Friday, May 22, 2009

Publishing Innovation must be physical as well as digital

Publishing Innovation Must Be Directed to Physical as Well as Digital Media
On May 6th, I had the pleasure of attending the HP Inkjet Web Press Open House at O’Neil Data Systems, a commercial, book and newspaper printer in Los Angeles. I offer the following thoughts as my quick reaction to the event.
I’ve seen the future of web printing, and the brand on the press is HP. Their new digital HP Inkjet Web Press will render conventional offset web presses obsolete by 2020. But why is this important for book publishers? Because the computing power that drives this efficient and cost-effective print engine will finally allow publishers to innovate the contents of physical books in unprecedented ways. True customization and personalization will be possible at an acceptable cost level.
As publishers leverage digital marketing tools to create mailing lists, market to specific audiences on the web, publicize to bloggers as well as the traditional media, and do virtual events with authors, the ability to customize/personalize the core product, the physical book, will allow publishers to really do what they’ve been struggling to do for years: offer unique value for a product that has been commoditized in almost every other way.
For example, with the HP print technology, books could be “mass printed” (at attractive costs) yet have personalized elements unique to each individual book. New revenue models could be created, with publishers prompting loyal consumers of specific authors or genres to pre-order (and pre-pay?) for new books that could then be printed with their names and their choice of customized supplemental content within the book. Perhaps that could include choosing an alternate ending in fiction, or additional depth about a character, or in non-fiction, additional content about a particular example explained in the core content. In this scenario, Publishers and authors could then continue to build their mailing lists of consumer contacts for additional marketing and sell more customized product directly to high-value customers. Or they could work with booksellers to collect the consumer information and pre-orders. It’s just one quick example of what the future marketplace could become.
To learn more about the HP Inkjet Web Press, visit

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