Dissatisfied with O'Reilly print-on-demand titles

Today I received a copy of Real World Haskell from Amazon.co.uk. I am really disappointed with the print quality; it is clearly a print-on-demand book rather than the high quality I have come to expect from an O'Reilly title. The pink color on the front cover is slightly blurred, the black words on every page are distractingly reflective, and grayscales are like a cheap photocopy.

The code inside the back cover says "LaVergne TN USA, 01 March 2011, 218423LV00004B/1/P". From this, it looks like it was printed by Lightning Source/Ingram Content.

Is O'Reilly moving all books to print-on-demand? That's the impression given by Laura Baldwin, who is quoted at length in a 7 April press release from Ingram Content on the Ingram/O'Reilly total inventory management model.

If O'Reilly can't maintain a predictably consistent print quality, should I stop buying O'Reilly books?
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  • Simmo,

    Yes, we are moving to a print on demand model however, in some cases the books are still printed in offset print runs. It appears you did receive a print on demand title and we are sorry it does not meet your standards. We would like to take a look at your product and I will have our customer service team contact you to arrange for us to ship it back for inspection. The same team will make sure you are happy with your purchase by offering another shipment or an eBook version of the title you selected.

    We have always tried at O'Reilly to bring the very best in new publishing approaches and technologies to our customers. POD is one of those new options on the publishing horizon. We actually appreciate any customer who takes the time to let us know when our own high standards are not met. We hope this one bad experience does not stop you from buying our books but rather brings you in as a partner helping us to get it right.

    Our customer service group will be in touch. Thanks for taking the time to write.

    Sincerely,

    Laura Baldwin
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  • Greetings Simmo,

    Thank you for taking the time to reach out to us with your comments, we appreciate you giving us the opportunity to set things right. I would love to work with you directly. I do not have your contact information, so if you could me directly at lizw@oreilly.com with your contact information, we can begin our conversations.

    Again, thank you. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Liz Shaeffer
    O'Reilly Media Customer Service Manager
    lizw@oreilly.com
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  • Laura, Liz, thanks for taking the time to reply.

    I went to me local technical bookshop at the weekend and compared O'Reilly's offset print and POD titles side-by-side, along with those from other computing publishers.

    The production quality of the O'Reilly POD titles are uniformly significantly worse than the offset printed ones. The absence of O'Reilly's "trademark" RepKover stay-flat covers, the shiny laser printing rather than matt offset printing, muddy colors on the front cover, and somewhat worryingly, the quiet disappearance of the note about being printed on acid-free paper. This is enough for me to avoid POD titles for anything I plan on keeping as a permanent part of my library.

    The problem is, how can I find out which titles are POD so I can avoid them in future? Or is all of O'Reilly's catalog POD now?

    Stephen
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  • I’m happy
    To close off this topic, O'Reilly found an older offset-printed copy of Real World Haskell in their UK warehouse for me, and shipped it out so I received it the very next day. Thanks Liz, Laura and Sarah for resolving this so quickly!
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  • Just to add to this: I recently ordered a copy of "Microsoft Project 2010: the missing manual". It was clearly a POD title as well: solid black rectangles come out different shades of gray, certain characters (such as the horizontal line on the 'e') are annoyingly broken in spots.

    Had it been priced as a POD title I wouldn't be too disappointing - $50 for a softcover book however suggests high-quality printing. In fact I already had access to the e-book (institutional account) and purchased the printed manual because I found the material so good I wanted to support the author, and having a desktop reference is a little easier sometimes.

    Such an experience makes me far less likely to buy real books. If you will be using POD technology, the book layout should be adjusted to reflect that. Having large black areas for example was a dead giveaway: they would either vary in black level within the area, or shades would vary between pages. Similarly the font chosen had certain strokes too fine for the POD technology used, which again makes the book seem low-quality.

    Just to be clear: I am very happy with the content in the book, and thus am not looking for a replacement (unless you've got an offset version hidden somewhere ;-) I also understand many publishers are going through changes due to a lot of factors around people buying ebooks instead etc. But be careful selling one thing while trying to pass it off as another. SpringerLink for example has a 'mycopy' program: for $25 including shipping you get a POD title. It's clearly advertised as POD, but because I know it's POD and it's less expensive than a high-quality print, I happily pay my money and get a slightly-worse-quality product.
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  • 1
    Just as an example:

    Inconsistent shades (no post-processing):


    Problems with fine strokes (I've increased contrast to make it easier to see):
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    Util this year 2014, still the same issue. I bought from Amazon 2 books "Microinteraction" and "Data Science for business" all have low quality print output :(

    It seems like they can't do much except to let the book continue to be sub-par quality.
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  • I also purchased an academic book: Kant: Theoretical Philosophy after 1781, the Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant at Rakuten.com. Its print quality is worse than offset Cambridge edition, but the price is the same as an offset edition. Such POD is really bad and nasty to charge no less, but print much worse books to us.
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  • It's really deceptive and evil for sellers like Amazon, Rakuten, ect, to sell less quality POD books at normal standard book price.

    Hopefully, some heroes can change this bad trend, let it onto right track. Don't fool people with bad POD books but same price charged!!!
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  • Yes indeed, all I can say is buy a book from a real book store where the quality appear to be better.
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