Hot off the York University press

For the past year, the York University Bookstore & Printing Services have been offering print-on-demand publishing.

This new initiative gives everyone a chance to become a published writer – whether you are, say,  a professor with an unpublished manuscript on the effects of climate change on the Great Lakes, a Parking Services employee who has written a history of her Toronto neighbourhood, or an undergraduate who has penned what might be the next great Canadian novel.

Print-on-demand is a new form of publishing that uses digital technology. Faster than the traditional book printing process, print-on-demand machines make it not only possible, but economically viable, to print and collate a single book or small lots of books.  

Left: Steve Glassman, acting director, York University Bookstore & Printing Services, and Patricia Lynch, manager, Publishing and Printing Operations, in front of the digital printer used for print-on-demand publishing projects

The upgrading of equipment in Printing Services and the purchase of a perfect-binder machine by the University last year has made the expansion into print-on-demand possible, says Steve Glassman, acting director of the York University Bookstore & Printing Services. 

Last summer, Glassman’s division took on its first print-on-demand project, Flourishing in University and Beyond, a career guidebook for university students written by two York professors, social scientist John A. Dwyer and political scientist Thomas R. Klassen, both in the Faculty of Arts. “We started by printing 1,000 copies,” says Glassman. "More copies were printed as needed. A total of 3,500 have been sold to date, which is big for a Canadian publication,” he says. 

Subsequently his division has published a number of other books, including: Tsunami Travel Time Atlas for the Atlantic Ocean, co-written by Niru Nirupama, an emergency management professor in the School of Administrative Studies, Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies; Idealism and Accommodation: A History of Human Rights and Employment Equity at York University (1959-2005), written as a special project for York’s 50th anniversary by Gill Teiman; and Cosmopolis, Toronto, a compilation of stories about schooling and childhood written by the students of Chris Searle, who teaches in Atkinson’s School of Social Sciences. 

These books are all geared to small niche markets. Tsunami Travel Time Atlas for the Atlantic Ocean, for example, contains critical life-saving information for predicting tsunamis, but there is only a small group of experts around the world who have sufficient knowledge to use it. Given the limited audience, finding a traditional publisher for this reference book might have proven to be difficult and expensive.

With print-on-demand, you don’t get a large number of remaindered copies or large numbers that don’t sell, says Atkinson’s Searle. 

Searle, who has produced many anthologies of students’ work in the past, says he was impressed with the overall quality of Cosmopolis, Toronto – from the typesetting to the cover design. “It is as good as any mainstream publishing company would produce,” he says. 

He was especially impressed that the production of Cosmopolis, Toronto, from start to finish, took place on the York campus. “The students wrote the stories on campus and the book was edited, designed, printed and eventually sold on the campus through the bookstore. It was an entirely campus-centred production.” 

Like other books, those published at York feature an ISBN (International Standard Book Number), a machine-readable identification barcode with cataloguing information. Two copies of each book published are sent to the National Library of Canada. The ISBN and inclusion in the NLC’s catalogue make the books traceable by researchers anywhere in the world, says Patricia Lynch, manager, publishing and printing operations. 

Lynch and her staff have brought their expertise in course-kit publishing to bear on the new print-on-demand enterprise. “York is a leader in North American for custom-published materials for students and instructors,” says Lynch. York produces 2,000-2,500 custom course kits every year. “We have enormous capability, says Glassman, “with people knowledgeable in putting together a publication, and the capacity to produce 20-30 small titles a year.”

Story by Olena Wawryshyn, York communications officer