Frustrated by their experiences trying to find printing time during the height of the pandemic, Keith Riegert, publisher and CEO of Ulysses Press, and Alyson Forbes, publisher and CEO of Catapult, Counterpoint, and Soft Skull, were determined to find a more efficient and reliable way for independent presses to work with printers. Their answer is Perfect Bound, an online marketplace that matches publishers with printers and, in the process, allows publishers to get their print runs done faster and at a better price.

The Perfect Bound online platform allows publishers to fill out a form specifying the type of job they are looking to fulfill. The form includes all the necessary specs a printer would need, such as format, print run, and delivery date. Publishers can send out a request for quote (RFQ) to any printer who is part of the Perfect Bound network, then compare competing bids side-by-side. Perfect Bound also allows publishers to track the progress of the order and to pay for the job through the platform.

Printers that join Perfect Bound get access to potential new clients and benefit from a program that allows printers to review orders, send bids, and get paid from one source, Riegert said. (Transactions are conducted via PayPal or Stripe.)

Riegert has been using Perfect Bound since he began beta-testing the system in February, and said that he has seen unit costs come down across all book formats. Those savings accelerated markedly starting in the current third quarter, which Riegert believes “is thanks to the competitive nature of the bidding process and real-time pricing feedback to printers.” Perfect Bound has processed about $500,000 in orders since February and shipped more than 270,000 units.

Both publishers and printers can join Perfect Bound for free. Under the business model, printers will pay 2 cents per unit ordered once a print run has been executed, although Riegert said he will not start charging for the service until 2024.

Riegert and Forbes vet both publishers and printers who are interested in joining the service. Riegert said that they are looking for publishers of some size that understand how the printing process works, and thus aren’t aiming for author-publishers. Presses currently registered with Perfect Bound include AdventureKeen, Brown Books, Chronicle Books, Dzanc Books, Levine Querido, Mango Publishers, and She Writes Press.

In vetting printers, Riegert said he and Forbes are looking for companies that can be relied on, have a solid business history, and meet sustainability requirements. Printers range from offset printers to digital printers. In addition to U.S. printers, others are located in a host of countries, including Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, India, and Malaysia. Printers already using the service include Levent Offset, Versa Press, Sheridan, and Walsworth.

At present, Riegert and Forbes are overseeing Perfect Bound. Riegert sees the service as “making the market” for printing jobs, comparing it to what Airbnb does in the travel/hospitality space. As part of the Perfect Bound rollout, Riegert will be at the Frankfurt Book Fair as part of the American Book Collective.