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New product routes print jobs to copy shops via web and campus card

Chris Corum   ||   Aug 27, 2004  ||   , ,

An Orlando, Florida company is bringing on-demand, professional printing quality to students and faculty at a couple U.S. universities. And an agreement with a major player in the university campus card market, Blackboard, gives the growing company a raft of prospective customers.

Sequiam Software’s web-based print job submission program, Print It 123!, is being integrated into the Blackboard Transaction System via the Blackboard Building Blocks program.

“Blackboard has approximately 1,500 colleges and universities as clients with varying student populations,” said Sequiam’s president, David Dobkin.

On its surface, the Sequiam service is nothing more than a printer driver downloaded to the student’s computer. When he wants to print a document, he selects the Sequiam Print It 123! driver that acts just like any printer. Except the job isn’t being deployed to the student’s local ink jet printer. It’s being sent via the web to Sequiam’s Internet server, which then sends the job to the designated print provider, usually the university’s own in-house print shop.

But, said Mr. Dobkin, Sequiam can interface with local print shops as well if things get overloaded at the college print shop.

“On average, each student produces about fifty pages per month. A student who chooses the new offering creates new revenue opportunities for both companies,” said Mr. Dobkin.

The student can also use his campus card to pay for the print job.

Mr. Dobkin explained how the system works:

“Once you’ve signed up for the service (through the university) and you have that driver, you hit file, print, and it’s done. A job ticket will come up, ask for your ID and other information, such as number of copies, the kind of paper, and the binding, if needed.”

There’s a print manager built into the driver that allows the student to track the job and even to preview the finished product. He can also see when the job is done and ready for pickup. Or it can be delivered via the campus mail system, adds Mr. Dobkin.

At the print shop, the document is converted to Postscript and added to the print shop’s list of jobs ready to be printed.

The driver is currently only available for Microsoft Windows 95 and above. There is no driver for the Macintosh Computer, however, Mac users can still avail themselves of the Sequiam system by saving their document as a PDF (Acrobat Reader) file and uploading it to the Sequiam web site.

The cost to the student depends on the complexity, but usually runs about two to four cents a copy, less than what an ink jet costs due to expensive cartridges.

“Typically, a university will come up with some standard price lists,” he said. “We’ll be looking at adding online estimating. If the job is more complex, the print provider will call the student and give him a quote.”

When the student sends the job to the Sequiam printer, “the document is formatted from the get go. It makes sure the printer has all the fonts and all the graphics. It minimizes the back and forth that you get when dealing with a standard print shop,” Mr. Dobkin said.

“In cases where they’re using internal copying operations, you may have printing prices in the range of two cents to three cents for black and white, single-sided copies. Volume prices may be even less. Students are paying as much as eight cents off campus for short runs. When we’re providing services to students, this allows the university to drive more volume at lower costs and ultimately choose to charge students less,” said Mr. Dobkin.

“Typically, we’ll incorporate our system with the student debit card. (This is) one of the reasons we formed a relationship with Blackboard,” he added. So while the student is supporting the service, he is also getting his printing done for less.

When the print job is sent to the Sequiam web service, it automatically checks to make sure there’s money in the student’s account. “The value to the student is that, whether on or off campus, he can produce his jobs at the last minute and pay online in a secure environment and pay less than if he tried to deliver that job to an off-campus operation,” said Mr. Dobkin.

“Sequiam can handle printing not only for faculty and administrators by routing jobs to a centralized location, we can also handle several different locations. And we can support tens of thousands of students who want just-in-time reproduction and who want the flexibility to be able to order jobs from anyplace, anytime.”

One university in Tennessee, he said, wanted to give the student the capability to submit to the student lab as well, “so this software will allow us the flexibility to decide the best way to help the faculty and administration deal with time-sensitive work.”

The agreement with Blackboard has, of course, opened all sorts of doors for Sequiam.

“From our perspective, it’s a wonderful opportunity to create increased visibility with more universities,” said Mr. Dobkin. “It allows us to create a more seamless, high-value service for college students through the Blackboard Building Blocks program.”

The company has really just started marketing the program nationwide within the past month or so. “We’ve had a variety of programs that have been implemented to ensure we’ve got the product right. Now, we’re building a national sales organization. You’ll be seeing us with a number of partnerships, like Blackboard, to make it easier for universities.” He said Sequiam’s agreement with Blackboard “involves targeting about 50 universities, where we’ll help Blackboard expand its offerings.”

“Our relationship with Sequiam further expands the interface capabilities we are able to offer all of our Blackboard Transaction System clients,” said Kathy Turany, Blackboard’s vice president of corporate development, when the agreement was first announced. “As a hosted service, Sequiam’s solutions set will be able to meet the growing demand from our client base for an easy-to-use, Web-based print job submission solution that bears no up-front costs.”

Two universities currently involved with the Sequiam program include Florida State University in Tallahassee and Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

“We’re probably engaged with a half dozen universities in various stages,” said Mr. Dobkin.

In a case study Sequiam performed with FSU, Jennifer Bowers, the university’s director of printing and mailing services said that “by combining Sequiam’s Print It, 123! with print output and student mail services, we capture additional revenues while saving students time and money. Print It, 123! gives us the efficiency to make this a profitable enhancement to our offerings.”

“The value to the university in these relationships,” said Mr. Dobkin, “is that we will engage as the marketing partner in helping bring awareness to the students. This also allows the university to get more efficient utilization of their existing equipment. Typically, we’ll do some form of revenue sharing with the university based on the volume we route. So universities have a new source of revenue with no implementation cost.”

But Sequiam isn’t just sticking with universities. Public schools are another target. In fact, the company is already in two Florida school districts, although only teachers and administrators can access the system.

“For one school system, it has been estimated that we are saving them on the order of $4 million a year by enabling them to avoid the higher costs to use off-school shops. The work is submitted to the district’s in-plant facility and at a much lower cost,” said Mr. Dobkin. “Large school systems might be producing millions of pages a month. The reason these school systems like us so much is that we’re directly impacting their costs. Teachers and administrators don’t have to wait in line and they can combine the resources of 50 to 60 schools at one site and not have to pay additional infrastructure costs.”

Additional resouces:

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