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Old Aug 13 2006, 08:17 AM   #1
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Default Espresso Book Machine -- poised to revolutionize the paperback industry?

I read about this a couple months ago, meant to post about it then and clearly forgot (and am a bit surprised no one else heard about it and posted!).

Some company has invented a machine that can print a 300-page paperback book and bind it with a standard color cover in a few minutes, at a cost of pennies per page (I found one site saying just one cent a page!). It's called the Espresso Book Machine, and a model of it is currently being tested in a Washington DC bookstore.

If publishers get on board with the concept (and digitize their books for it -- common enough in the eBook age), along with bookstores (who have to purchase the machine, which is set to retail somewhat under $100,000), it could truly revolutionize the way books are sold. There'd be no more need for warehouses of books, customers could simply print-on-demand what they were interested in purchasing.

It would also likely be a boon for less popular books -- the kind you can never find in a bookstore as it's not popular enough to make sense to stock it.

I see great potential for this machine, it really sounds like a cool concept, and cost-wise it makes a lot of sense. It would seem pay for itself quickly by allowing bookstores to get rid of warehouses of book stock. I could see them sprouting up in places besides bookstores as well. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have one in the airport? You're bored, looking for something to read, and you can literally choose from thousands and thousands of books instead of the few hundred that might be stocked by a airport store.

I also see a few problems -- people could no longer browse the shelves looking for something to read, an experience that many like. And while you can browse the titles on the machine, you'll need to set up lots of terminals for people to do so, else only one person can browse at a time. Oooh, a smart bookstore would be set up on the internet so that you can browse at home, select your books, and go pick them up at the store!

On the flip side, the book collector in me cringes at this whole concept, as you can say goodbye to the notion of print runs and first paperback editions. I suppose publishers still might come up with new covers from time to time, making new editions -- but then they might just let you have a choice of covers -- why not?

What do you think? Is this exciting or scary? Could it really catch on or will it fall flat of expectations as eBooks somewhat have (weren't paper books supposed to be a thing of the past already?). How could you see this machine used and where?

Some links to read more:
Quick link to Newsweek article I orginally read
Longer article/press release from the World Bank InfoShop (which has the first machine)

Or Google "Espresso Book machine" and find lots more articles
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Old Aug 13 2006, 09:28 AM   #2
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Default Re: Espresso Book Machine -- poised to revolutionize the paperback industry?

It's definately a good idea. I doubt that it would or could ever replace proper books, but for places such as airports it would be fantastic! It would give people a far greater choice over what they wanted and, in the current security climate, it could ensure that books could not be used as a means of detonating a bomb.

Also perfect, as you say, for less popular books, since it would mean that anyone who wanted it could get it, without the expense of ordering. It would also mean that no book would ever be completely out of print, and always available!

I like the idea, though it will never repalce proper books, it could certainly be a good compliment to them.
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Old Aug 13 2006, 11:35 AM   #3
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Default Re: Espresso Book Machine -- poised to revolutionize the paperback industry?

As with most inventions, there are some good and some bad aspects of this. My first thought was how would an author be compensated for her/his work? And who would have control of the editing functions of these things? I can see some hacker mutilating or destroying the work of someone they have some sort of grudge against. I think it might best be applied to previously published works that have gone out of print or are difficult to obtain elsewhere. As they say, what can be done will be done. Whether it is a good thing or a bad one will have to be seen.
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Old Aug 15 2006, 10:47 PM   #4
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Default Re: Espresso Book Machine -- poised to revolutionize the paperback industry?

With a machine like this one, I can see Book Stores going the way of the icream parlor... Once long ago that is how you went to get ice cream, from your local Ice Cream Parlor. Now when you want to go and look for a book, you go to your local book store, and browse for hours. In my local book store they sell coffee, and muffins...to keep you there happy as can be. With this machine all of this will be a sweet thing of the past... and you will be able to get your desired book in five minutes or less...hold the coffee. Kind of sad to think about really...
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Old Aug 15 2006, 11:54 PM   #5
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Default Re: Espresso Book Machine -- poised to revolutionize the paperback industry?

I don't think that books and book stores will go away. Too many people like to browse for books and sit and drink coffee once they find what they want. I think it will be an extention of the publishing industry. A store might have a couple of these kiosks in the store but I doubt they will take over. And at the airport or train station they'd be fabulous.
Another thing they may be used for is out of print books, if it doesn't cost much to digitize them or whatever they do. Just to be able to go in and quickly grab a book for say a school project for your kids. Would be wonderful. That could be another good use of the machine, text books. Is it Edi who was looking for one last textbook here on MoM? (sorry but I can't remember if it's Edi for sure) What a way to ensure you've the book you need and at a great price! Text books are so expensive, this would cut down the money needed. Of course not all text books could be done, but I'm sure they'll figure a way to get them all done eventually.
This is an exciting thing and a good thing. Remember in all our SF books and on TV too, books are still around. And all us collectors want books to collect. Oh, no, I just thought of Hans! What if they offer different styles of covers. Hundreds of them! He'll have to shell out the cash for all those variable covers.
Oh, another good thing is this type of book can be an inexpensive way of finding out if you like a new author or not. Then you can buy the hardcovers or not.
Definitely no fear of books going away totally or book stores in my mind. This is just another way of getting books to the public.
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Old Aug 16 2006, 12:17 AM   #6
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Default Re: Espresso Book Machine -- poised to revolutionize the paperback industry?

Certainly sounds interesting. For out of print and small edition books this would be absolutely fantastic, as well as airports and the like. It would also simplify payments to authors, as they wouldn't have to wait for publishers to get covers back from books that have been reported as unsold or destroyed. The machines would keep track of how many copies of each book have been sold, and the publisher would pay the author accordingly.
One problem I can see, though, is that the machines would be publisher-specific, and outlets which want to offer a catalog from several publishers would need to buy or lease an equal number of machines.
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Old Aug 23 2006, 06:50 PM   #7
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Default Re: Espresso Book Machine -- poised to revolutionize the paperback industry?

Sounds interesting
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Old Aug 24 2006, 02:42 PM   #8
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Default Re: Espresso Book Machine -- poised to revolutionize the paperback industry?

Very, very interesting!
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Old Aug 25 2006, 06:56 PM   #9
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Default Re: Espresso Book Machine -- poised to revolutionize the paperback industry?

I bet I know who'd love one--Starbucks.

I bet I know who'd hate it--hardcover houses. You can bet there'd be bookstores for the publishers and authors who want to run those pricey hardbacks!

I can see this being less a threat to superchains like B&N and Borders, and used bookstores, than it is to things like Waterstones' airport outlets. Especially now that a lot of passengers in transit are stuck on the gate side of security, and non-passengers can't come through and browse, airport bookstores are likely losing some business and they didn't have a great selection to begin with. Especially if the quality of the binding isn't great (something a la 1960s paperbacks, perhaps) this would be the ideal solution for travelers who want throwaway books--cheap editions that they can read without fear of damage.
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Old Aug 26 2006, 03:52 AM   #10
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Default Re: Espresso Book Machine -- poised to revolutionize the paperback industry?

Right, this way of printing on demand is already about five years old (the articles also mention the Perfect Book Machine by the same inventor, the predecessor of this new one) - it is how Printing on Demand works and how Lulu, for instance, operate

Maybe the new aspect is that the machine is becoming smaller. The paper and other material needed must be stored somewhere, and that it is now of a size that can be put in a (relatively) store.

Why do most poster's assume that a book by this machine will be so much cheaper than a regular book? The machine owner can set the price and I won't be at all surprised they will probably not be cheaper than a regular paperback by that much. They will be emphasizing the getting what you want is awlays in stock type of argument more than the prize, I think. It is paperback, so it'll not go near hardcover quality and it is only in America where I found evidence of a culture that discards paperbacks after having read them, I never encountered that anywhere else in the world. It's probably the dollar-is-most-important kind of culture that tried to tell US people that a paperback is to read and throw away and if you want to have the book on your shelves you should go buy a hardback. The book makes more money that way

I can see a good future for the machine in making, like LuLu does, small editions and rare or out of dat titles but am not convinced that they will get the rights or the chance to print bestsellers for a good price. I know that real printing in large numbers will always be cheaper in cost than printing single copies on a machine...

The machine will have its use but I can't see it as a revolution.
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Old Aug 26 2006, 11:13 PM   #11
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Default Re: Espresso Book Machine -- poised to revolutionize the paperback industry?

I think the paperback-as-disposable comes from some of the older ones being, well, almost forcible throwaways (I literally read some of Mom's 1960s paperbacks to pieces--the binding disintigrated into loose pages) and because, well, things like Harlequins and your average airport brain-candy book really aren't classics for the ages--people just dump them because they're not going to bother rereading. (Not in our house, God knows. We have books we keep that no one has read and no one is likely to ever read, just because every time Mom tries to make a Goodwill run, someone goes through the box and saves everything.

I think that it could be cheap because I very much doubt the paper quality and the cover quality (in materials, not design) and binding quality will equal even a trade paperback. There's no way it could, printed instantly.
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