A new type of demand

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Portland State Bookstore’s print-on-demand pilot program yielded unexpected results

Last year, the Portland State Bookstore partnered with HP to form the nation’s third print-on-demand program. Odin Ink, as it was called, was predicted to be a powerful program. It was designed to reduce textbook costs, increase availability and make possible for the students a low cost self-publishing and self-printing service.

Susannah Beckett

Now that the pilot year is over, the program has been evaluated. According to Ken Brown, the president and CEO of the Portland State Bookstore, the program “has been a success—just not how we thought it would be.”

HP has broken off its affiliation with the bookstore’s pilot program, withdrawing its name and prototype from the Odin Ink program. All is not lost; HP has agreed to replace the prototype, gifting the bookstore with a new machine instead.

However, the bookstore is losing most of its textbook printing capabilities as a result of HP pulling out. Many of the deals made with textbook publishers were made through HP, and as such not many of the rights to print will be retained. Only public domain, self-published books or instructor-copyrighted custom course packs will be printed in the new, revised program.

In light of this, the bookstore plans to focus on its highly successful self-publishing program. According to Brown, the self-publishing program has been growing on a regular basis. There is a large demand for self-publishing in Portland, and the bookstore seeks to supply some of that demand.

There are naturally some concerns about the new direction the program is taking. Among these is whether the cost of printing—easily the most affordable in town last year—will be changing.

Brown explained that the original pricing was not very sustainable in the long term. As a pilot program, the prices were designed to attract as many people as possible.

Brown was quick to reassure customers that prices would not be changing very much. Color printing would stay the same, he said, and black and white printing would only go up in cost a little bit, though an exact figure was not available.

Another concern was whether the new machine would print as well as the prototype that HP had originally provided. The bookstore had prided itself in the quality of the published materials, and it was a big selling point for students. Brown said it wouldn’t be a problem.

“The new machine is going to be less efficient, but the quality will be the same,” Brown said. “So it’ll look the same—it just won’t be as quick.”

There is no doubt that self-publishing strays in a different direction entirely from the original goals of Odin Ink, but it is no less deserving of support. Portland is known for its focus on self-publishing; each year many programs and authors flock to Wordstock, the premier literary festival of the Pacific Northwest, to promote the industry. Odin Ink will be joining them this year, representing the new goals of the program and getting some advertising in on the way.

The new goals of the program—to grow in self-publishing and make opportunities available for students and citizens of Portland alike—align perfectly with the personality of the city. PSU students should try to embrace the program. Both its convenience and its pricing ought to appeal to students and faculty.

While the program has lost some of its original capacities—the loss of print-on-demand textbooks is a significant problem, as an example—it is still moving forward. It deserves support, both for what it does for the students of PSU and for its place in the self-publishing community already thriving in Portland. Despite the change in direction, Odin Ink ought to keep going strong.

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