A number of you have asked where we are with the launch of our new Print-on-Demand service for customers and bookshops and have asked why there continue to be delays with launching the full system and there has been some speculation as to what is holding things up - so I thought I should give you all a full update.
UK and Rest of World Bookshops / Retailers
The Print-on-Demand system has been running in the UK and Rest of World (excluding USA and Canada) for the last three months. So as to not overload our print partners, this has been a staged process with segments of titles being added to the system in batches.
The last of these batches was added to the program last week, which means that we now have about 1800 books available for bookshops to order - the largest number of books that have been available at one time in about 5 years.
The plan is to gradually add to this list and our production team are currently working through the list of books that are unavailable on the system. The bulk of these missing titles tend to be very old books which have never been truly digitized - so each book has to be essentially rebuilt from the ground up - using very retro film and archive material - as well as the correcting of various errors, and the (rather boring) updating of imprint pages! Because of the complexity of this process (relative to the ease of converting books that we built digitally in the first place) we are aiming to add between 15 and 25 books old books to the POD list every month.
As with any program of this size, there have been teething problems with integrating a new supply chain into our distribution process, but these were quickly corrected and these Print-on-Demand titles are now being dispatched within 7-10 days of the order being received.
USA and Canadian Booksellers / Retailers
As with the UK we have run a phased implementation of our Print-on-Demand launch in the US - with the first batch of titles arriving in our warehouse a few days ago. The second of three batches was passed to our printers at the same time and we anticipate that the final batch will be sent to print next week. The process for US and Canadian customers is slightly different as there will be no visible difference between the POD titles and regular orders as both will be dispatched directly from Random House (our distributors in the US and Canada) and it will be rare for there to be any appreciable delay in print-on-demand orders vs traditional orders, except in the case of truly extraordinary circumstances (like a customer ordering tens of thousands of copies of an old title). Once we are confident that the system is running like clockwork our sales reps and sales team in the US will be contacting all of our booksellers and retailers to let them know what books have returned to stock.
As we add new titles to the range of POD books (as detailed in the UK / ROW section above) they will be added to the US and Canadian selection of titles.
We had anticipated that it would be possible to launch the print-on-demand service for our web customers at the same time as we launched the service in the UK and US. However a number of bugs emerged when we briefly released the titles in a trail launch a number of months ago. The primary issue was to do with postage charges as the shopping basket was seeing print-on-demand orders as a split order, which interfered with our buy three books and get free postage offer. This error also saw a number of customers charged a shipping charge per book, even if they had ordered multiple POD books at once. The customers who placed orders during this 12 hour trial period were all refunded (though if you think you were missed out, please feel free to drop us an email at [email protected] )
In this case we are in the hands of our web developers and ecommerce solution provider. Their initial estimates on a patch to fix this were for February, but apparently the issue is not as clear cut as originally thought - and we are awaiting another launch estimate from them. I can't really explain this in greater detail, mainly because it is surprisingly technical and involves some seriously techy stuff, but it is a HUGE priority for Osprey to get this working, and we are pushing our developers daily to find a solution.
Canadian Web Orders
After the spot of bad news about print-on-demand availability, we do have some very good news about the problems with our website processing Canadian Orders. As anyone in Canada will know, our implementation of new security systems to protect all of your card data etc had a serious impact on our ability to process Canadian orders. Over the last few months our developers have been building a solution for this and in our weekly meeting with them yesterday, they revealed that they are happy with the testing of the system and that they believe it is ready for what is essentially a BETA test. Once this has been concluded to our satisfaction we will be able to turn Canadian orders back on.
We are also confident that these updates will allow Canadian customers to buy digital products (ebooks) and memberships (Gold and Silver) through our website for the first time - although this will be tested thoroughly during our BETA test.
Everyone here at Osprey appreciate that this has been a huge inconvenience for all of our customers (both individuals that buy books from our site and all the fantastic bookshops and retailers who support and carry our line of books) and would like to assure you that once the small creases have been ironed out we will be in a position to offer a greater range of our books than ever before. You will never again be in a situation where you have to trawl ebay looking for a ridiculously overpriced copy of an Osprey book because it is out of stock. You won't have to wait months for a book to be reprinted or beg us to bring a particular title back into print. It will all be available, all the time, wherever you choose to shop. This is a really exciting moment for Osprey - and if you bear with us for just a little while longer I am sure you will all be able to see the benefits and revel in our huge range of titles - without constantly wondering whether books are available.
Thank you for your support, thank you for your patience - and here is to seeing those three Napoleonic Flags titles back in print, at the same time... at long last!