Product Review: HP MagCloud

Product Review: HP MagCloud

PRODUCT: HP MagCloud (magcloud.com)

Retail Price: Free

By Gwen Solomon

With MagCloud, HP’s free online publishing tool, anyone can create professional-looking documents--student information, class notes, curriculum content, yearbooks, literary magazines, or even student-written stories. You can use any desktop publishing, word-processing, or design application to create a MagCloud-ready PDF. Then, upload your PDF to the MagCloud Web site, set your publishing options, and you’ll be able to view and order the publication within minutes or get a free digital download.

Quality and Effectiveness
This online tool excels at what it is intended to do--help you create a professional-looking document that you can print and ship on demand or view online or with an iPad app. (Yes, HP has an iPhone app for that.) It’s free to create your book and the cost of buying it is a very little (essentially the cost of the paper and shipping). You can add to the price and earn a profit (as with most epublications, with a 70-30 split. You get the 70%.) This could be a great way to sell yearbooks or do fund raisers.

Ease of Use
Creating with the online software is easy. It loads and operates efficiently and quickly. Instructions and support materials are clear, concise, and easy to follow. However, the preparation (writing and editing) you do before using the software is the key to having great content. This software can make any content look beautiful.

The instructions are easy and there are only five steps: create, upload, preview, distribute, promote. The hardest part is pre-production. Before you get to step one, you have to think about the end result. You should choose a font style and size that’s easy to read online; add and size your images; format the pages carefully (this is the key to great looking docs) by downloading and using HP’s template or following their directions and advice to design your document.

Creative Use of Technology
If you want a professional-looking document, this is an easy and cost-effective way to get it. It’s an innovative use of technology--putting the means of generating professional-looking publications in the hands of anyone who wants to create.

You get a URL that’s a direct link to your work that you can share, and you can copy the source code for a badge to place on a Web page, blog, or anything you’re using to promote the book. By the way, this is a perfect way to publish your own novel, short story or poetry collection without the usual costs of self-publishing or the hassle.

Suitability for Use in a School Environment
This is great for educators and students to create, publish, and print on demand or download their professional-looking publications. Any teacher who wants to encourage budding writers (or become a writer him/herself) can do it with this tool. However, if you’re looking to place your book in an environment with many other education publications, this site isn’t there yet. Similarly, this is not the place to go for great resources (other than your own, of course,) just yet.

Please note that you have to be a member to create or order a print publication or download a digital copy on a PC; however, you can get a copy of any free eBook by using the app.

OVERALL RATING
You should understand that you have to prepare before you use this software. That you have to write and edit the document is a given, but you also have to make sure that you’ve designed it to look good in Word or with a publishing or design program (following HP’s template or instructions) and then save it as a PDF to upload. You can’t change anything online.

Top Features:

1. The key feature – being able to publish and distribute professional-looking documents - is not usually available to teachers and students. MagCloud provides a wonderful opportunity to publish to any class, grade, subject, etc. Having such a beautiful product is great motivation to do the hard work involved in writing and editing and may inspire students to expend greater effort.

2. The costs are so low. It’s free to create and free to download the document. Print-on-demand is basically the cost of printing (low at 20 cents a page) and shipping (options for USPS and FedEx).

3. MagCloud is easy to use. The hard part is preparation, but once you have that down pat, getting a great-looking document is easy, inexpensive, and rewarding.

To view a sample created by this reviewer, visit http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/408128.