(L to R) Pearson’s director of global direct procurement Stephen Jones, Ashford Colour Press MD Rob Hutcheson, and Tim Cooper of Consulting Garage were part of the panel at the HP Piazza launch event


Aiming to “reinvent publishing”, HP has introduced Piazza, a cloud-based software suite that will connect publishers and printers to enable efficient production of multiple book-of-one orders using HP and other manufacturers’ digital presses.

Announced alongside the London Book Fair, Piazza has been three years in the making and is the result of extensive consultation by HP with publishers and book printers, including a technology demonstration at drupa 2016. The Piazza cloud-based software allows content to be uploaded, optimised for output on HP digital presses (both high speed inkjet PageWide models and Indigo sheet-fed presses), metadata such as ISBN number and author information attached, orders managed and tracked and routed to production sites using the SiteFlow component of HP’s PrintOS production management software.

The Piazza element, which will be supplied under software-as-a-service terms with an initial integration fee, annual support contract and transactional charges, is the only part relevant to publishers. However, printers may choose to run both it and SiteFlow in order to offer a complete portfolio management, ordering, production and delivery service to smaller publishing houses. Printers must have at least one HP printing device to be eligible for SiteFlow, but the system can route jobs to other devices, including CtP output for litho print as well as other vendors’ digital presses, albeit without the same level of file optimisation for output.

The first adopters are British based educational publisher Pearson and Hampshire-based Ashford Colour Press who have been using the software since late December 2017. Rob Hutcheson, MD of Ashford Colour Press, said that despite a ‘huge learning curve’ the HP solution was ‘by far the best we were offered. It runs seamlessly in the background and holds the job’s hand right through to dispatch.’

Speaking to Digital Printer at the launch event, HP’s publishing innovation manager Michelle Weir explained that Piazza would help publishers and printers ‘change the business model from handling one order for 10,000 books to 10,000 orders for one book’. As well as handling production-specific tasks like batching and imposition, the system implements a rules-based approach to routing jobs to print sites anywhere in the world that have suitable print and finishing capabilities.

Nancy Janes, HP’s global head of brand innovation, stressed that Piazza is a platform for future development. While publishing is the first application, serialisation to combat illegal copying, and eventually interactivity, customisation – in educational publishing, for example – and personalisation will also be supported; the technology is also potentially applicable to packaging production.