Print on demand also referred to as POD, is a printing technology and business process where copies of books or other documents are not printed until the company receives an order, which allows prints of single or small quantities.
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While other industries have established the build-to-order business model, the concept of print on demand could only develop after the beginning of the era of digital printing, since it was not economically viable to print single copies by using traditional printing technology like letterpress and offset printing. Several traditional small printing presses have replaced their traditional printing equipment with POD equipment or had their printing contracted to POD service providers. Many academic publishers, which even include the likes of university presses, use POD services for maintaining large backlists.
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Some use POD for all of their publications. Larger publishers may use POD in special circumstances, such as in the case of reprinting older, out-of-print titles, or for test marketing. Before digital printing technology, the production of small numbers of publications had numerous limitations. Large print jobs were not affected, but small numbers of printed pages were typical during the early 20th century produced using stencils. They were reproduced on a mimeograph or similar machine, after which they had produced printed pages of inferior quality to a book, cheaply and reasonably fast. By the year 1950, electrostatic copiers were available for making paper master plates for offset duplicating machines. From the 1960s, copying onto plain paper became possible for photocopy machines to make several good-quality copies of a monochrome original.
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