The offering is through HP's BookPrep online service that lets people search for out-of-print books in HP's repository of scanned books. The buyer is directed to a retailer to place an order, and HP provides the on-demand printing service.
With the introduction of electronic readers from booksellers Amazon and Barnes & Noble, e-books have been getting lots of attention in the media. Nevertheless, studies show that the majority of readers still prefer the feel of having a printed book in their hands.
The value of BookPrep is in allowing publishers and libraries to make books available, irrespective of demand, without the cost of maintaining inventory. Instead, HP prints books only when ordered.
"We are excited that HP BookPrep can offer print distribution of the public domain works in our collection and help to provide broad access to works that have previously been hard to find outside the walls of our library," Paul N. Courant, librarian and dean of libraries at the University of Michigan, said in a statement.
The University of Michigan partnership builds on HP's relationship with Applewood Books, a publisher of historical Americana books, HP says. The company has been using BookPrep for the last year to republish hundreds of titles, and has agreed to distribute titles from the university's library.
HP, which draws a large portion of its revenue from printers and printing services, launched in 2007 what it calls its Print 2.0 initiative. The strategy leverages Web-based services in trying to capture a significant share of the growing number of digital pages printed each year. According to HP, 53 trillion digital pages are forecast to be printed in 2010, creating a market valued at more than $296 billion.
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