Printing On Demand

The best services for making and selling a single copy of a paper book

4 min read
Photo of a selection of books.
Photo: MagCloud

Electronic publishing may appear to be a dagger aimed at the heart of the physical book, but in fact it has made it possible for more people than ever before to produce professional-quality printed tomes, with little or no investment. Self-publishing authors no longer need to order large and expensive print runs of hundreds or thousands of copies, and then store them somewhere until they are sold. However, POD books require a manuscript laid out exactly as it should appear when printed, complete with a cover, frontispiece, table of contents, illustrations, chapter headings, page numbers, and so on—a job traditionally handled by a book designer.

Producing a print-on-demand (POD) book is more involved than creating an e-book intended for purely digital distribution. A carefully styled word processing document is all that’s required to automatically generate an e-book, since the exact appearance of the text is automatically determined by a combination of the reader’s preferences and the device used for reading. [For information on publishing e-books, see “Publishing Yourself”; we discuss different e-readers in “E-reader Roundup.”] However, POD books require a manuscript laid out exactly as it should appear when printed—a job traditionally handled by a book designer—complete with a cover, frontispiece, table of contents, illustrations, chapter headings, page numbers, and so on.

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From WinZips to Cat GIFs, Jacob Ziv’s Algorithms Have Powered Decades of Compression

The lossless-compression pioneer received the 2021 IEEE Medal of Honor

11 min read
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Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush
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Lossless data compression seems a bit like a magic trick. Its cousin, lossy compression, is easier to comprehend. Lossy algorithms are used to get music into the popular MP3 format and turn a digital image into a standard JPEG file. They do this by selectively removing bits, taking what scientists know about the way we see and hear to determine which bits we'd least miss. But no one can make the case that the resulting file is a perfect replica of the original.

Not so with lossless data compression. Bits do disappear, making the data file dramatically smaller and thus easier to store and transmit. The important difference is that the bits reappear on command. It's as if the bits are rabbits in a magician's act, disappearing and then reappearing from inside a hat at the wave of a wand.

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