Print on Demand: Make That a Double

As if you needed another reason to avoid the bookstore, you can now buy your book from an Espresso Book Machine, which prints and binds (albeit without flashy cover imagery, photos, etc.) your book of choice in just a few minutes. There are about five of them in the U.S., reports Publishers Weekly, and they were recently launched in the U.K. as well. At around $43 for a 300-page book and no wait time for out-of-stock or rare titles, will “book espresso” take off? And if so, what does the future look like for publishers, Kindle sales, or jacket designers? [%comments]

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  1. Matt says:

    I get the feeling that the price will have to come way down before these can make any real impact. Note that the $43 price point is only for out of copyright books. By comparison, public domain books generally go for $5-$8 in hard copy, and on the Kindle prices typically range between free and $2 for such titles. After buying a handful of titles on this thing, even the up front $360 cost of the Kindle could start to look thrifty by comparison. Also, such a device suffers from, what I see as the biggest hurdle to ebooks as well, a limited library. The only real market demand I can see this fulfilling is out of print titles, but then ebooks can fill that demand just as easily, and likely for a fraction of the cost.

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  2. Chris says:

    This is kind of like developing a portable record player in 2009 and selling it for $800. Sure it’s something new, but why would you buy one when you could have an iPod for much less?

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  3. Lee says:

    Like the other commentators, I just don’t quite get this as a business model. The price point makes the Espresso books significantly more expensive than one bought from a retailer. The only advantage the Espresso offers is speed — you can get it now rather than driving to Borders (30 minutes?) or ordering from Amazon (3 days?). For out of print books, can’t you usually find them on eBay (3 days?)?Most books take days to read, at least for the likes of me, so waiting a few days doesn’t seem like a big deal. And if it’s a book I’d want NOW — can’t think of an example, but maybe a new Harry Potter book? — is one I’d want an authentic copy of.

    Now, if the Espresso offered on-demand magazines, I could see the point. But it apparently doesn’t, and magazine layouts are likely beyond its technical capabilities.

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  4. jon says:

    rumor has it that the construction quality is none too good, for your money…

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  5. Eric M. Jones says:

    I am currently reading the complete Googlized digital copies of Popular Mechanics (Jan 1905-) and Popular Science (May 1872-). Amazing wealth of information.

    I can see wanting to have them on paper (I do have many of them), but I restrain myself. I recently discovered that the Internet has no OFF switch so they will probably always be there when I want them.

    But I like the Espresso printing services. I just can’t see it as a profitable business model compared to Kindles, etc.

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  6. Jackie says:

    Or you could go to the library and copy a 300 page novel for about $30. This invention is the antithesis of what is needed.

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  7. Nile says:

    The one-off book-printing niche may be quite narrow: the Espresso Book Machine is competing with order-aggregators like Amazon who can maintain a central stock (or run their own contract-printing operation of a month’s orders stacks up) for the ‘long tail’ of demand, in which there is insufficient demand to justify printing and distribution to a network of bricks-and-mortar shops.

    Nevertheless, out-of-print academic texts are offered for sale at over $500, and small-run specialist publications are scarcely any cheaper. So there is definitely a niche somewhere.

    It seems obvious that University bookshops will install these machines – among other considerations, all too many lecturers insist on their own textbooks being a required text, no matter how obscure or unpopular the book may be.

    It is fair to ask why institutions of higher education wouldn’t cut out the middleman altogether – Blackwells (who have installed the first of these machines in their Charing Cross Road branch in London) might find they have no market, even in their on-campus bookshops.

    Another correspondent has pointed out that magazine publications might be out of reach of this specific machine – glossy magazines, anyway – but academic journal reprints are another matter – although the online back-catalogues available from the publishers are exhaustive (if unaffordable to those who are not affiliated to an institution).

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  8. Grant says:

    The only advantage over the Kindle that I see is that you can write in them. Not being able to write in it is one of the reasons I am unsure about the Kindle. I write in virtually all my books, whether reading them for pleasure or scholarly pursuits. But as #5 points out, you can photocopy a book for less. I know of unethical copy shops that will even do that for you.

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