The 'Mr. Coffee' of Bookmaking
While no successful business model has yet been put forth to capitalize on the vast quantity of new material being made available (a large portion of what Google is scanning is out-of-print books, and many are in the public domain), Conley believes book-at-a-time is one viable option. (Others include standard, centralized on-demand print fulfillment, which at this point is cheaper for libraries than investing in a book-making machine, he says.)
Also built into the settlement is a resolution of most of the highly debated rights issues, which should speed adoption of on-demand purchasing solutions. Rights are still more of a barrier in campus bookstores, which have a goal of instant anthologizing—the coursepack of the future. At the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vt., the Espresso Book Machine is enabling the publishing of classics in the public domain, the fulfillment of special orders, and a self-publishing package (including marketing services and professional editing, if desired) for customers.
“I believe that at some point there will be an InstaBook Maker in each bookstore, which will have access to millions of titles available from around the world, in many languages, to be downloaded and printed on-demand, and in a few minutes,” Celorio says. “Imagine that: any book, any time, anywhere.”
Whether or not this happens, the technology seems well-positioned to one day take its place alongside other digital and on-demand options. The current limitations of book-at-a-time have to do with margins, not content, Neller says, and the number and type of books printed this way should increase as the process becomes less expensive.
“There are two major [fulfillment] trends: decentralization and personalization,” Neller says. “Both trends funnel into our technology, and to some extent, to the e-readers as well.”
Stephen Mettee, publisher of Sanger, Calif.-based Quill Driver Books, believes adoption of a universal file format and “IT substructure” to store and deliver files is all that stands in the way of getting publishers fully on board with book-at-a-time technology. He envisions new print- revenue opportunities made possible by consumers being able to create short-story anthologies based on smart-search and tagging/categorization tools; an example would be a custom book featuring 10 well-regarded stories set in Denver in the 1890s.