Archives: printcasting

Just throwing a few notes together here so I don’t lose track of them, but you’ll probably find them interesting as well.

After my previous post titled Printcasting I was contacted via comments by Dan Pacheco, who has founded a company actually called Printcasting that does a bit of what I was going on about in that post. I took a look through his company’s site over the weekend and it’s neat – so here’s some more info about it.

Printcasting – people-powered magazines

The basics are laid out in more detail here, but the main points as they appear to me:

  • The Printcasting site provides an automated method for aggregating RSS feeds from any source into articles laid out in an automated fashion for printing, alongside ads.
  • In addition, the site provides the ability to view the periodical online in a sort of page flipping fiew, and these can be distributed via a small variety of web based widgets.
  • You do not have to make a magazine just to contribute articles. If you set your blog up with an RSS feed that delivers full posts, you can hook up your feed to Printcasting’s service and anyone on the service who is making a magazine can include your posts as articles in their publications.
  • You do not need to provide your own content to make a magazine. You can use any of the registered RSS feeds to fill your magazine with content. You can also just do it all with your own content if you want, but you don’t have to.
  • As an advertiser, you just set your ad up with the Printcasting service, and it is automatically placed in the magazines created by users. You do not have to do any negotiating. Ad placement will eventually cost a small fee, but at the moment I believe it is free.
  • As a publisher, you do not need to solicit ads, they will be automatically placed in your magazine for you by the service.
  • There is a plan to share revenue from ad placements with publishers.
  • From what I can see, there is no built in step to automatically print your magazine, that is, I think, left up to you to arrange yourself once it is produced.

That seems to be the basics. Dig into the site for more detail. To me, the strength of this model seems to be the automated assembly, pretty hands off and helpful in creating newsletters and local interest small run, leaflet like periodicals. It doesn’t look like a newsstand magazine, it looks more like a newsletter, and the automated layouts are pretty basic and vanilla. It doesn’t look like you have much control over what the ads you accept look like or how they are placed, it all follows a basic set of templated looks that will not wow anyone in a graphic design way. But it is a quick, cheap, uncomplicated way to assemble information of interest to narrowly targeted groups into an easily distributable, printable format.

Another company that requires more upfront effort and design skill on your part, but produces a magazine that looks pretty much like the kind you see at newsstands, is MagCloud:

From their About Us:

MagCloud enables you to publish your own magazines. All you have to do is upload a PDF and we’ll take care of the rest: printing, mailing, subscription management, and more.
How much does it cost?

It costs you nothing to publish a magazine on MagCloud. To buy a magazine costs 20¢ per page, plus shipping. For example, a 20-page magazine would be four bucks plus shipping. And you can make money! You set your issue price and all proceeds above the base price go to you.
How are they printed?

MagCloud uses HP Indigo technology, so every issue is custom-printed when it’s ordered. Printing on demand means no big print runs, which means no pre-publishing expense. Magazines are brilliant full color on 80lb paper with saddle-stitched covers. They look awesome.
What do I need to do to participate?

You’ll need a PayPal account or major credit card to buy magazines, and publishers will need a PayPal account so we can pay you earnings. To create a magazine, you’ll need to upload a PDF, which means you’ll have to create your magazine in a program that outputs high-res PDFs like Adobe® InDesign.

During our Beta orders must be sent to a US shipping address.

This is a pretty cool looking POD magazine publishing service, which is capable of producing what appear to be really slick periodicals.

MagCloud looks like a real magazine. It doesn’t aggregate content for you, you have to do all the content and layout work, and produce a high res, quality PDF to send them, but from there they enable POD magazine sales, apparently worldwide, or at least that is the intent. The Beta seems limited to the US. You don’t seem to have to pay to set one up, your buyers pay per issue at a 20 cent per page plus whatever profit margin you tack on rate when they order one, and it looks like MagCloud will pass on your cut via paypal. MagCloud takes the orders, does the printing and mailing. All you do is all the layout and creation work, and upload files to the service. MagCloud does not help you find advertisers or in any other way subsidize your effort.

MagCloud doesn’t look like it gives you a fully readable online option, but it does provide a preview page flipper thing. Click the “show preview” button on this sample to see one.

I think MagCloud is an HP initiative pointed at selling the POD presses to many local print shops, but as a result it seems to set up a really classy looking POD magazine solution.

I wonder what comics pages would look like in one of these things?

The above two services are geared toward putting digital content onto a printed page. This next one looks like it is being used to put printed content into a slick digital presentation, and to serve as an online platform for native digital publications formatted in magazine fashion:


From their About Us:

Issuu makes your publications look good

Issuu turns your documents into beautiful online publications. Publish to an audience of millions and get your message across to anyone, anywhere. It only takes a minute and it’s free.

Features and benefits

* Upload your documents and we turn them into professional online publications.
* Enjoy the best reading experience online (fullscreen with crisp vector graphics).
* Explore a living library with the web’s most interesting publications.
* Post/embed your publications anywhere online (Facebook, MySpace, Blogger, etc.)
* Get a high rank on Google and receive detailed statistics about your readers.
* Create a custom viewer design and integrate your publications on your website.

This looks really astonishingly slick. It might be a great way to make your POD MagCloud zine readable online as well. It has tools that allow embedding. For example, here is a back issue of Juxtapoz from their library:

There are many, many layers of POD/online publishing possibilities available, and more being born every day it seems. If you want to make beautiful things in both the virtual and real worlds, you have even less excuses not to do it. The tools to enable you are quite literally tumbling out of thin air into your lap.

Hat tips: to Dan Pacheco for Printcasting, Andrew Sullivan for MagCloud and Rick Evans for Issuu

Great discussion of Print on Demand is often had at Warren Ellis’ Whitechapel Forum.

Some thoughts around a theme.

I read somewhere once, and it strikes me as very true but seldom recognized, is that publishing on the web isn’t really “publishing”, it’s “broadcasting”, and different expectations determine it’s success.

In a series of brief ruminative posts, comics writer, novelist, blogger, and general internet scourge Warren Ellis has been toying with concepts around an idea called the papernet. This is something like a notion to lay out versions of web content so it can be printed as something like a onesheet or tabloid, and distributed by enthusiasts in the physical world on paper, like the broadsheets of the enlightenment era.

He also has been anticipating 2009 as the Year of Print On Demand (POD). Two fantastic emanations from his sporadic mental exercise:

  1. A message board thread full of detailed and useful recountings of various peoples experiences with POD press production.
  2. A concept he has give the place holder name of ROTOR, which is sort of a set of rules to structure a group blog which will update frequently enough with enough content to keep a significant audience, and which is arranged so as to allow longform work to accrue in daily bursts until complete, at which time it would be printed POD under a group branded imprint and sold as a physical object.

Looking at this ROTOR post in the context of his recent run of papernet tagged thoughts, I’m thinking the kernel here is trying to work out how a POD model could be dovetailed with serial online publication to produce a new publishing model outside of the withering traditional one. The proposed structure seems to be reaching for something like what fiction anthologies or fiction magazines once were, a churning, lively forum to get shorter works by many authors in front of readers and nurture careers. The difference is that the authors themselves become responsible for the mechanics of publication, for enforcing their own deadlines and professional discipline. I’m thinking the concept serves authors best when seen in that light, as a machine made of rules designed to grow disciplined professional writers. Your chances of success within it increase the more frequently you write, the more preparation you’ve done and the more of your piece you have in the can before publication begins.

And, since nobody has figured out a way to make good money off of stuff like this online alone, the POD goal at the end adds a potential revenue stream as a carrot.

All of this can be seen as an instance of a larger movement, of which other obsessions of mine, such as Make and Craft magazines, Instructables, Etsy, the resurgence of a craftsman’s ethic with a 21st Century flavor. It’s another outgrowth of empowering amateurs.

It’s the new old way of making culture.

Neal Stephenson said in an interview last year:

“Hey kids, don’t listen to your friends who try to tell you that it’s all about bits and bytes. Information technology will only get you so far. Making things in the physical world is where it’s at.”

All of this has led me to a rough concept that, at the moment, I’m calling Printcasting. At a first pass, printcasting is:

  • Simultaneous multiple format serialization
  • Blog style daily posting
  • Audio podcast reading of daily posting
  • Cumulative audio podcast of whole work to date, updated daily
  • A weekly one-sheet printable zine compiling that week’s updates
  • Final Project ebook for sale
  • Final Project complete audiobook – probably free
  • Final Project Print On Demand physical book

Jared Axelrod, who did something like this under the title 365 Tomorrows, upon reading Warren Ellis’ ROTOR thoughts posted this advice:

First off, we’d finish all the content before we started. This is the major problem we ran into our first year, and why so many similar projects crash and burn… And we’ll pre-load those suckers, so the site updates itself. Because when the site starts up, we don’t want to focus on it.

Instead, we want to focus on the 5 POD books we’ll be making with this content. Contacting illustrators, adding extra material, designing a visual look for all 5 books. Make them real works of art in their own right. In other words, make them worth buying. That’s not going to be difficult, but it is going to take time, so we might as well start on that as soon as possible. Plus, we’ll also be busy creating content for the next year. So, you know, the more the site can do without us watching it, the better.

This seems like solid advice, so I’m adopting it as a printcasting ethic. Don’t start printcasting until you have the full piece written/produced. Load it all and let it automatically update itself reliably and regularly. Spend the rest of your time while it is printcasting sorting your final, physical, purchasable products into the best objects they can be.

So what am I reaching for in jumbling all these references together in a post? Not sure. I don’t want to lose track of these trains of thought, and I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing here online and here in the world. It’s something about writing and something about drawing and something about small scale broadcasting and maybe there is something in all this for me.

If that turns out to be true, whatever form it takes, it’ll show up here.