I've heard from not a few self publishers over the years who embraced offset printing to their detriment, simply because they wanted to avoid being tarred by the POD brush. They never quite believed me when I pointed out that print-on-demand is used by just about everybody who is anybody in publishing when it makes sense, namely, for titles that aren't expected to sell in large numbers on bookstore shelves. Dedicated POD users include a large number of academic presses, small publishers and self publishers, but also include big name trade publishers managing their backlist and special editions, such as large print, in the most cost effective way possible.
So, for all the non-believers out there, I've come up with a simple way you can
browse print-on-demand titles and look at the publishers. It doesn't create an all-inclusive list, just those pages that happened to be indexed by Google for some reason or another on the Books-A-Million website. You can use the advanced search page on Google or just copy and paste the following as a single line into Google:
booksamillion "print-on-demand" -next, -matches site:www.booksamillion.com
The result I get this morning includes some 16,000 titles, only a small fraction of the print-on-demand titles in print, but a good sample to surf through. In the first ten pages of results, I saw the following "name" trade publishers:
Little Brown and Company
John Wiley & Son
Simon & Schuster
In one case, "My Sister's Keeper" from Atria Books, the current BAM page showed the title as in stock somewhere, as opposed to the print-on-demand designation that was in the page in Google's cache. It could be they use POD for stop-gap while reprinting books, or that they have books printed on demand in sufficient quantity to stock some vendors. Next it occurred to me that looking through random pages was silly when I could just add a publisher name to the search string. Reading publisher names off the spines of books next to my desk, I quickly added the following publishers with some print-on-demand titles to the list:
Random House Trade (random)
McGraw-Hill Professional (mcgraw)
Alfred A. Knopf (knopf)
William Morrow & Company (morrow)
Back Bay Books (back bay)
Vintage Books (vintage)
W. W. Norton & Company (norton)
Scribner Book Company (scribner)
Addison Wesley Publishing Company (holt - mistaken hit:-)
Ballantine Books (holt - another random hit)
Jossey-Bass (houghton = more random)
Finally, I realized we need some sort of normalizing factor, like, what percentage of POD books are actually represented in these Google searches of Booksamillion.com. So I repeated the search with iUniverse as the keyword, and got just 437 results. That compares with the 16,131 results for iUniverse (who I believe uses POD exclusively) in the Amazon catalog, suggesting that roughly 4% of the print-on-demand titles available are being turned up through these searches. I tried PublishAmerica, got 276 results on Google/Booksamillion and over 20,000 on Amazon, putting the number of titles represented under 2%. Xlibris drew just 67 through Google/Booksamillion and 16,000 through Amazon, again suggesting that a very small fraction of print-on-demand books in the Booksamillion site are being cataloged directly by Google.
So, what does it all mean? For one thing, it means I couldn't think of anything else to write about and returned to an old theme. For another thing, it means that next time some big publisher you're talking to says something snide about POD, you have a way of checking (with a probability somewhere in the low single digits) whether or not they've used print-on-demand themselves. If they've used POD for a large enough number of titles, they should show up.