One of my publishers – Zumaya Publications – has now become a part of the Espresso Book Machine Pilot program! (Which means my books are too!) Here’s some info on the project sent for us to spread around. Sounds cool!
Late in April, Zumaya Publications completed the paperwork that places all our titles currently being printed at Lightning Source into their pilot program with On-Demand Books, makers of the Espresso Book Machine. Other participating publishers are John Wiley & Sons, Hachette Book Group, McGraw-Hill, Simon & Schuster, Clements Publishing, Cosimo, E-Reads, Bibliolife, Information Age Publishing, Macmillan, University of California Press and W.W. Norton.
Through this program, our books will be available for printing at all facilities that have an Espresso. There are currently 12 EBMs operational worldwide, and my understanding is that this pilot program is the first phase of a marketing plan to place more of them in the next few years. The ones already in operation are located at:
World Bank InfoShop, Washington D.C. New York Public Library, New York, NY New Orleans Public Library, New Orleans, LA Internet Archive, San Francisco, CA University of Michigan Library, Ann Arbor, MI Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, VT University of Alberta Bookstore, Edmonton, AB, Canada McMaster University Bookstore, Hamilton, ON, Canada Newsstand UK, London, England Library of Alexandria, Alexandria, Egypt Angus & Robertson Bookstore, Melbourne, Australia University of Waterloo Bookstore, ON, Canada Blackwell’s Bookstore, London, United Kingdom
Just about a decade ago, the first on-demand book printer came into being. The quality of the product, compared to the traditional printing methods, left a good deal to be desired; and the cost to print each copy was much too high for most book publishing uses. However, where only a limited number of copies—or a single one—was wanted, those early machines were both economical and sensible.
It was then that Random House editor Jason Epstein wrote Book Business, in which he stated that on-demand printing was the future of the industry. Epstein was one of the founders of On-Demand Books.
Since those early days, the quality of on-demand printing has grown exponentially, and today a digitally printed book is indistinguishable from its offset-printed counterpart with one exception: it will always have a glossy cover for technical reasons. By utilizing the improvements in digital printing technology, On-Demand was able to complete development of a compact machine that could revolutionize the way books are printed and sold.
The EBM, which costs $95,000 in its current incarnation, prints and binds a trade paperback book while you wait. Literally. In Blackwell’s bookstore, they’ve replaced the metal frame with glass so the buyer can watch as their book goes from digital file to finished product. You can view the process yourself at http://www.ondemandbooks.com/video2.htm.
The capability to print a book on-site in a bookstore or library means that shipping costs, both financial and environmental, are eliminated. Although no one has, as far as I know, calculated the environmental impact of the machine itself, it has to be borne in mind that the book would still need to be printed, yet that the now-standard print runs wouldn’t be necessary. Given 25-50% of those runs are returned and discarded, logic would suggest the EBM is a much more environmentally sound way of producing print books than any of the alternatives.
The benefits to independent booksellers in particular are clear. One of the biggest obstacles they currently experience trying to compete with superchain and online booksellers is their inability to offer a large range of titles. With an EBM, this would no longer be the case. They will be able to store the files for thousands of books and print off a copy when it’s wanted—and without paying fees to wholesalers and distributors.
In addition, they could, if provided with the proper files, print books for local people who may, for example, only want five or ten copies of a family history for personal use, thus providing an additional revenue stream.
The advantage for authors is that overseas sales will no longer be plagued by expensive shipping costs. This opens the whole world to the exchange of ideas through printed books in the way it has so far only been managed via ebooks.
We’re very excited about being part of this project, for all of these reasons. There’s something particularly exciting about being part of the future of an entire industry.