HP Launches BookPrep, MagCloud Print-On-Demand Services

The BookPrep BookPrep system prepares scanned books for the print-on-demand (POD) market as well as for online consumers who can purchase print versions of public-domain, out-of-print books from the University of Michigan Library.

Using imaging and printing technology from HP Labs, raw books are automatically scanned and text, images, alignment and coloration are cleaned up and brightened.

In cases where original scans of book covers aren't available, publishers can design their own covers and integrate them into HP's cover generation system, which includes a rich set of predefined cover templates. By combining the book block, covers and meta data, the system generates various formats for print media in addition to e-books.

So far, there are 472,509 books available for purchase through BookPrep -- most of the collection is currently from books published before 1923.

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The processed pages are then packaged into various formats for both print and online distribution.

HP said that once a book has been processed and packaged, the company helps publishers sell their content using HP's online/offline distribution network. HP has retail agreements with print service providers and several online distribution channels, including Amazon.com. Publishers can also sell books using their existing distribution network.

HP touts BookPrep as a great alternative or adjunct service to the traditional publishing model.

"HP BookPrep technology allows publishers to extend the life cycle of their books, removes the cost and waste burdens of maintaining inventory, and uses a full spectrum of technologies to deliver convenient access to consumers," said Andrew Bolwell, director, New Business Initiatives, HP, in a statement. "Because HP BookPrep is a Web service that processes books as they are ordered, there is little up-front investment or risk as books are printed only after they are purchased, no matter the volume, eliminating the need for high carrying costs."

In another POD effort, HP is publicizing the beta version of MagCloud, which technically launched in February. MagCloud is a cloud-based system that publishes glossy, full-color magazines for personal use or mass distribution. MagCloud is a collaboration between HP and Wikia, the free Web hosting service for -- you guessed it -- wikis, that was developed by the folks behind Wikipedia.

The huge Wiki site has more than 9 million unique U.S. visitors per month and 50,000 enthusiast communities. MagCloud lets all those users publish the roughly 3 million pages of content into a magazine.

Here's how it works. To create a magazine a "publisher" can use any design program that can put out letter-size, multipage PDFs. MagCloud's printing process uses HP Indigo digital presses to produce full-bleed, magazine-quality publications.

The publisher then loads the PDF to MagCloud, fills out a description, and orders a proof, which can only be seen by the user. MagCloud then prints, binds and mails the proof, which can take up to two weeks to arrive. After reviewing and approving content, the publisher decides on pricing. MagCloud charges 20 cents per page; the publisher can charge anything more than that. Finally, when the issue is published, people can buy the magazine on MagCloud's Web site, using either a credit card or PayPal account.

As is the case with BookPrep, HP is positioning MagCloud as a more cost-effective system than traditional magazine print models.

"By using an on-demand publishing service model, HP eliminates the carrying costs, waste and inventory issues previously associated with magazine publishing, making it possible to publish content that was previously economically unviable to print," the company said in a statement.