by Alan Beatts
Several years ago a company called Lightning Source started printing books. A new printing company wouldn't normally be worth much comment but Lightning Source (which was originally called Lightning Print) isn't a normal printer. They're in the business of what's called Print on Demand publishing, (or POD) and that's not anything like normal printing.
Unlike traditional printing, POD works like this -- a publisher produces an electronic file that is a representation of a complete book; cover, table of contents, layout, the whole deal. This file is sent to Lightning Source where, for a modest fee (as low as $300 in the early days), they store it and make it ready for the next stage.