On Demand Books Announces the New Espresso Book Machine 2.0
A commercially viable, point-of-sale, print-on-demand (POD) option—a device capable of creating a single perfect-bound paperback book at a time—has remained, up until this point, beyond the book industry's reach. With the announcement last week of New York-based On Demand Books' newest version of its Espresso Book Machine, set to roll out early next year for initial testing, the current age of printing and distribution as we have come to know it may be on the verge of a major transformation.
On Demand Books CEO Dane Neller calls the newest version of the Espresso Book Machine a "quantum leap" over the previous two incarnations of the much-talked-about device. The first Espresso machines were installed in 2006 at the World Bank InfoShop in Washington D.C., and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt.
From its smaller size and less-obtrusive shape to a lower price tag and quicker speed, the new model is a four-foot-tall, copy-machine-size unit that has been referred to as “an ATM for books.”
With the Espresso Book Machine 2.0, a user selects a book from a network of available titles, most of which are out of print. A short time later, the device, which currently runs at 112 pages per minute, prints, binds, trims and spits out a factory-quality book for sale.
On Demand's ultimate goal is to install the machines anywhere books are currently found, sold or needed. The homepage of the company's Web site proclaims, "What Gutenberg’s press did for Europe in the 15th century, digitization and the Espresso Book Machine will do for the world tomorrow."
Publishers, have no fear though, says Neller. This new technology, which Time called the invention of the year in 2007, is here to help, not hurt, your bottom line.
"I think from a publisher's standpoint, we believe the technology will make authors' works more readily available," he says. "It will in no way do away with conventional methods of book publishing."
According to Neller, the company expects this newly updated Espresso Book Machine to be embraced by an industry facing the same economic downturn as other industries.
"The machine cuts out traditional supply chain costs," Neller says. "Publishers will be able to better manage and help monetize their backlists. It really can do many things. It's designed to print one book at a time. There are no returns. A PDF [of a book] is sold and printed."
According to Neller, the newly released machine will print books—from 40 to 830 pages—for a penny a page.
Toby Green, head of publishing for the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), one of the world’s largest publishers in the fields of economics and public policy, says it has reaped the benefits of partnering with On Demand on an earlier model of the Espresso Book Machine.
"Being a specialist publisher with a global audience, anything that cuts time-to-market has to be a good thing," Green says. "For example, it currently takes us around six weeks to get a book to market in Australia from our base in Paris. Since many of our books get coverage in global media, like the Financial Times, you can imagine this causes a good deal of customer frustration—not to mention lost sales. Since demand for our titles is too small in each market to justify the cost of offset printing locally, the arrival of these machines is, quite frankly, a godsend."
All publishers need to do to have their titles available on the Espresso Book Machine is to provide a PDF of the titles to be printed, Neller says.
For book retailers, the technology appears to have received high marks so far, too. Todd Anderson, of the University of Alberta Bookstore, says the store has recouped its initial investment of its Espresso Book Machine in just the first year of use.
"When we first looked at the Espresso, we looked at our business to determine how we would use the machine," says Anderson. "We came up with three very distinct business opportunities that we could use the Espresso for and 14 different lines of business within those strategies: cost savings for students, for-profit publications and library usage. Since turning the Espresso on in November of 2007, every single one of these lines of business has occurred, some more than others."
Neller says this next year will be an important one for the Espresso Book Machine as On Demand Books plans to expand to incorporate more publishing and retail partners into its fold. On Demand already has selected partners to serve as beta test sites for the Espresso Book Machine 2.0, including the McGill University Library in Montreal, and the University of Waterloo Bookstore in Waterloo, Ontario. In addition, the University of Pennsylvania Library in Philadelphia is in consideration for a beta test site.
Neller says he expects the machine will start to hit critical mass in the next 24 months.
"2009 will be an important year for us and for the Espresso Book Machine," he says. "Next year will see a lot of growth—double-digit growth. 2010 will be a growth year, too. We're looking for more content and more sites [for the machine]."
To view a video of the Espresso Book Machine in action, visit http://www.ondemandbooks.com/video2.htm