RIT is a leader in the growing arena of on-demand publishing
Gloomy predictions regarding the future of print in the Internet age are highly exaggerated.
Print is alive and thriving – and the Internet is fueling the industry. Online innovators are making it easier than ever to publish books and other printed materials – and the definition of publishing is expanding to include products never before imagined.
“There’s the possibility of doing radical new things,” says Frank Cost ’87 (computer science), professor of digital publishing and printing, co-director of the RIT Printing Industry Center and associate dean of RIT’s College of Imaging Arts and Sciences.
He’s personally explored a few of the possibilities. “I sort of stumbled into an obsessive publishing binge,” he says. It started in January, when he was preparing to present a program on “The Book as a Child of the Internet” for Xerox. Cost’s “instant books” – each created in less than a day – include a multi-image self-portrait called Facing Myself and a biographical photo-tour of his daughter Elaine’s room. He’s given the presentation in England, India, and at Rochester’s Writers & Books “Future of the Book” conference.
“People get really excited about the creative possibilities when they realize that they have easy access to this new technology,” says Cost, who last year published The New Medium of Print: Material Communication in the Internet Age through Cary Graphic Arts Press, RIT’s university press, which publishes scholarly content.
Cost’s “instant books” are among a growing number of publications by faculty, staff and students produced through OpenBook@RIT, a new online publishing venture between RIT Libraries, Lulu.com and ColorCentric Corp. (The Web address is www.lulu.com/OpenBookRIT.)
RIT is the first university to partner with Lulu.com, the world’s fastest-growing source of print-on-demand books. Founded in 2002 by CEO Bob Young (who previously co-founded software company Red Hat), Lulu.com now lists more than 45,000 titles. More than 1,000 new items are added each month.
Lulu.com is one a growing number of online publishers. Others are iUniverse.com (affiliated with Barnes & Noble), authorhouse.com, BookSurge.com (recently acquired by Amazon.com) and a new entry, Blurb.com.
Getting published is remarkably simple: Basically, individuals upload their books to a Web site where they are made available for purchase. The cost to list a book online can be minimal (Lulu charges nothing). The publisher takes a cut of profits after expenses including printing and any fees have been deducted.
Through the Web site, customers anywhere can buy a download of the book (the author may allow free downloads), or purchase a printed copy. The author sets the price.
|Alumni working at ColorCentric Corp. include, from left: Greg M. George ‘81 (business administration), Michael P. Allen ‘80 (computer science), Francis D. Valenza ‘91 (printing management), William P. Caterisano ‘81 (computer science), Dulcie C. Miller ‘05 (ceramics), Ernest G. Weber ‘64 (mechanical engineering), John P. Lacagnina ‘91 (imaging science), Andy Cooney ‘95, ‘00 (criminal justice, MBA), and John M. Lacagnina ‘69 (electrical engineering). Not shown are Bethany Robinson ‘05 (graphic design) and Joseph Lacagnina ‘06 (computer science).
Books are printed and shipped one at a time, as orders are received. ColorCentric Corp., a Rochester-based digital printing company, prints books and other products ordered through Lulu.com and several other Web portals. John Lacagnina ’69 (electrical engineering), is president and CEO, and many company officers and employees are RIT graduates.
Lacagnina started his first on-demand publishing company, Electronic Demand Publishing Inc., in 1991. EDP, which produced such products as manuals for software companies including Novell and Microsoft, grew to four locations in the U.S. and one in Europe before being sold to Kinko’s in 1997. Lacagnina gathered his EDP team together again to launch ColorCentric in 2003.
Lacagnina perceived a demand for “ultra-short-run black-and-white and color printing” – from a single printed piece to a thousand at a time. Advances in digital printing technology – ColorCentric uses all Xerox equipment – make high-quality reproduction possible. ColorCentric’s production process is highly automated, from receipt of an order through printing and binding to shipping. Typically, orders are printed and shipped within 48 hours.
Business is booming. “We do about 60,000 books per month, plus 30,000 to 40,000 pieces in the photo space,” says Lacagnina. “About 350,000 different products per month.”
Here are some of the books by RIT authors published through Lulu.com. For more information, go to www.lulu.com/OpenBookRIT.
• Twelve Seconds at the Lilac Festival; Frank Cost
A sequence of 59 images shot at a continuous rate of five frames per second during Rochester’s famous Lilac Festival.
• Times of Refreshing: A Historical Summary of Revival and Christian Events in Rochester, New York, and the Genesee Valley 1656-2000; Glenn Gifford
The book begins with the arrival of Jesuit Missionaries in 1656 and includes events up until the year 2000.
• Mad Mike; Young Jang
A photo story of a 6-year-old motorcross rider.
• Special Effects Photography; Andrew Davidhazy
Samples of traditional photographic special effects not based on post-capture computer manipulation, with photos by students in RIT’s School of Photographic Arts and Science.
• Projeto Conexao Felipe Camarao; Millard Schisler
A group of RIT photography students visited and photographed a community project in Natal, Brazil that works with children and preserving the local cultural heritage. Produced for the organization, this book is in Portuguese.
• Views Down Under; Marianne Buehler
A calendar of photos taken on the South Island of New Zealand.
• Swimming with Sharks; Jeanne Nagle
A short-story collection.
• The MEGAtome; Jonathan Berman
This pamphlet answers deep spiritual questions, and is part of the MEGAtome, holy book of the MEGAgodonian religion.
Huge growth is anticipated in the “photo space” – digital photo albums, memory books, greeting cards, posters, calendars and other materials – such as Frank Cost’s “instant books” – based on color images.
“We think the photo-finishing market is going to explode,” Lacagnina says. Orders come via Web portals including Qoop.com, Flickr.com, Myspace.com, Facebook.com, Photobucket.com, Lulu.com and others.
An example of what’s possible is Two Years Abroad by Miguel Samper ’03 (information technology). After graduation, Samper spent a year living and working in New Zealand, then visited Nepal, China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Australia, hiking and living out of a backpack. The book, a collection of his memorable photos, was self-produced using Adobe Photoshop and Adobe InDesign.
“I had the technical background to do that,” he says. “Publishing this way was a great opportunity. You have complete control.”
The experience also gave him a business idea. This summer, Samper will be producing photo books for two private camps, which campers and anyone interested will be able to buy online.
Samper’s father, NTID media specialist Jorge Samper, has also published photo books through Lulu.com, including family wedding albums and baby pictures.
This kind of material isn’t destined for the best-seller list, but it’s a good example of what’s possible.
“The technology makes the book as a personal expression so easy,” says Cost. “We’ve never thought of using a book this way.”
Lacagnina calls this “disruptive technology” – it shakes up the traditional publishing industry, where big companies and agents control who gets to publish a book. Big companies can’t afford to take too many risks because conventional publishing – involving the printing of thousands of books at a time in the hope they’ll sell – is very expensive. But that severely limits the sharing of ideas and creative expression.
The future of publishing, Lulu.com CEO Bob Young has said, belongs to “niche-busters – books targeting a niche rather than mass market.”
“On-demand publishing gives power to the individual,” says Lacagnina. “We know this is getting the attention of the traditional publishing world.”
“There are 6 billion people on this world, and each one of them has a story,” he adds.
“Now they can all get published.”
|Christina Bryce '06 at ColorCentric Corp.
As a junior in high school, Christina Bryce ’06 (multidisciplinary studies) was told by a guidance counselor that she wasn’t college material.
But Bryce knew that she didn’t want to spend the rest of her life working in a supermarket. She enrolled in Bucks County (Pa.) Community College in the fall of 2000, and later transferred to RIT.
Achieving her goal of a college degree has been challenging. Bryce decided many other students and parents could benefit from her experience. Her book, College for Me: A College Guide for Students with Attention Deficit Disorder offers advice on finding the right college and tips for college success.
Editorial assistance was provided by Marianne Buehler, head of publishing and scholarship support services in Wallace Library, and book design and graphics were created by Michelle Amerine, a fourth-year new media design and imaging major.
|Miguel Samper '03 at Homer Saddle, New Zealand
Instead of going from RIT directly into the business world, Miguel Samper ’03 (information technology) spent a year living, working and hiking in New Zealand followed by 10 months backpacking through Nepal, China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Australia.
“It sounds like a long time,” says Samper, “but it really went by fast.”
He lived very simply, stretching his funds as much as he could to extend his time abroad. Traveling doesn’t have to be expensive, Samper says.
As a way of preserving and sharing memories of his amazing trip, Samper has published Two Years Abroad, a collection of 50 photographs.
“What I did is not for everybody,” Samper says, “It takes a certain type of personality to be comfortable with the uncertainty.”
To see more of his photos, go to www.samperphotos.com.
|Ryan Pancoast '05 autographs copies of Coast to Coast: The Story of the 2004 Transcontinental Relay Run at a celebration of the book's publication.
On the run
The RIT cross-country team had a mission: Run a 2,730-mile continuous relay from the Pacific Ocean to the coast of the Atlantic in less than two weeks. Mission accomplished in 12 days, 3 hours and 48 minutes.
The team’s amazing feat is documented in Coast to Coast: The Story of the 2004 Transcontinental Relay Run by Ryan Pancoast ’05 (illustration). His 17 teammates contributed passages.
“The team knew it was essential to put the events of the run onto paper before our memories faded,” said Pancoast, of Stratford, Conn. “I was elected to head the project, but soon after I began compiling the runners’ stories, collecting photographs and writing a day-by-day account, I realized that creating a book like this was, at times, more daunting than running across the country.”
Jim Castor, assistant sports editor of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, and Marianne Buehler, head of publishing and scholarship support services at RIT’s Wallace Library, served as editors for the Coast to Coast project.
The run, which took place in November 2004, helped commemorate RIT’s 175th anniversary and also paid tribute to a 1979 coast-to-coast run celebrating the university’s 150th anniversary. The 1979 team completed its run in 14 days, 4 hours, and 8 minutes, which at the time was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.