Yes and no. The POD publishing industry has been created by large, well-entrenched companies that have, over the last decades, absorbed most of the smaller publishers that used to exist. These few remaining publishing giants have set the system up so that it works for them. 

Almost 100 years ago, when publishing houses feared losing ground to companies offering self-publishing services, they coined the term “vanity press” to dissuade readers from investing in such books. It was a struggle for power. Today, these companies are institutions, and they own the show. They make the rules, and they get the bestsellers.

When the POD model was being developed, no one had any intention of encroaching on territory already owned by major corporations. The idea was to exploit new territory: Make money out of the slush pile (a stack of manuscripts in every publishing office that will probably never be read). All those would-be writers could be a whole new source of income. The POD model is based on printing books that “real” publishers are not interested in. 

But a funny thing began to happen. Some few POD companies actually thought they could help writers be published instead of exploiting them. And some of those slush pile writers have actually turned out to be talented authors with exceptionally good books. 

And although the POD system is rigged in that thus far it’s been hard to get books into bookstores, many books do get sold anyway. The on demand system is designed to measure demand and try to meet it, and while this is often slow to respond, there is hope. If there is a perceived demand, Ingram will print the books at its own expense and stock them in its warehouses. Then the book will come up as “available” on the iPage system and bookstores will be able to order it without having to “backorder.” It’s cumbersome and dark, but Ingram’s new stocking policy is a gleam of light at the end of the tunnel.