One of the things I haven’t really talked about in any of my Kickstarters is how I print  and why. I figured no one cares about the Kickstarters anymore since they are all wrapped up, but this is a great place to share these thoughts! After working at Chelsea Green Publishing, where they print everything in the US for many reasons (instead of outsourcing to potentially cheaper print work in China), I became more interested in where I’m printing. 


There is less shipping if printed within the US. Nearly 1400 shipping containers are lost at sea every year! I don’t want to add to that problem. I also want the shipping distance to be as short as possible to cut down on the transportation footprint. So by printing through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (previously CreateSpace), and through Ingram Spark, the books are printed somewhere in the US, whatever of their locations is closest to me (or least busy?), and then shipped to me. So I’m cutting down on that transportation footprint. With the added benefit of books not getting stuck in customs for an inordinate amount of time. I have seen some horror stories, especially through people trying to get a book out quickly after Kickstarter.

Number of Books

I am also only printing a few more books than I need because I am using print-on-demand services. I have a few boxes at my house, which is partly to save on planetary resources (such as trees for paper) and partly because they are in my apartment and I don’t have that much room. By printing only a few hundred books, or as many as are needed, and having Amazon print them upon request, I won’t run into the problem of having a few thousand books I can’t get off my hands. That situation often leads to pulping the books. I’m sure they recycle them (that might be too optimistic), but it’s even better to not have them made in the first place. So I am stuck with digital printing (the really nice offset printing requires a run of a few thousand books, which I have never needed), but I also save some potential paper. 


As much as I would like to use eco-friendly paper, that is not one of the options for print-on-demand. At least not with the services I am using. Paper weight, yes. But content, no. Someday I would love to meet some middle ground where I am printing lovely hard-back books for Kickstarter on eco-friendly paper, and then putting the rest on print-on-demand. (The problem is that I would need to print a few thousand copies to get the paper options I want, and I’ve never printed more than 500 of any book.) Or that Amazon and Ingram would offer print on demand with recycled paper or bamboo paper. I love the idea of hemp and bamboo paper because they grow so fast that when you cutting some down to make paper, it will be regrown to the same point in a year. Grow that instead of corn? Don’t even get me started on getting rid of the mad corn.


To use even less paper, I also sell digital copies. I just announced a bit ago that Awesome ‘Possum, Volume 4 is now on Comixology. It is also a DRM-free PDF on Gumroad. DRM free means there is no protection on it, allowing you to put it on whatever device you want to read your PDF on. You can save copies wherever is helpful to you. And I am trusting you to not then sell copies of the PDF. Most people who buy a PDF are not going to turn around and try to sell it. That would be silly. Publishers have been doing studies, and DRM is more of a hassle to good customers than a deterrent to thieves. Plus, DRM is legal to break. *shrug*

So in the end, I am planning on sticking with this model of print-on-demand for now. I look forward to the day I can print nice offset books on recycled paper, but I’m not holding my breath. Feel free to share your thoughts here. It is a complex topic with lots of weird, hidden problems.