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OnDemand Books Launches Redundant And Expensive Self-Pub Service

9816007574_da028ed124_m[1]A small but somewhat important story was lost in the buzz of the DBW conference last week.

OnDemand Books, makers of the Espresso Book Machine, put out a press release last Wednesday (PDF) and announced that they were launching a self-pub service which would enable authors to distribute their work through OnDemand Books network of POD machines as well as through major ebookstores.

The new service is called SelfEspress, and a few minutes of research has revealed that this new service is very likely being provided by FastPencil, with OnDemand Books' only contribution being to slap their brand on it and mark up the prices.

If you check this page on the SelfEspress website with this list of publishing packages on the FastPencil website, you might notice that FastPencil’s DIY 2 package matches with SelfEspress’s basic package, with the only major difference being a several hundred-dollar markup by SelfEspress.


Needless to say, I don’t think either offering is a good value – not when an author can handle many of the bundled options themselves and deal direct with major ebookstores (for ebook distribution) and LSI or Createspace (for POD distribution).

That covers distribution, but should you want a single copy printed you can arrange it through Createspace, or you can distribute through LSI and have it printed at your local Espresso Book Machine. You can also take the files for your book to whoever owns that local EBM and have them print the book for you (most are used to walk in print orders).

P.S. This is somewhat off topic, but has anyone else considered what the launch of SelfEspress says about OnDemand Books' POD efforts? I would say that they have fizzled, but I could be wrong.

images  by Waag Society

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fjtorres January 19, 2015 um 9:21 am

They could just be looking to pad the bottom line off the unwary. Why should the Randy Penguin' Author Solutions have all the fun?

Mick Rooney January 20, 2015 um 5:46 am


It is a partnership with Fastpencil. It was announced as far back as last May, with FP’s owners mentioned in the press release.

Nate Hoffelder January 20, 2015 um 7:07 am


Publerati January 20, 2015 um 6:22 am

If in-store POD is going to eventually be successful, less expensive and more reliable machines will need to be forthcoming. Or be combined with existing photo machines and copier set-ups. A good journalistic exercise now would be to ask OnDemand, Xerox, Konica, Kodak, and Fuji if they plan to be in this game and if so what the next-gen machines might look like. Do they have new concepts to roll out, not through bookstores but through other locations such as airports, Starbucks, etc.? POD in bookstores makes little sense since they are the retail format most at risk for closing in larger numbers. Assisted (not self-serve) printed books in larger retail and boutique locations could make sense 5-10 years from now. I have seen very little news on what is happening on this front. Thanks.

Nate Hoffelder January 20, 2015 um 7:16 am

Kodak got into it and then out less than a year later. Their partnership with OnDemand Books was based on ODB equipment, which as you suggest are expensive and/or not reliable enough.

"Assisted (not self-serve) printed books in larger retail and boutique locations could make sense 5-10 years from now."

I’m not convinced it will ever make sense; it leaves out one of the key steps in book buying and doesn’t adequately serve the customer base.

A POD produced book will be no huge benefit to the book buyer who runs in to get a book, any book. Someone who buys a book for a sick friend as a gift isn’t necessarily going to be that picky.

And a POD book doesn’t serve the serious book buyer either. That person wants to browse, skim books, and touch them. You can’t do that with a POD book which doesn’t exist until after it is requested/bought.

I think POD will make the most sense where it always has: in print shops.

But I could be wrong.

Publerati January 20, 2015 um 8:44 am

Not to worry…I’m positive I am wrong, just not sure in what flavor of wrong this time around.

This is my theory on how this might play out:

1) Bookstores are already surviving because they sell fewer books in their mix and more "other stuff." This trend will continue.

2) They already cannot inventory everything Amazon can so the customer is oftentimes going home without the book they came in for, which just reinforces why they shop at Amazon.

3) This trend will continue with more and more bookstores closing over the next ten years as standalone bookselling simply is not a sustainable biz. Especially based on some of those 5-year trend print book sales numbers I see coming out of the UK and elsewhere for adult fiction in particular.

4) So when I am already shopping at Stop & Shop or Walgreens ten years from now, or killing time at the airport, I will remember I wanted that book and get it printed on demand if in fact digital is not good enough. Or get it POD after reading digitally because I want to own it.

Can’t wait to see how wrong I was! (I dismissed the photo machines when working in the photo biz twenty years ago too.)

Nate Hoffelder January 20, 2015 um 12:14 pm

"So when I am already shopping at Stop & Shop or Walgreens ten years from now, or killing time at the airport, I will remember I wanted that book"

I don’t think that fits in with how people shop or think of the books they might want to buy. No one currently thinks of that book they had been intending to buy when they shop at Walgreens or they see an airport news stand. They might get an impulse purchase if they see it but the sight of a book is what triggers the impulse.

While it is possible consumers could learn to make the connection between books and drug stores, that would require a radical shift in consumer behavior. I don’t see that happening.

"I dismissed the photo machines when working in the photo biz twenty years ago too"

Those automated film development machines always made perfect sense to me (the finances are another matter). The automated machines found in drug stores are the next logical step to the drop-off/pick-up model that was in widespread use 20, 30, or even 40 years ago.

Similarly, if dime store novels were still found on those spinner racks then I could see them being replaced by POD. But you can’t even find much in the way of comic books in drug stores now, much less novels.

Publerati January 20, 2015 um 2:13 pm

Here are some examples of other product adjacencies very few people would have believed would pan out:

Buying my drugs where I shop for food (there used to be many many more independent drug stores 25 years ago than now). Most are now inside supermarkets.

Buying my flowers and greeting cards where I shop for food.

Buying my lawn care products at a discount store like Walmart.

Buying my tires at Sam’s Club.

Buying my gas at BJs!

What I envision will be the bestselling book selections these multi-product stores now offer but expanded slightly, then enhanced with a POD capability in the photo/copier center. Much of this new space will come on the valuable store perimeter. Supermarkets are the most commonly found nearby, frequently visited, and convenient shopping venues that everyone goes to. I think there will still be better indie bookstores scattered about as destinations but not chain stores like B&N or Borders as we know them today.

Nate Hoffelder January 20, 2015 um 3:43 pm

Okay, you got me on that one.

If we go back 30 years, did anyone foresee Walmart changing from a discount store into what is effectively a department store slash strip mall? Similarly, did anyone see drug stores morphing into grocery stores (as some have done)?

So you’re right; I can’t say that POD in retail won’t work.

Mick Rooney January 20, 2015 um 8:41 am

The On Demand deal was pretty short-lived and I’m not so sure about this venture with POD. It does seem like an attempt to rejuvinate the EBM and associate it more with self-publishing and book-making hobbyist (those who want a family memoir or souveneer book).

But as a serious option for a self-publisher, I don’t see SelfEspress working, not at their print prices – $7 + $0.03 per page! Interestingly, RE your piece above; the print prices are also very similar to Fastpencil!

There is a stripped out option buried away on the FAQ page where you get the load-up and basic online distrofor under 300 bucks (without the bells and whistles in the packages), but I can’t see authors doing that when they can get the same for 50 bucks or next to nothing with IngramSpark and CreateSpace.

Publerati January 20, 2015 um 3:56 pm


"So you’re right; I can’t say that POD in retail won’t work."

If you think I am right then clearly I must be wrong! Thank you.

p.s. My favorite accomplishment within "shopping" is what Whole Foods did. Every supermarket industry consultant I knew back in the 1990s said there was "no way you can get many people to eat in a supermarket." Not only did they get many people to eat but to do so in close proximity to where people pay, thereby reinforcing the great feeling around eating great food.

Nate Hoffelder January 20, 2015 um 4:16 pm

To clarify, I am only retracting as far as an admission that it’s not impossible. I still don’t see it happening, not with the tech we currently have.

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