Print-on-demand a growing business for York Bookstore

It only seems fitting that during the University’s 50th anniversary, the York University Bookstore would obtain the rights to reprint The Way Must Be Tried: Memoirs of a University Man, written by York’s founding president Murray Ross.

Originally published by Stoddart Publishing in 1992, The Way Must Be Tried, printed and bound by York University Printing Services, is now the first in the bookstore’s print-on-demand "nano-press" reprint series, with a neat red and white themed cover. The Way Must Be Tried is a behind-the-scenes story of York’s creation and early years.

“There are hundreds of thousands of books that are hard to get or out of print, so why not print them,” says Steve Glassman, director of bookstores and printing services at York. An example is Bistro: Trade Secrets from a Life in Food by Alvin and Glenna Rebick, a 2006 reprint by the bookstore of an out-of-print book that continues to be produced, 10 or 20 at a time, every few months. Glassman hopes the nano-press reprint series will have the same success and there are plans in the works to grow the series.

In addition, the bookstore prints many first editions. Its most recent is Room to Grow: Celebrating Atkinson’s Living Legacy, co-edited by York economics Professor Brenda Spotton Visano and Kristin Taylor, communications coordinator in the Office of the Dean at the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS).

Both books, along with Professor Emeritus & University Historian Michiel Horn’s York University: The Way Must Be Tried (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009) and University Professor Emeritus John Saywell’s Someone to Teach Them: York and the Great University Explosion, 1960-1973 (University of Toronto Press, 2008), are available at the bookstore.

They are part of a growing number of books, printed on demand in small batches through the York University Bookstore, authored or edited by members of the York community. The first to test the on-demand printing service, Flourishing in the University and Beyond by York Professors John Dwyer and Thomas Klassen in 2005, was a bestseller, says Glassman. The art direction and cover design was done by York Printing Services.

“York doesn’t want to create a York publishing house. We can make the academic contributions and the literary work from our community available,” says Glassman, adding that staff know how to get the books ISBN numbers and have them catalogued in Library and Archives Canada. "That way the book can be found by researchers anywhere in the world and none of our books need ever be out of print."

As with the Tsunami Travel Time Atlas for the Atlantic Ocean (2006), co-authored by Niru Nirupama in the School of Administrative Studies at LA&PS, there was a need to create the book – a reference tool for emergency centres with an eye to the next tsunami to hit the Atlantic – but print-on-demand eliminates the risk of a publisher printing too many copies.

Printing on demand is in-between the traditional publishing model and the future, says Glassman. “We can do 20 at a time and when we need 10 or 20 more, we print and bind them. What we had at the beginning was the know-how, equipment, time and talent.”

Before print-on-demand, the bookstore’s talent and equipment was put toward course kits, and still is, but Glassman says, “We have the capacity to do this type of work 10 or 11 months out of the year.”

The kind of paper stock that’s used, its weight, whether it’s glossy or not, brilliant white or slightly yellow, printed in black and white or full colour, as in York Professor Emeritus Frank Barrett’s book Ernest Ibbetson: Military Artist & Adventure Story Illustrator, is up to the author, says Glassman. Ernest Ibbetson, about the life and work of the artist (1877-1959), contains over 100 images. A York senior scholar, Barrett spent years researching Ibbetson, an artist who had been mostly forgotten except by collectors of military postcards. Barrett was determined to make sure Ibbetson was remembered. Through the book, designed and printed by the bookstore, it seems he got his wish – the bookstore regularly receives orders from libraries for Ernest Ibbetson.

In Service High, and Anthems Clear: 100 Years of The Royal Canadian College of Organists is another full-colour book with art direction and printing done through the bookstore, and edited by Stephanie Martin, a York music professor, church organist and choir director.

Several of Department of French Studies writer-in-residence Hedi Bouraoui’s books , translated by York English Professor Elizabeth Sabiston, including this year’s Thus Speaks the CN Tower, have been printed by the bookstore in cooperation with Bouraoui’s Canada-Maghreb Centre editions. These are what Glassman calls commercially viable small press ventures.

How much of the design is done through York varies with each project. For some, such as Toronto Generations: An anthology of stories written by York University students, co-edited by Taylor and former visiting professor Chris Searle (who also edited Cosmopolis, Toronto), the bookstore is simply the printer. For others, it organizes the design and layout as well, depending on what’s needed.

The bookstore is the main designer and printer of titles coming out of ANTARES Publishing House of Spanish Culture based at Glendon under the direction of Margarita Feliciano, from short story collections, poetry and scholarly works to children’s and youth literature or works in translation.

The beauty of the print-on-demand world, says Glassman, is the author no longer has to worry about having thousands of unsold books hunched in brown boxes in their garage. They can simply order a limited run of a dozen or so, as the need arises. And, as Glassman is finding out, that need can be great.

For more information, contact Steve Glassman at or visit the York University Bookstore Web site.

By Sandra McLean, YFile writer