We have talked a lot about the benefits of digital print on demand technology and the benefits for authors wishing to self-publish, but less about the benefits POD has offered many global organisations. One of those organisations is ARO, a Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist tradition, a non-profit charity principally concerned with transforming the experience of everyday being, rather than achieving an esoteric or spiritualised mode of existence.
According to Ngakpa ’ö-Dzin Tridral of ARO Books worldwide:
“We are part of a small Buddhist lineage and many years ago we decided to set up our own publishing operation, Aro Books,Inc. based in New York. The reasons for this were to do with the difficulty in placing books written by people within the lineage with the mainstream Buddhist publishers (Shambhala, Snow Lion, etc) and also the wish to retain editorial and design control.”
In 2009, this Buddhist tradition decided to add Lulu’s print on demand service to their publishing work, and in that time, as a small publishing operation, they have produced an extraordinary array of beautifully designed and published books. All this comes from people working in—what is—an entirely dedicated and voluntary organisation.
Ngakpa ’ö-Dzin Tridral continued to outline his plans for ARO Books to me:
“We have four books planned that are likely to appear this year, all written, or translated within the organisation. There are several others in various stages of planning and writing and those are likely to appear in 2011. I should add that all work is voluntary. All the income goes to charitable purposes and the small efforts at marketing are self-funded. Our main aim is to make the teachings available to whomever might be interested in them. To this end, some of our books are available as websites where people can read the books at no charge. (http://spacious-passion.org).”
ARO Books have set up their global print on demand base in Cardiff, Wales, using Lulu, and while they have been pleased with their experience and market place on Lulu, I can’t help feeling ARO would be better placed if they went directly to Lulu’s printer, Lightning Source, who have a print/fulfilment presence in the UK and USA.
What is clear is that POD has presented opportunities for organisations to become publishers and utilize their methods, teachings and advice in a way that publishing never really represented. More to the point, in the future, we may have to revise our interpretation of whom or what a publisher is.