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This weekend I had a trip to Melbourne so I made the time to visit the only Espresso Book Machine in the Southern Hemisphere, which sits in the central Angus & Robertson Bookshop. I am passionate about the future of publishing now, empowering authors to produce and sell their books in new ways. This is print-on-demand in the consumers’ hands – a brilliant idea just starting to take off!
So what is the Espresso Book Machine (EBM)?
The EBM, available from On Demand Books was named by Time Magazine as one of 2007’s inventions of the year. It is called “an ATM for books” as it prints a book to order within minutes.
The book is chosen from a catalogue available online via the custom software. It is then downloaded, printed with a colour cover, perfect bound, trimmed, and pops out the end of the machine in under 10 minutes (time depends on the size of the book printed).
Currently, it is mainly available in North America for university customers, but word is spreading. There are now machines in the UK, Australia, Egypt and Canada – here is a list of locations. There are more articles and press releases here.
Unfortunately, there was no one in the shop in Melbourne who knew how to work the machine so I was not able to watch it in action and purchase a book. This is the downside of the beginning of a new tool, but as more customers join and the technology improves, there will be more machines out there. Luckily, you can watch the video below to see the machine in action!
Why is it so important?
It is essentially the beginning of new devices that can print and bind books at speed. Remember back when you had to take film canisters into photo shops, and then they would print them for you. Now you put your memory stick into a machine and the photos are printed instantly. It is a move in this direction for the book industry.
Right now, it has a very small catalogue of books it can actually print, and works on particular software. There are hardly any technicians who can fix it, and therefore hardly any customers. But, as the number of customers grow, so will its capability.
Imagine when the machine gets smaller and more like the photo printing booths. You could have them in airports and transport hubs, connected to the internet where any book can be downloaded and printed within minutes. The rise and rise of ebooks and Google Book Search means all literature will be online. You could browse a virtual shop, choose and print before getting on your plane.
Many of us already use print-on-demand services for printing our books for customers to order. But this takes POD to a whole new dimension. The EBM is working with Lightening Source which distributes to Amazon and other large distributors, so authors can opt in.
So, keep an eye out for the EBM in a store near you – and make sure your books are online so you can take advantage of this new technology!
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