Monday, July 19, 2010

MagCloud expands services to the iPad; low-run print prices remain sky high; no way to charge for iPad editions

Back in February HP unveiled its print-on-demand service for magazines called MagCloud, and today the company continues to expand the service by adding iPad support for publishers and a brand new iPad app for readers.
A product of HP Labs, MagCloud rolls on, though at currently pricing levels -- the price to produce a print-on-demand magazine is current 20 cents a page, meaning a modest 32 page magazine would cost $6.40 per copy, of $640 for the first 100 copies -- obviously MagCloud is designed for specialty and extremely low run publications.  But even as print solution for a gallery program, for instance, this appears to be a very expensive way to go. The fact that HP added perfect binding and the ability to print over 300 pages in an edition probably means that the main demand is coming from reprints of special souvenir issues of Life magazine, etc.

Today HP also announced that it had added iPad support to its list of capabilities. HP's MagCloud app is free to download in the iTunes app store and gives readers access to a small list of publications including what will probably be a typical MagCloud project, Wally's Dog Tale, a 12 page magazine produced by Irene Read that is made up of photos of her dog. Read must like the service because she has seven editions available to download -- more than 50 percent of all magazines available in the Children category.

It is hard as a publisher not to laugh at the idea of trying to produce a magazine at any print run when the cost is so high, but there is undoubtedly a market for extremely low run print products for events, coffee tables and the like. Because of this MagCloud may find a market.

But the addition of iPad support actually scares the hell out of me. I can see some media managers already trying to figure out if it will be better to have HP create its PDF flipbooks for the iPad rather than another vendor.

Far too many media execs think cheap and easy is the only way to go when thinking about electronic media. (I think about all the BPA meetings I've attended that are crowded with virtual trade show and flipbook vendors.)

The magazine world continues to split in two: one group of well funded publishers committed to the new formats of mobile and tablet publishing, producing native apps and editions that are head and shoulders ahead of the pack; and the other group still committed to PDFs of their print products, just trying to pretend they get it, and generally willing to outsource everything related to the new forms of publishing.