US: University sells digital titles on Booksurge

The University of Michigan's library has partnered with Booksurge, a print-on-demand service owned by Internet retailer Amazon, to make thousands of rare and out-of-print books available for one-off printing through digitisation.

Customers will be able to browse more than 400,000 titles on Amazon.com where the digital files can be printed on demand by Booksurge and shipped to the buyer in as little as two days.

All of the titles are public domain and were scanned into digital files through the university's internal scanning programme and a partnership with search engine Google over the last five years.

According to Maria Bonn, director of scholarly publishing at the library, more than 3 million titles have been scanned.

"Our purpose in scanning the books was not to create new print books; it's more to preserve the books and give online access to them. But [reprinting] is one thing that becomes a possibility once they're scanned," says Bonn.

In June, the university shipped 100,000 digital book files in the digital TIFF format to Booksurge for processing. Bonn says some titles have already been showing up for sale.

The last 300,000 files will be sent in coming months. Meanwhile, Google and the prestigious library will continue to digitise the university's literary collection. "We're hoping to add more titles over time," she says.

The printed titles will look and feel like normal paperbacks though they will all look the same due to the template cover used by the printers, she adds.

Booksurge and the University of Michigan will split the revenue from sales. Bonn says book prices will be on par or slightly lower than a mass-produced book because prices are based on production costs.

If a book has only 100 pages, it could be less than US$10. If a book requires 750 pages, it will cost closer to US$40. Most books will be priced in the low teens, Bonn says.

The digitised titles scanned by the university and Google are not just available on Booksurge., Readers can peruse their favourite digital literature for free on the library's website or buy them in digital format from Google Book Search.