We’ve hit a snag with the ninth edition of Complete Digital Photography, and as a result have pulled the book from distribution while we work through the issues. This is not something we wanted to do, but it is clear that the print quality of the book isn’t at an acceptable level for some readers. We are looking at alternatives to the company that handled the printing and distribution, and once we have determined a path forward, we’ll make the book available again. (The ebook version is underway on a separate track, and we’re still targeting next month for the release of the ebook for Amazon and Apple’s stores.)

What happened?

During the production process, Ben and I had numerous discussions about the price of the book, distribution options and print quality. For us, there were two paramount issues: we wanted a reasonably priced book, and we wanted photo quality that would clearly demonstrate the concepts Ben shows throughout the book. We knew that we couldn’t create a book that would have offset-level print quality–print-on-demand technology is closer to laser printing than traditional printing–but we worked hard to make sure that the photos were edited properly for our chosen printer.

In the end, we chose the basic color printing option from Ingram, one of the largest book distributors in the business, and a well-known print-on-demand operation. (I used Ingram for my first self-published book, Aging: An Apprenticeship, and had a largely positive experience with the company.) This let us price the book at $54.99–still higher than we wanted–but it gave us what we felt was an acceptable quality level.

Along the way, we ordered a number of proof copies of the book, and felt that we had been able to achieve a balance of image quality and price. This decision wasn’t made in a vacuum; we showed the proof copies to quite a few photographers and readers, and the consensus was that the book’s quality was good for what we were trying to do.

We had some inventory issues related to the holidays after the book was released, but once Amazon sorted things out, we sold a bunch of copies. We also received some negative reviews about the print quality from a few people who bought the book. We know that there were at least two false reviews up there (a common Amazon problem, unfortunately), but we have heard from others whom we know purchased the book, and it is clearly an issue for some people.

What’s next?

We are looking into a few different options, but none of them are straightforward. Amazon’s print-on-demand service has better quality, but there’s no way we can use their service and keep the book’s price at its current level. We wouldn’t be taking a loss just to print a copy, but we’d make so little that we’d barely break even with our minimal overhead. And, if we wished to have Amazon take control of all distribution of the book–for sales on Amazon and from traditional booksellers–their percentage take would mean we’d have to price the book in the $75 range, which is a deal-breaker for us. As a result, we’re looking into using a combination of Amazon and Ingram’s printing/distribution services (letting Amazon print for their sales, and using Ingram’s higher-level print quality for third-party booksellers), or choosing a different printer entirely.

There are other print-on-demand services, but they have their own problems and issues. The biggest roadblock is that every one of them would require a price point that is unacceptable to us (Blurb’s pricing, for example, would cost us more than $50 to print a copy of the book). And offset printing would require us to print hundreds (or thousands, if we thought that we would sell that many) of copies, and pay large fees up front for printing and warehousing.

We will have an answer soon, but we felt it was important to be transparent about what’s going on. When we started work on the ninth edition, we had no illusions that CDP would make us rich, but we thought we could produce a good book at a decent price, one that helped newcomers discover the wonders of digital photography. We think that we’ll still be able to do that, and we hope to have Complete Digital Photography back on sale soon.

Note to purchasers

While we still feel that the quality of the book’s illustrations and photos illustrate our vision for CDP, we understand that not everyone feels that way. So, if you purchased the ninth edition from Amazon, and you truly are unhappy with the quality, you should return it. Amazon will gladly take it back.

If you bought it from us, we will send out an email once we have figured out our options, but know that we’ll be happy to take the book back and refund your money.