Posted on September 23, 2009 by Matt-M-McElroy
Folks have been talking a bit here and there on forums and blogs about the rumored (then later confirmed) efforts of DriveThruRPG.com to enter the Print-on-Demand field of retail for some time. Already the largest retailer of eBook versions of our favorite games (a some fiction, comics and magazines), with tons of great publishers big and small on board, DriveThruRPG offers a ton of new current titles and plenty of old out-of-print options for gamers to scoop up.
Not everyone is as big a fan of eBooks as I am, and some of the “collector market” prices on long out-of-print games are way, way too high. So, a lot of people have been looking forward to some information on the potential PoD efforts of DriveThruRPG. Well today we got some interesting news from Sean Patrick Fannon, Publisher Services Manager of DriveThruRPG:
We are, in fact, going forward with a full-on implementation of POD for our publishers. We are launching it in four phases:
Phase One: Publishers will be able to order small runs for use at conventions, or really any other reason they might need a limited set of printed books for. This is already up and running on a “test case” basis with some of our publishers, and will be fully implemented within a few more weeks.
Phase Two: Customers will be able to select printed versions of books they purchase from us, to be directly shipped to them. This will be a strictly opt-in system for publishers; some will choose to open their entire catalog to it, some will choose only to make “out of print” older products available, and some may not opt in for these sales at all. We hope to have Phase Two active by year’s end, perhaps even for holiday sales. It may not be until early 2010 before we can get a full launch of this, though.
Phases Three and Four get into some options we intend to launch to get books into retail stores. We’ve already spoken at length with many principles and potential partners and have agreements to move forward in ways we feel will be very beneficial to all concerned. These elements won’t be in play until sometime (probably late First Quarter or early Second Quarter) of 2010.
The Agreements we already have in place with our publishers will apply to these options, for the most part, including the direct revenue splits already agreed to. We won’t be applying the “Exclusive” test to products
that are also in print in other channels; Exclusivity will remain attached only to electronic distribution of titles.
We believe we can encourage pricing structures that ensure maximum revenue for our publishers as well; I say “encourage” because, while we may have our own ideas about how to price things to make the most money, we fully expect publishers to experiment with many different models to find the “sweet spots” that work for them.
For those wishing to know, our primary source for POD will be Lightning Source, who we are working with very closely in order to maximize efficiency and get the best aggregated pricing. Their increasing distribution points in the global market are very encouraging for us, as well.
By the time we are done, it is my hope to change DriveThruRPG’s main tagline to “The World’s Largest RPG Store. Period.”
Now, most of that information is really for publishers to dig into as it most directly affects their production of titles. It will be interesting to see which publishers sign up for this and make use of the PoD format for smaller print runs, out-of-print titles and other options. Certainly it won’t be feasible for every book currently on DTRPG to be added to the PoD catalog. Some books are not formatted to be a print title (they were designed as pdf products from the start) and some titles are way too low on page count to make printing remotely cost effective.
Still, I’m looking forward to this new avenue of publishing and hope that several publishers sign up with a variety of titles. It could be an excellent way to offer out-of-print titles to customers that are looking for them to complete their collections. It could also be a way to offer up niche products that would not have enough sales to justify a standard offset print run.
I also hope customers will give it a try and provide quality feedback to both their favorite publishers and DriveThruRPG when this program is up and running.