There is an interesting article in the New York Times about the Espresso Book Machine which can, on demand, print and bind a book in less than fifteen minutes. The machine will be at the Science, Industry and Business Library in New York until early September, producing free books from a small list. The two other machines in existence are located in Washington, at the bookstore of the World Bank, and in Alexandria, Egypt, at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.
The book machine is a demonstration project of On Demand Books, which is pitching it principally toward the nation’s 16,000 public libraries and 25,000 bookstores. The machine, which may eventually sell for $20,000 or more, can produce a 300-page book for a costs of about $3. A bookstore or library could then sell it to customers or library members at cost or at a markup.
So whats the point of such a machine?
According to Dane Neller of On Demand Books, the machine “is for the ‘far end of the back list,’ those books that are out of print or for which there is so little demand that it would be too costly to print a few hundred copies, let alone one… With the machine, anything available in a portable document format, or PDF, including Grandfather’s memoirs and Ph.D. dissertations, can be printed in minutes as long as a computer can read it. Books that are copyrighted and require royalties would need a negotiated fee before they could be published.”
This is a very cool idea, but I wonder if it will take off. I don’t see too many libraries as being able to afford it. Large bookstores would seem like the more realistic option.
There is a press conference video from the World Bank bookstore which shows the machine in action (see the last five minutes or so).