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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 March 2006, 05:38 GMT
Online publisher's European move
Bob Young with desk and chair built from books
Mr Young hopes to take publishing "from the hands of the elite"
The world's fastest-growing producer of print-on-demand books, Lulu.com, has announced plans for five new European sites as part of its global expansion.

Lulu allows readers to download single copies of books stored on its site without needing huge print runs, and thus helps would-be authors into print.

The five new sites, to be phased in, will be in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Holland.

More than 1,000 new titles a week are now published on Lulu.

That is more than twice the combined output of North America's 10 largest traditional publishers.

Software designer

Lulu will also start printing books in the UK this month for the new European market, and will open a European office in London this summer.

The UK site will also be upgraded to enable authors to sell in sterling instead of dollars.

Lulu is the brainchild of Bob Young, a Canadian entrepreneur who helped re-invent the software industry and break Bill Gates' stranglehold on computer operating systems.

He was the founder of Red Hat, the Linux software company that has mounted a serious challenge to Microsoft.

'Easy as blogging'

What eBay did for auctions - "enabling the hidden 90% of would-be sellers" - the 51-year-old from Hamilton, Ontario, hopes to do for publishing and would-be authors.

As well as helping budding writers, his site also gives photographers, video-makers, musicians and designers - who might normally be rejected by the mainstream outlets - the chance to get their works published.

"We're removing publishing from the hands of an elite and opening it up to thousands of new authors, by making it as easy to publish a book as is to launch a blog," he said. "Lulu will let you sell anything on your hard disk: whether a book, a song, a photograph, a calendar or a piece of software."

The name Lulu comes from an old-fashioned slang term meaning "a remarkable person, object or idea".

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