HP Teams with Amazon to Sell Printed Public Domain Books

Think the market for electronic books is already getting weird enough? Things are getting a little stranger, thanks to a new partnership between Hewlett-Packard, Amazon.com, and the University of Michigan: HP’s new BookPrep service is offering almost half a million public domain titles available online—and in paperback printed form. The idea is to lower cost of republishing rare and hard-to-find books by leveraging HP Labs’ image processing and printing technologies combined with its cloud-computing infrastructure to make the books available on-demand—either online or in printed form, with scanned pages automatically cleaned up and brightened for improved readability.

HP BookPrep sample titles

“People around the world still value reading books in print,” said HP’s director of new business initiatives Andrew Bolwell, in a statement. “HP BookPrep technology allows publishers to extend the life cycle of their books, removes the cost and waste burdens of maintaining inventory, and uses a full spectrum of technologies to deliver convenient access to consumers.”

The service provides a way to digitize historic content and make it more widely available, plus eliminates a lot of damage and wear-and-tear that may be present in the originals. Since books are printed only on demand, publishers and content owners don’t face a lot of up-front costs to get their content into the system. HP’s imaging technology handled correcting alignment, correcting color, sharpening up text and images, and generating covers.

Interested customers will be able to purchase BookPrep titles through traditional and online booksellers, including Amazon.com.

HP originally rolled out BookPrep in collaboration with Applewood Books, which specializes in historical Americana titles. Applewood has been using BookPrep for a year to republish hundreds of titles, and will now also offer top titles from the University of Michigan collection.

HP has also announced MagCloud, a similar cloud-based service aiming at non-traditional magazine publishers, enabling them to offer their content using a print-on-demand model.