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Commentary & Analysis

A Potential Money Maker for Small Printers--Interested?

By Carole Alexander February 28,

By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: February 28, 2006

By Carole Alexander February 28, 2006 -- Last month I received one of the best gifts ever. It was a 40-page, hard-cover book of digitally printed photos and text about a loved one. It was so personal and elegant looking, And, unlike the family photos and slides people look at begrudgingly, everyone sought out and admired this book. So, I had some pictures digitized, went to Shutterfly on the web, uploaded into their templates and in a few days, there were 4 more books for $40 each. Now folks think I'm the best gift giver ever. I believe hardcover books in a quantity of one are a new concept and tap into our love of high quality and customization Why do these books have such an impact? Another question is, if they represent a new print market, are printers taking advantage? To answer the first, I believe hardcover books in a quantity of one are a new concept and tap into our love of high quality and customization. The appeal is so great that they might be considered to represent a new media for marketing. To answer to the second, I spoke with Tom Carpenter, co-founder of Book Production Systems, who exhibited at the recent GOA/Xplor Conference in Miami Beach. They have 40 printers currently on board across the country and the plan is to get to 1,000. BPS is doing the very same thing I did on Shutterfly, but better. They created the software that resides on the web and gives users templates and tools, or buyers can create their own. Twenty-four hours later, a hard or soft cover book is delivered. Carpenter estimates that 40 all-color pages, 8.5 x 11, with hardcover binding, would be $35. Pretty impressive!! When a customer asks for a quote, Carpenter sends the order to a local printer associated with the company, "the smallest being a daughter and father in their garage." Many Sir Speedy and PIP printers have been early sign-ons. For the printers, there is no prepress, no estimating and no salesman unless they want to. Printers in the network have the opportunity to sell the product themselves independent of the website. BPS estimates that one employee can generate over $300K in revenue. The application has so little in common with traditional publishing that it is creating brand new markets. Book Production Systems is using the benefits of Books on Demand (BOD)--digital technology to print books as needed-- without large quantities to justify a low price, and allow for customization. They have combined this with cost effective hardcover binding and Internet ordering. The application has so little in common with traditional publishing that it is creating brand new markets. BPS envisions a $25.2B market that includes such customers as Real Estate, religious organizations, school yearbooks, education, enterprise documents services and trade books. According to Carpenter, BPS is a preferred provider for Prudential Real Estate. "When a real estate agent is making a large commission," he says, "presenting buying opportunities through BPS is a small price to pay for a big impression." Title companies are especially good customers, since it offers them a way to gain differentiation with real estate agents. Custom catalogs appeal to many with high end products and anyone who wants to differentiate themselves. "Consider artists with works to promote to art galleries, breeders selling horses, PhD candidates for their thesis, auto dealerships, among others," Carpenter explains. I would add to that list any professional whose proposals can result in large dollar business, even lawyers, accountants, financial advisors and management consultants. According to one printer in the network, Pat Riccardi, Owner of Sir Speedy in Great Neck, NY, "The sky is the limit with this market." Riccardi is using his own sales force to prospect and has had success with journals for schools, religious institutions and dinner dances. "I think there is tons of potential with self publishers," he explains. I asked if the addition of printers to the BPS network would bring undue competition and Ricciardi did not think so. "Not every printer in every neighborhood will do this. And right now there is no competition at all." "Not every printer in every neighborhood will do this. And right now there is no competition at all." With a philosophy of write it, sell it and then build it, BPS has a good insight into successful publishing today. And the product is an opportunity for any small printer. All the printers in the network have their own black-and-white and/or color digital equipment and cutters. The only thing they have in common is the use of the FastBind for making cost effective hard and soft covers. "FastBind has been around for some 25 years in 82 countries" according to Carpenter, "and is manufactured by ExactBind, headquartered in Helsinki." Coming to BPS from a career as a software guru, Carpenter was introduced to FastBind and did a marketing analysis to see what was needed in the printing industry. He stumbled across this high value proposition, understanding that "most opportunity is where there is trouble." That trouble refers to small printers today looking for new revenue, frustrated authors looking to publish books and businesses/non-profits looking for a marketing edge. He argues that the BPS model will resonate with printers looking to get a good margin and some sales help. Carpenter feels that "most printers are comfortable just printing." You can reach him at Tom@BookProductionSystems.com.

 

 

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