What does a publisher do? Procure print services
What does a publisher do? is a series of posts designed to answer that question, interpreted not in the sense of “What functions does a publisher seek to fulfil?” but rather “What operations does a publisher (well, this publisher at any rate) perform?” This is the nineteenth post in the series.
The second post (‘What does a publisher do? Manage stakeholders’) in this series set out a framework for subsequent posts – a framework based on the types of stakeholders a publisher needs to work with. Today’s post focuses on a publisher’s relationship with printers. So:
When (circa 2008) we founded our publishing imprints, our plan was to publish e-books only. We have not stuck to that plan because we have found that some readers – especially those involved in creative writing in higher education – demand print editions.
This is a matter we’ll continue to review. In the meantime, we use a number of companies to print our books in hardback and soft-. In addition, for our marketing materials we use Digital Ink in Cambridgeshire).
Print is a price-sensitive market. Cost certainly plays a major role in our procurement decisions. But it isn’t the only criterion.
To illustrate the procurement decision-making process, consider our decision to use MPG Biddles to print some of our books. Biddles don’t offer some of the services (e.g. print-on-demand and distribution) that its competitors (such as Lightning Source, whom we also use) do. The main reasons we do so are:
1. A record of fulfilment. Every job that Biddles has performed for us has been well finished.
2. Environmental options, using paper certificated by the Forest Stewardship Council and the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (though we’d welcome a chlorine-free option).
3. Ease of information management. In particular the website makes it easy to (a) request a quotation, (b) place an order, and (c) track the progress of a project.
4. Cost. We find Biddles competitive for print runs of 100 upwards.
5. Last, but by no means least, the personal touch. Typically, staff are easy to contact, constructive, and courteous. This helps us to deal with snags (or, if necessary, make changes) without undue difficulty.
One way of looking at our procurement decision is that we focus not only on unit cost, but also on management time, agility, and reputation.