Traditional printing companies charge thousands of dollars upfront to fire up a press and produce a few hundred copies of a bound magazine.
With a new Web service called "MagCloud", Hewlett-Packard hopes to make it easier and cheaper to crank out a magazine than running photocopies at the local copy shop.
Charging 20 cents a page, paid only when a customer orders a copy, H.P. dreams of turning "MagCloud" into vanity publishing's equivalent of YouTube. HP is a leading maker of computers and printers envisions people using their PCs to develop quick magazines just about anything.
"There are so many of the nichey, maybe weird-at-first communities, that can use this," said Andrew Bolwell, head of the MagCloud effort at Hewlett-Packard. Samir Husni, a journalism professor at the University of Mississippi who plans to use the technology in his classroom, said, "We're not talking about replacing the Vanity Fairs of the world. But it's a nifty idea for a vanity press that reminds me of the underground zines we had in the '60s and '70s."
Should the service take off, Hewlett could expand its lucrative business of selling huge digital printers to companies that would print the magazine and then ship its profitable inks by the barrel instead of the ounce.
It is not clear how big a market there is for small runs of narrow-interest magazines when so much information is available free on the Internet. So far, users of the service, which is still in a testing phase, have produced close to 300 magazines, including publications on paintings by Mormon artists, the history of aerospace, food photography and improving your personal brand in a digital age.
Aspiring publishers must handle their own writing and design work, sending a PDF file of their creation over the Internet to the MagCloud repository. An H.P. farm out the printing jobs to partners scattered around the globe and takes care of billing and shipping for people who order the magazine. While H.P. charges the magazine publishers 20 cents a page, they can charge whatever they like for the completed product. Example is a 64 page magazine would cost you $12.80 each.
Ms. Bloch used to send final versions of Bare to a print shop in Arizona. If the editors noticed a typo or wanted to make a last-minute change, they had to pay $60 a page. "If we needed to change the cover because it had the wrong date, they gave us so much trouble," Ms. Bloch said. With MagCloud, the editors can fiddle all they want free.
MagCloud could also open up new opportunities for local print shops.
H.P. is also using technology similar to MagCloud to help publishers make out-of-print books available. It scans old books, cleans up the images and sends them off to the digital presses.
For H.P., MagCloud is also a way to provide customized service at low risk. And if the niche does not thrive, the company will simply move on. "We are trying to experiment with these new types of business models," Mr. Bolwell said.
There is also a great service for book publishing. Lulu.com offers individuals who wish to self publish a book on any topic with the same ease. I am currently working a on a personal interst baseball book. I have a limited number of people who would enjoy reading my thoughts on the history of "Freaks, Geeks and other Oddballs" in the game, I am currently at a page count of 288 pages in a digest format… my cost is about $18.75 per printed copy. To get this title published would next to impossialbe.
Ahhhhh, the world of digital living makes so much so easy… and now close to cheap.