used in a practical form by any bookshops
as yet, but the same method is already being used by a couple of specialist
academic publishers that I know of.  They don't actually print the books in
the bookshop itself.  Instead, the publisher only prints copies of books
that have already been ordered from them (by bookshops, or by members of
the public).

UMI Books-On-Demand (University Microfilms International) is the company
that I have actually purchased from.  Their book has a rather ugly and
rough grey cover (which I suppose they must have chosen to keep the price
down), and the title is printed onto a label and stuck onto the front of
this.  There is no marking on the spine.

The book itself (I happen to have "Theatre in the Middle Ages" by
W.Tydeman) was originally printed in 1978 by Cambridge University Press.
The original book has gone out-of-print but UMI have been licensed to print
facsimiles - which they call "xerographic reprints".  Photocopies? by any

The quality of the paper seems perfectly reasonable to my untrained
fingers, and it is very firmly bound.  There is a little shine-through of
text from the next page.

The text itself is perfectly readable, but the poor quality of the printing
is fairly obvious.  It is a few shades lighter than it should be, and some
of the letters are a little broken up.

The illustrations aren't reproduced very well at all.  If any of them were
originally colour illustrations this might explain the particularly bad

This book - which in its original form had not managed to produce enough
demand to stay in print - cost me about ten pounds, I think.   The price of
a bog-standard, cheap but specialist interest, academic paperback.

I believe that both Cambridge University Press and the Author receive a
share of royalties (although reduced, I think) each time the book is
published.  So this processs benefits everybody - reader, artist and
original publisher.  All of whom can benefit from the book after it would
otherwise have gone out of print.

The quality of the book itself could certainly be improved, but UMI makes
uses a form of "Book-On-Demand" printing to make 130,000 out-of-print books
(in 1993) available to anybody who wants them.

If this sort of publishing became widely available - hopefully with a much
improved product - then theoretically no book would ever have to go
out-of-print again.

Thomas Larque.

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