Saturday, April 25, 2009

"Why, yes. I think I'll have some fries with my book, thank you."

What do you think of a machine that can churn out a fully printed book on demand in just a few minutes? With this machine, a bookstore need not carry any actual physical inventory (aside from paper and ink). All the bookstore will need is a digitized database of titles and their texts, ready to be printed and bound anytime. It sounds as easy and as convenient as hitting the "Print" button for your inkjet or photocopier, and at a higher quality, too.

This isn't science-fiction. It's here! Check out this article. An excerpt:

It's not elegant: it looks like a large photocopier. But the Espresso Book Machine could herald the biggest change for the literary world since Gutenberg invented his printing press more than 500 years ago.

Unveiled today at Blackwell's Charing Cross Road branch, in central London, the machine prints and binds books in five minutes.

Blackwell believes the introduction signals the end to the frustration of being told a title is out of print or not in stock. The Espresso offers access to almost half a million books, from a facsimile of Lewis Carroll's original manuscript for Alice in Wonderland to Mrs Beeton's Book of Needlework.

The company hopes to increase the catalogue to more than a million titles by the end of the summer, the equivalent of 23.6 miles of shelf space or more than 50 bookshops rolled into one. The majority of these books are out of copyright, but Blackwell is working with UK publishers to increase access to in-copyright writing. So far the response has been overwhelmingly positive, the firm says.

"This could change bookselling fundamentally," said Blackwell's chief executive, Andrew Hutchings. "It's giving the chance for smaller locations, independent booksellers, to have the opportunity to truly compete with big stock-holding shops and Amazon ... I like to think of it as the revitalisation of the local bookshop industry. If you could walk into a local bookshop and have access to one million titles, that's pretty compelling."

The Charing Cross Road machine is the first to be set up in a UK bookstore. It cost Blackwell about £120,000, but Phill Jamieson, head of marketing, said: "It has the potential to be the biggest change since Gutenberg."

Time Magazine also featured it as one of the best inventions of the year.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

does this mean you'd be giving away the publishing rights if you have your book available for printing in one of these machines?

8:40 AM  
Blogger pgenrestories said...

Hi, Anonymous.

I'm not sure how this setup with the publishers will work, but I suspect that there will be a way for the publishers and authors to keep count of how many times their books are ordered, and a certain percentage of the SRP will go back to them. Also, I think that a fixed "publishing fee" might be assigned to the bookstore for the right to "print and bind" titles that are in their lists.

10:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check out

10:02 PM  
Blogger pgenrestories said...

Hi, Anonymous. Thanks for the link! I've heard of them too, but their business model seems to be geared toward self-publishing. I'm not sure if they have a database of books that you can order piecemeal.

Nevertheless, I think their machines are terrific too. Imagine, authors can print their own works in book-form quickly, like pressing the button on a photocopier. Man, if I had the budget, I'd get one myself, (Someone told me they cost above P3M per, and that doesn't include the computer hardware yet).

10:37 AM  

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