Write or Wrong
A shiny new year fires the imagination with possibilities. After the nostalgia of the holidays, it’s exciting to turn our attention forward instead of backward.
In the world of books, what’s possible and what’s next are fascinating questions to consider. The desire for story may be innately human and enduring, but the methods of delivering those stories are ever-changing.
In that spirit of innovation, I’ll feature a new development a week for the next month.
Full-speed ahead to the future, I say!
To start, we’re looking both forward and backward at a machine that is straight-up Steampunk-awesome.
The Espresso Book Machine prints, collates, covers and binds a book in just a few minutes. It’s not brand new — it was a Time Magazine “Best of Invention of 2007” — but it is still catching on.
First, a couple of critical observations. That name: ugh. Why Espresso? Your mind goes right to coffee, and why introduce that confusion? Someone must have fallen in love with the name and cut corners on market research. This is a fabulous machine; it deserves a fabulous name evocative of what it really does.
How about Instant Books, One Stop Books, Lightning Books, Speedy Books, Minute Publisher or Personal Publisher? Or for something more fanciful, how about Magic Books, Wizard Publisher, Future Publisher or Super Sonic Books?
For crying out loud, just plain old Book Machine is better than Espresso.
And then there’s the look of the machine: double ugh. The Espresso Book Machine needs a redesign — less “Office Space” and more Jules Verne. Less PC and more Apple.
Something this retro-futuristic should have whirling gizmos, big gears and cascading conveyor belts. At least there are clear panels on the machine, but they could have done so much more. Espresso Book Machine is most definitely function over form. And functionality it has.
You simply walk up to the machine that looks like a Xerox photocopier on steroids (it is a Xerox) and print your own book from your PDFs, or you can choose from over 7 million in-copyright and public-domain titles in the digital catalog, called EspressNet.
There’s an interesting video of how it works on YouTube.
On Demand Books LLC produces the Espresso Book Machine, which the company says is as “a critical — and unique — part of the overall digital revolution taking place in book publishing.”
On Demand describes its technology as replacing “the centralized supply chain for the distribution of physical books — essentially unchanged since Gutenberg — with a radically decentralized, direct-to-consumer distribution model.”
In other words, books don’t have to be printed at a large printing facility, boxed and shipped to distributors, then shipped again to retailers, who have to store copies until they sell.
And the machine has a small footprint — it takes up only 25 square feet — making it relatively easy to fit into libraries or bookstores.
The first was installed at the New York Public Library’s Science, Industry and Business Library in 2007. Now there are more than 50 located throughout the world. Closer to home, there’s one at the Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver, at the University of Utah Library in Salt Lake City and at the Brigham Young University Bookstore in Provo, Utah.
There would be one in Grand Junction, too, if I had $100,000 to invest. Any investors out there with money burning a hole in your pocket? (Insert universal sign for “call me” here.)
Then again, with books already digitized and available in multiple forms, what is the advantage of a print-on-demand machine?
Short answer: Many people still like printed books, particularly keepsake books.
So if you want a limited number of books, whether it is a single copy of your own poetry, an out-of-print book or a book in a foreign language, it makes sense.
Plus, it is just awesome.