Waiting for Darwin
In many ways, a marketplace is like a population of living organisms. With pressure, it evolves, and behavior changes. We've seen advances in communication technologies combine with a dynamic economy to alter consumer expectations. Services like on-demand, just-in-time and digital printing evolved to fill the niche provided by consumers' new-found need for speed. Players in the book space have been slow to adopt Internet print procurement solutions, but e-commerce companies are hopeful that the climate will change.
E-procurement, in short, involves securing print services over the Internet via auction or other Web-enabled methodology. Companies like 58k.com focus almost exclusively on online auctioning. Others, such as Noosh, printCafe.com, Impresse, Colla-bria and httprint.com are more diversified. They offer collaboration and project management services in addition to e-procurement. They believe their interfaces can handle, describe and track all aspects of a print job from start to finish, allowing all participants to communicate completely online.
In the last few years there has been a lot of hype about e-procurement. Tremendous investment capital poured in from Wall Street; the new business models would transform the face of print commerce. The mere existence of the technology would lead to its adoption. Well, it's been a few years and the book industry doesn't look much different.
Both book manufacturers and e-commerce executives agree that initial e-procurement expectations were unrealistic for these fledgling companies. According to Robin Michalisko, former director of marketing for Printbid.com, "There was no historical data. When most industries spring up, you can plot your future based on similar businesses. We all found out that spending in the marketplace doesn't necessarily drive activity and adoption. You can certainly create a buzz and drive your stock up, but there has been way too much value put on companies that haven't proven themselves." Printbid.com closed its doors earlier this year.