Lonely Planet Writer

Print on Demand trial

We're doing a lot of work to expand Lonely Planet into new formats, from digital downloads to video to wireless. One of the emerging technologies we’re particularly keen to explore is print-on-demand or PoD, which makes it possible to produce a single copy of a book after an order for it is received. This offers many advantages, all covered in this excellent summary on Wikipedia.

Print-on-demand is widespread in the publishing industry, and it is most commonly used to make out-of-print titles available again. Last month we began testing a different approach, by using print-on-demand to create Custom Guides - sections of our most popular titles, combined in new ways to suit new destinations and trips.

A good example is The Amazon Custom Guide, which takes chapters from seven different books to make a single guide specifically for those travelling throughout the entire rainforest region. Other examples are a guide to Uruguay, South America’s up-and-comer, and three guides focusing on individual US states, Arizona, Maine, and Oregon.

In total we’re trialling 11 different Custom Guides, all available on Amazon.com. Shortly, they’ll be available in our own Shop too.

Someday, print-on-demand may enable us to do some truly exciting and novel things. We can make guidebooks more dynamic, updating them every few months or even more frequently. We could offer multiple variations of each standard guides, like a version in a large font that’s easier to read, and a pocket version. We may be able to offer the option of having your chosen Pick & Mix chapters printed and bound.

But for now, we just wanted to get our feet wet. How do we produce a book for print-on-demand? How long would it take? We wanted to learn. Second, and much more importantly, we wanted to find out if this new technology enables us to create something useful for travellers right now. That’s why we’ve launched this trial. We’re going to let it run for a few months and then take stock. Let me know what you think if you’ve bought one.