knk recently interviewed Michelle Weir, the Global Publishing Innovation Manager at Hewlett Packard Inc., as part of knk’s continuing series of interviews with thought leaders serving the book publishing industry and its supporting communities. Ms. Weir is a veteran in the publishing industry and conceived, designed and championed HP’s Piazza product line that provides global Print to Order capabilities for publishers, large and small.

Before developing Piazza, Ms. Weir wondered why there was not more movement from offset to digital workflows. It soon became clear to her that what could have moved to POD had already been moved. She saw POD as a mostly one-to-one relationship, meaning that one publisher worked primarily with one printing organization, and together they negotiated custom integration between themselves. But what happened if the relationship with the printer ran into challenges? Recovering content files from a printer that is no longer available for a myriad of reasons, is not easy. Piazza changed the rules. When a customer places an order, it is passed directly to Piazza, and printed and shipped directly and locally to the customer, whether in quantities of 1 or 100,000, partnering with HP’s global network of printers. The difference for the publisher is scale and ultimate flexibility (one point of integration) – and a huge reduction in book miles. If an order needs shipment to Singapore, Piazza enables printing and shipping from Singapore.

Controls and rules are defined by the publishers who are no longer restricted by custom contracts with individual printers. Equally important, the assets are stored securely, one-time in HP’s cloud, independent of format. Quality is not an issue as it all comes down to that one-time asset definition in a title profile that is agnostic to variations of printer, destination and format. The challenge for Piazza is not technical or logistical – it’s largely the “print-first – sell later” mindset of many publishers.

This led us into a discussion of the general challenges facing the industry today. Change is a constant, and Michelle thinks that the way the industry is adapting to change IS the biggest challenge. Specifically, she thinks that publishers are struggling with how to keep their content relevant, and in a format with which consumers want to engage. Secondly, she sees a key issue is pricing. For example, in the Higher Ed market, textbooks are no longer a license to print money. Publishers need a reset on the value and delivery model of their content, and whether it’s in print or digital, it needs to be made available identically and concurrently – especially in the higher ed sector. And thirdly, how can publishers concentrate all their separate silos of public solutions together, so they can scale?

We talked about pricing of college textbooks as an example. They have been priced between $150 and $300 for years, with few updates in many subjects. With other options now available, students are baulking at those prices, that opened the market up to competition from resellers, rental programs, online courses, to book sharing, to piracy and beyond. Instead of revising the price points, Higher Ed publishers were slow to take action. Students were very clearly prepared and willing to find alternatives to those prices, and all that publishers had to do, to keep that business (and a locked-in long term customer) was to provide different access methods at reasonable prices. They’re beginning to catch on, she says. Michelle says that trade is different from the educational markets as it’s a recreational rather than a professional activity, and consumers actually prefer the tactile feel of a printed book when they read for pleasure and not business.

We dug in a little deeper on her suggestion that content has to be current and relevant in the educational and professional segments. Trade has different issues as it’s an entertainment medium, with its constant churn in creating new solutions and keeping authors happy. Michelle believes that huge opportunities exist in having content “always available” for delivery, especially in managing backlists. The ability to Print to Order with products like Piazza, is that it creates significant revenue options for global printing and distribution, and cost savings by diminishing book-miles for example. She also believes that technology can play a major role in the future against piracy. Using the example of Piazza, the files are dropped, encrypted to the point of print and then deleted, other than in the centrally secured storage point.

Michelle Weir is the Global Publishing Innovation Manager at HP where she is responsible for the development of HP Piazza’s solution, including design, creation, and product definition.  Michelle has twenty-five plus years’ experience in the Publishing segment, focused on the transformation of traditional publishing workflows, applications, and manufacturing, and has spent the last ten years specializing in Education Publishing, supporting the transition to a new Education Eco-system. Prior to joining HP, Michelle worked for Xerox Corporation where she was awarded the Xerox Presidents Award in 1997 for her work on Xerox’s digital workflow platform. Michelle is an active member of the Book Industry Study Group and the Book Manufacturing Institute.  She was recently awarded BMI’s Cased in Award for her 20-plus year support of the book printing industry.  If you are interested in more information about Piazza please go to the following link

knk Software ( is a global software solutions provider focused solely on the publishing and media industry with over 450 customers on three continents.

(Photo by Bank Phrom on Unsplash)