If done seriously, POD offers you to print a book at overhead costs of about $500. Typically they should offer you ISBN service, inclusion in standard book catalogs/databases and delivery through bookstores at low extra costs below $50. The single copies are of course somewhat more expensive than printed in multiples of 500 or 1000 books in traditional printing processes. Paperback maybe $5-$15 depending on the number of pages. But a small number of books (e.g. 100) may be printable for e.g. $800 instead of $3000+.
Services differ in reliability of production quality *and* especially in reliability of delivery of single book orders.
Note that neither VanityPress nor PrintOnDemand will offer you real marketing. A book will definitely *not* sell on its own.
PrintOnDemand may be a good solution for wiki and open source books, which describe moving targets, have to be updated regularly and so can hardly be printed in large numbers.
This (and its related) pages, stike me as being constrained by 'tradition', especially with respect to the use of 'media'.
The caused me to ponder, for example:
Well, I don't know the intent of this page either, but I tried to disentangle it, built certain relationships to topics that might interest people here...
About PrintOnDemand: this is a very general model that is implemented differently by different corporations. The renowned German http://www.bod.de lets the author set the prize which in fact indirectly defines the payments he gets on any book sold. So the authors pays to get it published and into production (usually he'll also order 20-100 books at a much reduced prize for his own needs and marketing purposes). The reader will pay for his copy which includes an arbitrary amount transferred to the author in quarterly payments.
US corporations seem to prefer to set a fixed price (depending on the page count) which includes a constant percentage for the author.
Switching from a traditional publisher-oriented book economy to a new author-oriented book technology, the problems of quality, trust and marketing must be solved. There the OnlineCommunity as a ReflectionCommunity comes in. It could provider beta-readers and editors, quality labels and publicity. If the large corporations and their e-book-greed can be by-passed, then a book economy with much reduced e-book-prices (maybe $0.5-2 per e-book) and occasional PrintOnDemand - to the advantage of the readers and the authors - may become feasible. The OnlineCommunity will play a crucial role in this NewBookEconomy. -- HelmutLeitner