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New Directions in the Role of Printing in Publishing

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Dominated by new electronic publishing and developments in
content management, pagemaking, e-books, and Web publishing, the two
major East Coast technology events in February also showcased some
revolutionary new printing procurement and manufacturing
initiatives.

Some 20,000 people attended Seybold, and several thousand turned
out for BookTech. I cannot too strongly encourage publishers,
booksellers, and distributors who are thinking strategically to put
these events on their calendars for the upcoming San Francisco and
East Coast versions this coming year. Technology and
enterprise—and publishing and distribution—are all of a
seamless piece.

BookTech in particular offers a publishing focus unique to the
book industry, as it bridges consideration of strategies in the
traditional manufacturing and the new electronic models.
Seybold—long considered the province of designers, ad
agencies, magazines, software and print providers, mainstream
high-end publishers, and corporate collateral buyers—offers
both tutorials, forums, and keynotes that increasingly bear on the
realities that independent publishers and distributors deal with
regularly.

Electronic publishing was very much in evidence on the BookTech
and Seybold agendas. The e-book people were out in full force at
Seybold’s expo, but the Internet publishing sector of our
industry was virtually absent from both.

Four New Technology Applications

Four sidelights of interest at BookTech were:

ODMC (bookmachine.com), which is a$90,000, book-at-a-time, sheetfed system that produces books that
appear (from what I saw) to match the quality output of IBM and
Xerox. This is your “in store” model. He is having a demo
at Tattered Cover in Denver in April/May. Look to see this in
bookstores in the future.

There is a new vendor with a licensing, content protection
software package
that can provide the secure usage protection
that NetLibrary has built into their system. This means that any
publisher who is relying on a significant play for digital download
or e-book applications can control their own content usage. They are
marketing it as ContentGuard (contentguard.com) in an
alliance with Xerox as an online asp and as a package application.
Publishers with special niches can approach the library market
directly with this software.

There is also a new entry in the out-of-print market for
author empowerment—E-rights and E-reads (e-rights.com).
They caught my eye because the company does rights searches and
acquisition for authors. In addition, they also offer a library of
titles digitized for e-book licensing.

Books24x7.com offers asubscription service that should interest publishers who provide content, and
researchers and special librarians who want access to the complete
texts of journals and books. These are reachable by very
sophisticated key-word, context, relational and, of course,
author/title-based searches. Starting with top publishers in the
technology space, they will be moving into other subject matter
areas.

Web Benefits Offered for Print Procurement

Because the world of publishing remains primarily print-based
(although the future of this primacy was called into serious
question at Seybold), it is inevitable that the benefits of Web
business-to-business efficiencies would reach into the printing
industry. The world of print buying, production management, and
customer service will never be the same with the emergence of a new
e-commerce niche. There is a cluster of venture capital well funded
new services whose aim is to aggregate printers and media producers
on the one hand, and buyers on the other, by means of a structured
and sophisticated system of taking RFPs, offering estimates, and
then managing the entire supply chain process.

Using a variety of business models, they aggregate for the buyer
access to a range of vendors from which the customer chooses, and
they then furnish a uniform RFP, bidding, process, and project
management system which includes automated benchmark prompts,
project team individual access, and group conferencing, etc.

They have not yet entered the book-manufacturing market in full
force, but this is a procurement strategy which is bound to bring
efficiencies of communication, reduction of overhead, and a
lessening of buyer/provider disputes to an industry sorely in need
of it. Independent publishers and their trade associations should
take notice.

Here is a rundown of these new providers. Just add a dot-com to
the name and visit their Web sites:

1. Vendor-based and invisible to the buyer: Collabria (a
major player with printers), Printchannel (a small player
attached to adobe technologies);

2. Hybrid—ImageX.Com—they own two plants and
sell through 100 printers. You buy from their catalog. They have
four portals: small business catalog, large business catalog, paper
to printer, and shop for printer.

3. PrintCafe—A major player just announced. They are
an aggregation of three major process management software providers
to the printing industry and come into the space with 6,000
installed based printers.

4. Noosh and Impresse impressed me the most with
their savvy vision that this was not about just printers and/or
customers, but also about how to effectively use the Web business
model in this space.

Another one with a good display that I didn’t get a chance
to visit directly was Httprint.

Parting Shots

At BookTech, Judy Kikpatrick, VP and General Manager of Fatbrain,
presented an impressive case for the return of the short story,
monograph, and essay to the literary marketplace. What started as an
initiative to place useful nonfiction short works on the Web for
sale has attracted a cohort of fiction, poetry, bell-letters, and
essay authors to bring into publication works which the publishing
industry could no longer economically distribute. Welcome back
today’s incarnation of O’Henry, Mark Twain, Willa
Cather, Emily Dickinson, and the Essay on Roast Pig, et al.

Thad McIlroy, Program Director of Seybold, delivered the “good news/bad news” report on the state of the printing
and publishing industries and their challenges in the new
millennium. The good news is continued strength in sales and
profitability. The “bad news” has to do with the
transformation of information and reading functions from the print
medium to the electronic medium—as a result, by 2002, more
than 50% of the print providers in 1998 will have merged, acquired,
or gone out of business.

This should be more than enough to chew on for a while. Meantime,
don’t forget the Waterside Publishing Conference in San Diego
in March and PMA’s Publishing University in Chicago on May 30
to June 1.

Gene Schwartz is a commentator on independent publishing industry
trends and is Editor at Large of “ForeWord” magazine. This
article is adapted from one which appeared in “ForeWord This
Week.” Schwartz also consults on new business and product
development in the traditional and new e-commerce models, and
brokers publishing properties. He can be reached via e-mail
EugeneGS@aol.com, phone 914/679-8867, fax
914/679-8248.

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