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A new chapter

 
 
 
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Revolutionary publishing

Not long ago, readers searching for out-of-print books had to spend hours combing through shelves at used book stores, oftentimes only to end up empty-handed. Amazon is changing all of this. With its new print-on-demand service, buyers can simply log onto Amazon.com, easily locate the book they want and receive a brand-new, full-color copy the very next day.

This new way of doing business is possible thanks to Amazon's integration of HP Indigo 5000 presses. Now, when a customer orders titles from certain publishers, Amazon's fulfillment center will print the book on demand if there's not a copy already available in inventory.

Instant gratification

Amazon is part of a larger trend in the publishing industry. The books-on-demand market is expected to grow from about 20 billion book pages in 2006 to about 38 billion book pages by 2009.1 This is due largely to increasing demand for small-volume, rare and self-published books.

HP Indigo presses are helping Amazon fulfill the company's three primary customer focus areas: price, selection and availability. HP Indigo presses provide an economical solution for increasing title selection and availability, so customers aren't disappointed when a book they were looking for is no longer in print.

"It's allowing us to bring books back into print from publishers who have made an economic choice in the past to stop printing them," said Aaron Martin, director of manufacturing on demand and self-publishing for Amazon.com. "You can get a new copy of a book that's been out of print for decades — the next day."

When deciding which printing system to purchase, reliability was a key factor for Amazon. To make next-day delivery possible, Amazon's fulfillment centers must have the capability to print, assemble and ship the book in a single day. This is where the reliability of HP Indigo presses is crucial.

"It's a pretty rigorous process, and we can't have any failures that might disappoint our customers," Martin said.

For customers, the benefits are obvious: In their next-day shipment, they can get a previously unavailable or out-of-print book.

But the new capabilities also offer major benefits to publishers. Amazon can backfill orders when demand is higher than publishers anticipated, so that the publisher won't miss out on any orders while waiting to complete another offset print run. Publishers also gain the freedom to serve more specialty markets with less risk. Before, a publisher might have decided against publishing a book because it was difficult to predict its demand.

The speed of the HP Indigo 5000 presses helps the fulfillment centers meet Amazon's tight deadlines. In addition to the presses, Amazon is using the new HP Indigo Production Manager digital front-end controller, which combines HP IT and graphic arts technologies for rapid file processing in complex digital publishing scenarios.

"The incredible value to participating publishers is that they'll never have the situation where the customer comes to Amazon and sees that a book in the program is out of stock," Martin said.

Fit to print

In the publishing industry, quality is always a concern for book production. The HP Indigo press 5000 has no problem living up to the standards for Amazon's full-color books and covers.

The HP Indigo presses must produce consistent prints, because books must look the same from print run to print run, as well as match the publisher's original book, which is often produced on an offset press. HP provides the industry's only high-end digital presses that use liquid ink for high-quality images that rival offset.

Power to the people

It's now more affordable and less risky for writers to self-publish. For example, an author writing a memoir may want to make it available to friends and family. But it might not be a book that a major publisher would pick up, and the author might not want to pay for a 1,000-copy print run. BookSurge, an Amazon company, offers a self-publishing service that allows authors to affordably print their book on demand and distribute it through Amazon.com and other outlets.

"Print on demand technology enables anyone to be a published author," said David Symonds, general manager of BookSurge. "It really helps people distribute their work and lets customers determine the merit of it."

Innovating together

Already, response to Amazon's print-on-demand program has been tremendous. The company's catalog of titles that can be printed on demand is in the hundreds of thousands and is quickly expanding as the company gets the copyright permission to reprint others.

Martin said HP's innovations help the publishing industry print both single copies and higher-volume titles using print-on-demand technology, without sacrificing quality or economics. Together, Amazon and HP will continue expanding the market for publishers.

"Our relationship with HP has been very collaborative," he said. "We are constantly trying to innovate on behalf of customers, and we choose business partners with a similar mindset."
1Interquest, "The Digital Book Printing Opportunity," 2006, page 42.
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"You can get a new copy of a book that's been out of print for decades — the next day"

Aaron Martin
Director of manufacturing on demand and self-publishing
Amazon.com

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