We’ve been producing a number of print jobs via lulu.com, the online, on-demand publisher. It’s been a fascinating process, in part because it totally transforms your thinking about what it means to print and publish things. Traditional thinking about publishing is driven by quantity: I need to print so many thousands of something to justify the production cost. So you end up generating 2,000 copies of your book, or magazine, or brochure and 1,500 of them sit mouldering in your basement till they end up in the dumpster. You really only needed 500. But traditional print production doesn’t reward printing 500 – for just a tiny amount more money, you can have 2,000.
With lulu, you lay out your publication, upload the PDF and cover art, and 4 days later in the mail you get a perfect book. Just one, if you want. Our experience with them has spanned the 282 page “Imagining Shakespeare” in fabulous 4-color throughout, to the more mundane 36 page, text only, black and white handbooks for a local school. In both cases, we only needed small quantities, and producing them via traditional means was impossible. The 282 page book costs about $50 per copy, but you can buy one, and they send it to you in 4 days.
What has really been interesting about this is how difficult it is for people to understand the idea that they ONLY NEED TO PRINT WHAT THEY REALLY NEED. It’s counterintuitive. Sometimes you really only need 10 of something, and with this service, you can actually do that. We’re laying out a magazine right now for a client, I expect it will be around 60 pages or so, full color, for a super high-end hotel. They currently send out a fancy brochure and folder to inquiries overflowing with miscellaneous print pieces, reviews, reprints, etc. We can bring all those elements together and print 1 **ONE**!! at a time for a cost that will be less than the folder they currently send out.
I’m still wrapping my brain around what it means for print communication when you can do this kind of thing. A friend of mine who is an artist would like to sell posters of his work, but is daunted by the upfront cost of having to print at least 1,000 to justify the cost. With Lulu, he can upload his work, establish and online store and be selling the prints and making a decent markup on them in less than 30 minutes. No inventory, no capital, no cost.
Do you have an idea that you want to publish with Lulu? Do it. Let me know what you think. If you have any questions about this new paradigm, drop a comment. It’s cool.