Portland State University just got one of three machines in the country that will give professors an affordable way to produce on-demand textbooks and frustrated authors a quick way to turn their novels into print.
The university has teamed with Hewlett-Packard and Lulu, an online self-publishing service, to set up a print-on-demand machine called Odin Ink. The sophisticated small roll press cranks out books behind a counter on the upper floor of the university's bookstore.
Anyone can publish a 300-page paperback book with a color cover for $11.95. The bookstore will publish anywhere from a single book to thousands of copies. Books with color pages cost more, starting at $18.95 for the first 100 pages.
The machine will allow professors to produce textbooks tailored to their needs at lower costs because the book store does not have to pay for shipping, said Kenneth Brown, president and chief executive officer of the bookstore.
During a gathering to introduce the printing machine earlier this month, Brown had on hand dozens of copies of a paperback book featuring "Selected Works of Edgar Allan Poe." Portland State employees designed and produced the book on the printing machine in a day, he said.
He also held up a glossy-covered, paperback textbook called "Microprocessor System Design –Hardware, Programming and Interfacing" by Douglas V. Hall, professor of electrical and computer engineering at PSU. The book, printed by Odin Ink, will cost students $15, or 40 percent less than what they would pay if the book was shipped, Brown said.
Hall said the book is a draft copy of a textbook that he can try out on his students before making final revisions for the hard-bound version that will be published and distributed by McGraw-Hill.
The machine can produce the 100 copies he needs for his classes, and he can quickly print more as needed. Other professors can use it to produce their course packets, he said.
"The key thing is it allows me to give the students the latest, greatest material from my computer and use it in class," he said.
The publishing machine is being piloted at Portland State University at no cost to the bookstore, Brown said. Two other machines are being tested at Arizona State University and the University of Kansas, he said.
To produce a book, authors first need to go to a Lulu website -- www.lulu.com/partners/odinink/signup -- where they can digitally format their book and design its cover at no cost. They then must download that information onto a portable storage device such as a thumb drive and take it to the PSU Bookstore, where it is loaded into the machine for publishing. Lulu gets a small commission for each book produced on the press.
During the presentation of the new machine last week, an urban studies professor offered a thumb drive containing the textbook he's been working on. Lulu representatives quickly formatted the book and fed it into the press, producing a book for him in 30 minutes, Brown said.
Professors will be able to use the press to print at least some books and offer them to students at a lower price. An English professor, for example, could use the machine to produce copies of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility," which is available in the public domain, for less than it would cost to ship the book from another publisher. In addition, the professor could tailor the book to his class by adding questions, critical essays and study guides, Brown said.
The bookstore has heard from several professors interested in using the machine to produce their textbooks, Brown said. At least three members of the public have used Odin Ink to self-publish in the last two weeks, he said.
The Ooligan Press, the company operated by students in PSU's master's degree book publishing program, also is exploring ways to use the machine as is the university library.
The new technology will contribute to "the way we learn and the way we entertain ourselves," said Glen Hopkins, Hewlett-Packard's vice president for printing technology platforms, during the machine's introduction last week.
"We just can't wait to see how you use it here in the coming months," he said.