If you can make a PDF, you can now publish a magazine.

At least that’s how Derek Powazek, co-founder of JPG magazine, is pitching MagCloud, a print-on-demand service that Powazek spent a year developing with HP Labs. The project, currently in beta, allows users to upload pages in PDF; MagCloud handles the rest: “printing, mailing, subscription management, and more.”

“It’s the future of magazine publishing,” Powazek wrote in a blog post announcing the launch.

“If you look at the history of media and technology, ‘gate-kept’ media almost always falls when an empowering technology comes along,” Powazek wrote in an e-mail to FOLIO:. “MagCloud wants to be the people’s printing press.”

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The price-point will undoubtedly appeal to independent, niche and do-it-yourself publishers—those residing at the end of the so-called "Long Tail." It costs you nothing to upload a magazine. The base cost of buying a magazine costs about 20 cents per page, plus shipping ($1.40 per copy up to nine copies; $13 for a box that can hold 100 magazines). Magazines are printed, full-color, on 80-lb. paper stock and saddle-stitched.

The creator of the magazine can then set the price per issue, earning all proceeds above the base price per issue. Individuals can sign up for a free account during the beta period, while publishers can request an invite to the site.

Remixing a ‘Giant Pile’

Powazek thinks the service can benefit larger publishers by allowing them to “remix” the content or even enable their readers to do it themselves—what he calls a “custom printed edition.” According to Powazek, “anyone, even a big-time publisher, could create riskier products and see if they find an audience, because creating the magazine itself is free.”

One of the reasons Powazek is developing MagCloud, he says, is to eliminate the “giant pile” of unsold magazines—some 70 percent, if you go by the industry’s 30 percent sell-through average—with an on-demand publishing service that is magazine-specific. “The traditional model sucks,” he says. “MagCloud enables anyone to start a magazine—a real printed magazine—with no giant pile.”

Andrew Bolwell, director, HP corporate ventures, while sounding not quite as brash as Powazek, is nonetheless bullish on digital printing. “[I’m] not sure if [MagCloud is] the future, but it’s definitely a future of publishing, where online and print publishing coexist and complement,” Bolwell wrote. “We believe that publishing is going through a fundamental socio and technologic shift—publishing is being democratized, print is becoming personal, users are demanding choice in what content they consume and how they consume it, and fulfillment is on demand. Digital printing is an enabler for this.”

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