HP bets on print-on-demand services

Hewlett-Packard, bullish about Web hosted print-on-demand (POD) services, has launched a new POD service called BookPrep for printing digital copies of books and enhanced an existing service called MagCloud with a new partner.

POD technology reduces paper waste and significantly cuts publisher costs because books aren't printed in advance, but rather only when someone decides to purchase them, said Andrew Bolwell, director of new business initiatives at HP.

"There's a fundamental shift taking place in the publishing industry," he said. "Print-on-demand is the future."

HP is announcing the news at this week's Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco.

BookPrep includes half a million out-of-print books from the library of the University of Michigan that have been digitized by Google and the university. The question of ownership and royalties doesn't come into play because the books' copyright protections have lapsed, Bolwell said.

HP has partnered with Amazon, which will sell and distribute the books to consumers.

Google recently announced a partnership with On Demand Books to sell printed copies of public-domain books it has digitized.

BookPrep features technology that enhances the quality of the scanned pages so that they look better when printed on paper, something that is important when dealing with digitized page images of old books, he said.

The service had been in a limited beta phase with titles from Applewood Books, a publisher of Americana books.

Meanwhile, MagCloud, available since February, has gained a new partner: Wikia, a site where people collaborate on articles about the topic of their choice.

MagCloud lets anyone upload a digital version of their magazine and print high-quality copies on demand. "It's like a YouTube for publishing," Bolwell said. Now, Wikia enthusiasts will be able to use MagCloud to create a publication made up of their favorite Wikia articles and get it printed.

"It's a neat tool and it lets people take what they're passionate about and organize our content into a print publication they or others would like to read," said Wikia CEO Gil Penchina, who himself created a 72-page magazine of Wikia articles about Star Wars character Luke Skywalker.

HP and Wikia share in the revenue from the sales of the magazines. There is no royalty payment to the authors of the articles because Wikia contributors make their content available freely, Penchina said. In addition, it's often impossible to determine who are the authors because so many people collaborate on a single article, he said.

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