The 115-staff company in Milton Keynes, part of US-based Ingram, specialises in economic and educational books but said there was a growing need for colour sections within these books. Lighting Source is looking at launching a print-on-demand journal service in 2014.

“It would also be good to make inroads into children’s books in terms of older stock or back lists,” said marketing manager Andrew Bromley, hoping to tap into “nostalgia publishing” where parents order single copies of a favourite childhood book of theirs for their own kids.

Comics was another possible area of focus, he added. The ColorStream 3700 prints at 100m per minute with a print width of up to 540mm. It features Océ DigiDot technology, which uses drop-on-demand inkjet printheads to jet drops of ink only when and where needed.

Group managing director David Taylor said: “Publishers are facing many challenges: not only is there demand for quick delivery from customers but there is also the element of guesswork in determining how many printed copies of books will sell.

“With the means to offer true single-copy POD, we are able to provide an inventory-free model for publishers, which means zero warehousing of stock. This offers cost savings, a reduction in pulping and an economically viable solution whether one or one thousand copies are required.”

He added: “This printer is helping us bridge a gap in the market. Colour POD has previously been possible, but often at a high cost. Our new colour offer is a game changer for publishers as the cost to print full-colour POD books is approaching the price of black-and-white manufacturing.”

Canon UK commercial print group director Craig Nethercott said: “Lightning Source is helping publishers meet the challenges of modern-day book retailing, using the power of digital print to develop opportunities for both itself and its customers.

“The traditional method of estimating book sales, printing in high volumes, warehousing stock, together with the prospect of waste if sales are misjudged, is turned on its head for Lightning Source customers and this is a strong offering for the market.”