21 July 2013 Digital Printing Technologies

Swedes hope that on the spot print will rescue magazines

A kiosk system for consumers to pay for any magazine to be printed while they wait is about to go on trial.

A Swedish venture to offer travellers and consumers a magazines on demand service has gone liv after six months of testing in hotels, supermarkets and airports. The Meganews kiosk houses a credit card reader and Ricoh print engine allowing users to order and pay for one of 200 magazines published by key publishers in Sweden including Bonnier Group.

The idea was launched a year ago by a Swedish journalist and has been supported by Ricoh which sees tremendous opportunities should the idea take off as predicted. It has adapted its Pro C751 print engine to fit inside the kiosk unit. As well as technology support, there is VC backing and from design company LA+B which may be crucial on making the concept from a technology to something that consumers wish to use.

A key element to the strategy is that print on demand will allow publishers to cut initial print runs, but not loose out on sales because consumers will be able to purchase a magazine on the spot.

The company will position in kiosks in high footfall locations over the next six months. It has already identified Skavsta Airport in Stockholm, the main Karolinska Hospital, Elite Park Avenue Hotel and Ving hotels and ICA supermarkets. The idea is to identify locations where newspapers and magazines are not normally sold.

Having lined up the major Swedish publishers, Meganews is now talking with overseas publishers it says. This would open the way to moving Meganews kiosks to other countries. But first the concept has to prove its worth.

As well as the economic argument for publishers, the company is stressing the ecological story of print on demand. The percentage of returns in consumer magazines is still around 40% the company says, publications that are recycled, but which have already accumulated a substantial carbon footprint in production and distribution. The company estimates that this gives a magazine printed on the spot a carbon footprint of 60% of the standard printed magazine.

However, there is no guarantee of success. Consumers may not take to digitally printed versions of a magazine compared to the litho versions and may prefer to access an iPad version rather than print on demand if their title is out of stock.

The Expresso book machine which uses a Xerox engine to print and bind books on demand has enjoyed only limited success, with fewer than 70 installations worldwide seven years after the first was delivered. Nor has NewspaperDirect, a print on demand network for newspapers, taken the world by storm. Its business model, based on print only, has been extended to include delivery to tablets and mobile phones. There are a handful of outlets around Sweden.

NewspaperDirect has none of the pizzazz of the Meganews kiosk. User experience will be crucial. A touch screen interface guides the user through the choice of magazine, credit card payment and then after waiting two minutes, receipt of the finished magazine.