Trend: Will instant publishing lead to new techniques and forms of distribution?

0

“In the digital age, storytelling has changed dramatically,” says Dr. Hannes Steiner, founder of the start-up story.one. But the publishing world has not adapted to this and has not changed either, he noted at the Online Print Symposium 2024 in Munich – not without a vision of how this could be changed.

For example, books have not yet followed the trend towards “short formats” – as can be seen on tiktok or even on YouTube with the “shorts” – even though the number of genuine bestseller titles is constantly falling and publishers themselves are under increasing cost pressure. Meanwhile, authors often have their own community and could theoretically publish books themselves. And this is exactly where story.one comes in. “Because we believe that everyone has a story to tell, even if less than one percent of people currently write their own book,” says Hannes Steiner. The world has become faster and shorter – and the book hasn’t yet. This is exactly where we want to fill a gap.”

However, with story.one, Steiner, who himself comes from a traditional publishing house, has created an integrative, dynamic, fast and intuitive platform on which anyone can share their personal stories – regardless of genre – simply, quickly and to a global audience. At the same time, story.one is not just a tool, but also a community with more than 100,000 users and over 10,000 authors. “It’s not a publishing house, it’s not self-publishing. It’s something completely unique. For me, it’s something like ‘the tiktok for books’,” says the founder.

The concept behind story.one

With story.one, Steiner is committed to a vision that will reach millions of creative authors, foster deep connections between readers and writers and enable people around the world to tell and share their stories – and even write together. story.one books are standardized in format and size: they contain between 12 and 17 chapters, each with 3 pages of text and space for images, graphics or QR codes. After a review by story.one, the book can be published directly via story.one, including an ISBN number and the author’s own page on the platform. It currently takes around two weeks before the authors can hold their books in their hands. The print runs vary from 1 copy to bestseller print runs of 20,000 and more.

Twice a year, authors, for whom writing and publishing their books via story.one is free of charge – except for their own orders or when special (cover) designs are used – are paid royalties for their freely sold copies.

Incidentally, story.one is playing into the hands of tiktok’s “book-tok” trend, which is primarily attracting people from Generation Z to the platform. “This is a trend that we can pick up on well. Fast, sustainable, local and that is the strong driver of our platform,” says Hannes Steiner.

Thalia on board

The partnership with the bookstore chain Thalia, which has been a minority shareholder since last year, opens up additional new avenues and gives story.one authors even greater visibility, as the books published via the platform are also available from booksellers and are also physically displayed in individual flagship stores. “Anyone can make it onto Thalia’s bookshelf independently,” summarizes the expert.

The fact that the concept has been well received is also reflected in the figures: almost 8,000 books were published via story.one last year – “that’s around 10 to 15% of all new publications in the DACH region”.

Books as a communication channel for companies

The next step is to make the offer appealing to companies – the “third form of disruption on the book market” according to Steiner. This means that companies are recognizing that “books can be the most sustainable form of communication for companies,” says Steiner. “What other medium makes it onto people’s desserts?”.

And his vision goes even further: “What concerns us greatly is the time it takes for something to reach the book market,” explains Steiner. That is why he is also looking at how a book can be printed immediately – customized and on site by the bookseller. The fact that the books are only available in one format naturally helps the concept. But to make things even more exciting, Steiner revealed: “We have exclusive access to a patent that will enable us to print directly on site and ‘on-premise’ in the future.”

A déjà vu from a bygone era

The revolutionary idea of printing books in a bookshop seems somehow familiar to us. Back in 2000, we were introduced to the idea of a “book printing machine” during a trip to Israel. The Israeli company Aprion Digital, founded in 1999, spoke of a machine called BookNet that would produce refined, high-quality single copies in less than ten minutes – complete with color covers. Books of up to 600 pages were also supposed to be possible.

At the time, Aprion had inkjet printing machines with an output of 204 m2/hour on a wide range of different substrates. A laboratory version already reached 10 m/s for printing from the roll, a speed that reaches into the range of modern rotary presses. The multiple array technology delivered water- and scratch-resistant and lightfast prints with water-based inks.

But Aprion Digital’s visions came to nothing. Scitex Vision recaptured the Scitex spin-off in 2002, only to be taken over by HP in 2005. Since then, nothing more has been heard of the Aprion visions. Whether there were technical or corporate political hurdles that caused the ideas to die, we do not know. In any case, the vision seems to have been forgotten.

Book printing machine revolution?

Yet such a machine, a “book printing machine”, would be a revolution in the distribution of books and ingenious for the “distribute and print” concept: readers could order books on the Internet, pick them up in a bookshop shortly afterwards or receive them by post the next day and a title that is out of print would be available again in a very short time with such technology – wherever there is such a machine.

However, that is probably the catch. A global network would have to be set up for the book data, which could be downloaded and printed quickly. This would require a correspondingly large number of printing machines to be installed at defined locations – not just in bookstores. It would have to be ensured that books from the vending machines are no worse in quality and no more expensive than conventionally printed books. Logistics for consumables and a service team would have to be established. And a functioning payment system would have to be introduced for publishers, authors, vending machine operators and retailers who install such a system.

This means much more than just designing and manufacturing a machine. But who will dare to do this and who will get started? Not only would they have to contend with the technical and logistical hurdles mentioned above, they would also have to deal with the well-trodden paths of the publishing and book business. And why should Canon or HP, for example, bring such a machine onto the market when they can send their existing high-speed web and sheetfed presses into the race for book printing, with Muller Martini, Horizon or whoever in print shops taking care of the finishing?

Driving force behind a new form of book distribution 

It is therefore reasonable to assume that there will be no new global concept for book marketing any time soon. The idea behind story.one is still the vision of a synergy between modern printing technology and the democratization of storytelling. Although the idea is now an island disconnected from the rest of the book industry, it could well provide the impetus for a new and different form of book distribution. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

Summary
Trend: Will instant publishing lead to new techniques and forms of distribution?
Article Name
Trend: Will instant publishing lead to new techniques and forms of distribution?
Description
"In the digital age, storytelling has changed dramatically," says Dr. Hannes Steiner, founder of the start-up story.one. But the publishing world has not adapted to this and has not changed either, he noted at the Online Print Symposium 2024 in Munich - not without a vision of how this could be changed. For example, books have not yet followed the trend towards "short formats" - as can be seen on tiktok or even on YouTube with the "shorts" - even though the number of genuine bestseller titles is constantly falling and publishers themselves are under increasing cost pressure.
Author
Publisher Name
Beyond-print.net

Leave A Comment