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HP, Amazon Team Up on Rare Book Revival

Print is dead? Don't tell that to HP. The printer giant is announcing two deals today that aim to revive out-of-print books and help users create custom magazines.

HP said its HP BookPrep will make more than 500,000 rare and hard-to-find books available for sale through new collaborations with e-commerce giant Amazon and the University of Michigan. BookPrep is a cloud computing service designed to facilitate the on-demand printing of books in any quantity, from one to 100, or even thousands.

The news comes at time when Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) book-scanning project and controversial settlement with publishers and authors over terms, as well as ongoing efforts by the non-profit Internet Archive, aim to make millions of out-of-print titles available online.

"The synergy with Google is perfect," Andrew Bolwell, director of new business initiatives at HP, told InternetNews.com, though he was quick to add HP has no deal with Google at this time.

For now BookPrep is focused on public-domain titles. Bolwell said that by some estimates only 4 percent of the over 90 million books ever published are still in print.

"A lot of people say the Internet is killing off print publishing; I beg to differ," Bolwell said. "I think it's killing off old business models, but I firmly believe there are vast audiences that love print and turning pages."

He said BookPrep is based on technology that's been developed at HP Labs over the past ten years that can produce a high-quality book economically -- priced about the same as consumers might expect to pay at the book store for more recent titles.

Bolwell said that in most cases, book scanning is typically done with an emphasis on preserving the book and the quality of scans is not always very high. Conversely, the cloud-based BookPrep service sharpens text and images from raw book scans, improving alignment and coloration, and can even add new covers.

Wikia, the magazine(s)?

Separately, HP announced that its Magcloud magazine publishing service has reached a collaboration deal with consumer publishing Web site Wikia which has over 50,000 active communities ranging from games like World of Warcraft to the Muppets to Lady Gaga.

With today's announcement, users will be able to create personalized magazines from whatever collection of articles they choose at Wikia. "You can automatically create a print magazine that comes in a beautiful, glossy format," said Bolwell.

Magcloud also handles order fulfillment. Magcloud uses a network of print service providers that use HP's high-end Indigo printers. Like BookPrep, there is no minimum order -- you can publish as little as one magazine, up to hundreds or thousands.

Wikia and MagCloud are the perfect match to marry compelling online content with a rich print experience," Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikia, said in a statement.

"With millions of freely available and relevant articles written by dedicated communities, Wikia broadly covers thousands of topics, from Marvel comic book characters to ABC Television's popular drama 'Lost.' We believe that Wikia’s communities will use the MagCloud printing service to reach broader audiences, and inspire people to engage in a new wave of magazine publishing 2.0."