Espresso Book Machine Brews Visions of New Distribution Model
With the push of a few buttons and a swipe of a credit or debit card, customers at the World Bank InfoShop bookstore in Washington have become among the first to use one of the first viable print on demand services since the Espresso Book Machine, a commercial book-making device, was first installed in April.
With the three-month test run of On-Demand Books’ machine wrapping up earlier this month, its success leaves the question of whether the current distribution model may get turned over on its head if the concept takes off. By not only printing, but then binding the book on-demand, the $100,000-plus machine allows customers to purchase a copy of a book without any human interaction. Books are only printed when they are ordered.
Its creators claim The Espresso Book Machine could one day be to books what ATMs are to cash. The introduction of the machine is the brainchild of Jason Epstein, the former Random House editorial director, and Dane Neller, the former CEO of Dean & DeLuca, and its inventor, Jeff March.
Epstein, an award-winning publishing veteran, credited with the creation of the quality trade paperback format, began discussing the concept in his 1999 book “Book Business: Publishing, Past, Present and Future.”
Using digital files of 200 titles, the machine--which appears on the outside to be nothing more than a large-scale copier--can produce 15 to 20 black-and-white paperback books, with four-color covers, per hour.
Eugene G. Schwartz, a veteran book production and operations executive, says the machine may either be a breakthrough or a bomb, depending on what titles the company has to offer.
“The concept is absolutely waiting to be done properly,” he said. “It’s no longer a technical problem for them --it’s the marketing of content. They have to have a lot of content.”