Thursday, December 03, 2009

Print on Demand Books for Libraries in Australia

In looking to solve my problems with Print on Demand (POD) for my book "Green Technology Strategies" I discovered some Australian connections. LuLu prints books in Australia and the National Library of Australia buys them.

One aspect of POD which worried me was that if the books are printed overseas, then there will be a high environmental cost in delivery. I criticised Professor Garnaut for his decision to publish his "Climate Change Review" for the Australian Government in the UK. Each book flown to Australia would cause 104 kg of carbon dioxide pollution.

If my "green" book was printed in the USA it would case unnecessary pollution. However, in ordering some more books I noticed that the postage was domestic and checking further showed that LuLu is printing books in Australia. Hopefully, the books travel a few hundred kilometres on a truck, not thousands on a plane.

Also in 2008 there was a National Library of Australia trial for the acquisition of items. NLA had some quibbles with the POD process, as this resulting in one order arriving in many separate packages, from different print depots, rather than in one delivery. But this seems to be more a problem of the NLA's old fashioned systems unable to cope with the modern world, than with LuLu.

Also selection of items was resource intensive, as LuLu simply supplies whatever the customer orders, it does not choose the books for you. This may seem a curious problem, but one of the services which book suppliers provide for libraries is to choose books for them. The library orders books on a particular topic, or for a particular type of reader, and the supplier provides what they think relevant.

There is the opportunity for a new business where an intermediary web based company selects books for libraries and then orders them via a PoD. Such a service might also be useful for individuals looking for a gift or a book for themselves. attempts this to some extent, both with automated suggestions, and lists of books generated by customers. A new service might also use the wisdom of crowds by providing the opportunity for the library patrons to suggest books and vote for a short list of what is proposed for acquisition.

A simple automated acquisition for the NLA would be any book published in Australia and printed by LuLu. Under Australian law a publisher is required to supply the NLA and the relevant state library with a copy of their book. This is not a burden for a commercial publisher who produces thousands of copies of a book. But for a DIY author this could be a burden. NLA might like to choose to simply buy those books themselves. They could offset the cost by offering the books for sale in their catalog and take a commission.

So far I have not managed to get my book into the NLA catalogue. Because the book was POD, NLA refused to provide "Cataloguing in Print", as the book was, in their terms already printed. They also refused to catalogue the book from the electronic version, they insisted on a printed copy. Because of a problem with the POD process I had no book to give them (I tried giving them a proof copy, with no response).

1 comment:

Tom Worthington said...

Greetings from the main reading room of the National Library of Australia, in Canberra. I have just made a Legal deposit, of my book Green Technology Strategies: Using computers and telecommunications to reduce carbon emissions". Hopefully NLA will catalog it shortly. At present you can only buy this book from, but it should be more widely available in a few weeks time.