Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Interview with Nick Warnock, Atiz
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
There's been a lot of attention lately given to Google's efforts to digitize books for libraries, as well controversy over the firm's licensing efforts with publishers. It turns out, one of the companies supplying book scanning devices for libraries and others--Atiz (www.atiz.com)--is located here in Los Angeles. We thought it might be interesting to hear more about the business, so we caught up with Nick Warnock, CEO of the firm.
Let's talk about your product first, tell us about your hardware?
Nick Warnock: We manufacture a book scanner, that digitizes bound content using digital cameras. We use a Camera SLR camera, which works with any of our three products out there.
What's the story behind how you started the company?
Nick Warnock: I used to sell copiers for Xerox--hardware and software. Then, I ended up on The Apprentice--the show where Donald Trump fires people, which ended up connecting me with my partner, who reached out to me at a speaking engagement I had five years ago. We developed an automatic book scanner. Our first product had challenges, but we moved very quickly to change that up, and ended up with our current product, the Bookdrive DYI. It did very, very well, and based on all of the feedback we received, we designed our latest product, the Bookdrive Pro. Our customers are academic libraries, service bureaus, and anyone else who wants to digitize a bound book, without destroying the bindings. We're different than what else is out there. Book scanners can cost anywhere from $27,000 to as much as $200,000--but we offer a solution under $10,000 for everything. If a customer has room in their budget, they can go up to the Bookdrive Pro, which is around $14,000 to $15,000. Plus, our system never becomes obsolete, if there are newer and better cameras, you can upgrade your camera without changing the scanning platform or software package. It's very easy to use, and portable, but the primary selling point is it is inexpensive and gentle on books because of our V-shaped book cradle.
Why would someone buy your hardware, rather than perhaps working with a service bureau?
Nick Warnock: It's a win-win situation. Say you have a deed book--they're gigantic, cumbersome, and huge books. You can't put that on a flat bed scanner. There are Universities, who have unique content that only they have, and they use the product to digitize that, and preserve it and keep a copy of it.
How does this compare to Google's efforts to help digitize books from libraries?
Nick Warnock: The way Google works, is they will go to library A, and tell them they'll digitize the library. They say, we'll set up shop, don't worry about it, and we get a copy, and you get a copy too. But, there are some institutions who want to keep it unique, who don't want to share those books, because Google is monetizing them. Google books will come up with ads along side them.
If you ask me what our position is on it, I think it helps us, because everyone is talking about digitizing bound content, and we win both ways. It's been incredible, absolutely, raising the profile of all the companies digitizing bound books.
It does seem the market is fairly early?
Nick Warnock: We haven't even scratched the service. I hope in fifty years, or maybe a hundred years, we will have a repository of information that is searchable, in any book every written or published, in any language, where it's been worked out with publishers. You could use a Google search or smart search of all the text, which had been OCR'd. It's incredible to think about have everything that's ever been written, all digitized in one repository.
Do you run into any problems with publishers and your products?
Nick Warnock: It is something that to mind, but for us, our product is no different than a DVD burner, a Xerox copier, or a flat bed scanner. We state clearly in our manual that all copyright laws must be followed. It's just like making a copy on a copier--that's pretty much all we are. It's up to the user what they do with the information.
Talk more about the Apprentice and how you ended up on the show, and how that experience was--it seems we often run into entrepreneurs who have been on the show.
Nick Warnock: I used to sell Xerox copiers to law firms and accounting firms, along with archiving software. I was selling door to door and making phone calls, with a real good niche there in West LA. From there, I tried to sell a copier to the executive producer of Survivor. I kept going back, knocking on the door of his production company, and ended up getting to know folks there. When the Apprentice got out, they thought I was good enough to be on there, and I got on the first season. Little did I know it would become a monster show, and based on the success of that show, did pretty well. I was doing speaking engagements, and running programs for Universities and corporate buyers. When I was doing that, my partner right now, reached out with this idea, working on an automatic page turning book scanner. I was intrigued, because it was essentially a copier for books with software, so we raised some money to start the company.
Was being on the show an advantage?
Nick Warnock: It changed my life, I ended up being a correspondent for MSNBC, I booked acting work from it, but this--my company right now--is the best thing to come from the show. We were able to create a product, and sell it to huge institutions, and I've been very happy. We'll be in our fourth year in January, and we continue to innovate, and there's a whole product line of things we're working on.