I love the idea of print-on-demand, like over at Lulu.com. You can write a book or booklet, upload the text to Lulu and they’ll take over the printing. Hardcopy, softcopy, whatever. They’ll even walk you through buying an ISBN number, so your text can be listed on Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
It reminds me of mass customization, but it isn’t quite, since there’s not much customization going on there. Just print on demand in various formats. On the other hand, a place like Beyond Fleece is truly doing mass customization. These guys are an Oregon company, based in Eugene. They make excellent outdoor apparel that’s custom built to your body style. You load up your measurements and they create a custom pattern and laser-cut your selected fabric immediately. The fabric is sewn up by local tailors, the the product goes through QC and is shipped to you. They’ve apparently dialed in their methods so they can ramp production up and down on demand. My only beef with them is that their website is kinda clunky and there are a few spelling errors (tailors, not taylors). That concerns me. Virtually all their business goes through their website. If they aren’t paying attention to the details on that most public face of the company, where else aren’t they paying attention to details? I’ll see in a few days…just ordered a jacket for my wife’s birthday (yeah, it’s not a surprise).
As a side note, I know Land’s End does some mass customization of all kinds of clothes too–jeans, slacks, dress shirts. Though I’m a longtime Land’s End customer, I’ve never ordered custom stuff from them. It must be working though, because they’ve been at it for a few years now.