Beaming over a Book

Wired 2.10, October 1994

Picture a network of scanners, printers, and servers around the country that digitally prints and binds books, while keeping track of copyright holders and royalty payments. An experiment in scanning fragile books and using the images for interlibrary loans between universities has led to the Xerox Documents on Demand system. Some 107 clients have signed up, led by universities such as Harvard, Cornell, and Yale. According to Steve Hall, director of the office of information technology at Harvard, the system is being used by professors to create custom books for courses.

Royalties can either be managed by the publisher or by a third party like the Copyright Clearance Center, since copyright-handling is built into the Documents on Demand software.

Xerox envisions copy shop networks doing a brisk business printing books for consumers, much as they handle faxes today. Xerox is billing this as an open system and permitting other hardware vendors to connect to the Documents on Demand network.

But a new, more advanced operating system, scheduled for release this fall, called DocuSp, will be proprietary to Xerox. Lisa Freeman, Director of the University of Minnesota Press, would like to see an open operating system for electronic publishing. "Xerox is using a propriety file format," she says. "If they were to get on the interoperability bandwagon, we'd see it as really appealing."

The basic system, which doesn't include a high-quality printer, starts around US$28,500. A top-of-the-line printer will add up to US$290,000. For more information contact Xerox Corporation: +1 (716) 422 1041.

by David S. Bennahum