PoD Setup

11 Printshop

Acorn. Printshop staff, as the experts who fill printing orders, are important contributors to the planning and setup of an open textbook PoD service.

The campus-based printshop is the on-the-ground workhorse that makes an open textbook print on demand possible. Its staff not only print open textbooks, but possess the skills to handle equipment and technology, know the process to complete jobs, and are familiar with its institution’s courses and programs, as well as the needs of its faculty and students (see Familiarity and Values).

The on-site printshop also offers flexibility and convenience at a reasonable price (see Control and Flexibility and Faster and Cheaper). For example, a faculty member who has revised an open textbook that they don’t plan to share with the global community can still have their course-specific version printed for their students at a reasonable cost, which is something that may not be possible through a publisher specializing in instructor-customized textbooks. Students, looking to print a select number of pages or chapters for personal use, are also well served.

A nearby printshop is not only handy, but allows individuals to ask questions directly of its staff, thus making complex orders less daunting. A book with many images, for example, might require special attention to colour printing and the expertise of a printshop staffer. Staff may determine that a book slated for heavy use requires a more sturdy construction than the typical printed book, such as with a book that a student plans to use for several courses or terms or an order for the library course reserve.

Each printshop will have its own operational procedures and capacity, which may depend on the number of staff and available equipment. For those contemplating the addition of an open textbook print-on-demand service, below are items to consider during setup.

Printshop considerations

  • Are there limitations to what can be offered? For example, can one copy be ordered, or is there a minimum number?
  • What will the turnaround time be? Will it vary depending on the number of pages, customizations, and type of binding?
  • Can a portion of an open textbook be printed? What information must the student or instructor provide for these customized orders?
  • How much will each book cost? How will the price be calculated? Per page? What is the cost for extras, colour, or a rush job? Will quoted prices be honoured, or are there cases when the cost may change because of an unforeseen problem?
  • In what format must the textbook contents be provided? For example, as a print PDF file? Must it be print ready?
  • Must a print-ready digital file be provided for the textbook cover?
  • What options will be provided for textbook covers, such as around size, paper colour, and weight?
  • Will the PoD service include textbook cover design? If so, what information should be collected for inclusion on the cover (title, author, instructor, course, source)?
    • Will a generic cover option be available?
  • How will the textbook pages be secured: bound vs. spiral-bound vs. loose leaf?
    • If the textbook is to be bound, will it be paperback or hardcover?
    • If textbooks are presented like course packs and printed with a three-hole punch, will they be shrink wrapped (to keeps prices affordable)?
  • Will both colour and black and white options be available?
  • Is the printshop set up for students and faculty who prefer to print items on their own? Are students provided with a print credit or discount? Is there a way to incorporate this policy into printing open textbooks so, for example, the affordability of these course materials can be highlighted?
See this sample OER Print Request Form [PDF] from Tillamook Bay Community College.

Printshop instruction sheets

The permissions granted by the copyright holder of an open educational resource (OER) present unique opportunities — and uncertainty — for those wanting to print OER. Below are suggestions of what to include on instruction sheets for faculty and students using an open textbook print-on-demand service.

  • Faculty instructions
    • List the permissions allowed with an open-copyright (such as Creative Commons) licence, including the right to change, copy, keep, and share the work. Reassure the user that an openly licensed textbook or other educational resource may be changed or copied without risk of copyright infringement.
    • Point out the flexibility of open textbooks, such as the right to print select portions of an open textbook (individual pages or chapters) or the entire book.
    • Mention the ability to print an open textbook in which content has been removed, changed, or added to better suit the needs of the instructor and their course.
    • Suggest adding a page to the printed book describing what has been changed or added to an open textbook, the revision date, and the institution’s policy or goal for open education.
  • Student instructions
    • Provide the definition of an open textbook. Explain that an openly licensed textbook or other educational resource may be changed or copied without risk of copyright infringement.
    • List the advantages to students of using open textbooks:
      • Cost: the online version is free
      • Open pedagogy: course assignments that include students in meaningful activities, such as the generation of material that can be used by others
      • Cooperation: allows and encourages collaboration among students and between students and instructors.
    • Include a list of reference materials targeted at students, such as the OER Student Toolkit and the Textbook Affordability Student Toolkit.
For more information, see Copyright and Open Licences in the Self-Publishing Guide.

Textbook cover options

For printed open textbooks that require a cover, below are several options:

Printshop Limitations

Providing print-on-demand services for open textbooks is a stretch for some printshops, especially those managed by a staff of few or one. Other limitations might include:

  • The type and amount of equipment available to print, shrink-wrap, and bind
  • The operational hours of the shop
  • The shop’s budget

Other demands for a printshop’s services also influence its ability to add a new service like print on demand or bulk orders for open textbooks. If the shop does proceed — knowing there will be limitations to service — it should determine in advance:

  • How many orders it can handle
  • The turnaround time for orders
  • How well it can respond to complex and customized requests

Media Attributions


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Print-on-Demand Guide Copyright © 2020 by BCcampus is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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