Espresso Book Machine and Harper Collins

What is an Espresso Book Machine?  A quick summary would be that it’s a machine that can very quickly (less than 7 minutes) print out from a file a paperback book, complete with color, that is virtually the same as a book you would buy off a book store shelf.

My friend Vlad at Third Place Books has made a video of their Espresso Book Machine in action.  

These machines were already pretty cool.  If you have access to one, then you can get a physical copy of a public domain book, even if it has been out of print for years.  Project Gutenberg books, Google books . . . the machine has access to over 5 million books.  AND more and more authors are using the machine to make their own ‘out of print’ books available  as paper books again.  Not to mention self publishing authors who wish to have paper books as well as e-books for their readers.

Now here is where it gets even more interesting.

This link goes to the story from yesterday, about HarperCollins making its paperback list available to any store that has an Espresso book machine. So, regardless of floor space and racks, a little book store can almost instantly hand the customer a copy of any HC papeback.  And it’s a competitively priced book, too.

Think of what that means.  IF it catches on, it means that publishers and bookstores will have less expense related to shipping and storing books.  Returns would definitely taper off.  There would be much less waste in the book industry.

I would miss actually browsing a real shelf of books, and opening one at random to take a peek inside.  I suppose that sort of browsing can be done from a computer, to some extent, but I will miss the physical part of the experience.

I will be watching this with interest to see where it goes.


3 Responses to Espresso Book Machine and Harper Collins

  1. There is nothing to stop the book store keeping a number of items on the shelf, in fact in this model it makes more sense to especially for books that sell well.

    However there wouldn’t be any point in having more than one. Since as soon as one sells (especially for more popular titles) it can be replaced.

    The situation where you already know what you want and the store doesn’t have it is usually not the situation where you want to casually flick through it. In the cases where you did just want to flick through some more books by the same author you had just read that weren’t in stock, a kiosk interface would be easy to set up when the book are already stored and accessible in a digital format.

  2. This is an interesting development. I am glad to see that something is looking to fill the void that will be left by Borders closing and Barnes and Noble if they go down to.

    Christopher is correct that a kiosk similar to the ‘Redbox’ system to rent dvd’s could be a revolution to how books are bought and sold. Simply swipe your card through, choose the book/books you want, choose your format (EPUB, Nook or Espresso etc.) then get your book. Then they could make it so you can download directly into your ebook reader or simply print on the Espresso Machine.

    Very interesting.

  3. What a great news! I live in the country which cities in average have around 500 thousand people with the total population around 17 mln. And getting books you wish to read is a problem (only popular books are available). If you wish to order it online from other countries, the cost will be pretty high. By the way, there was an article in the Economist named “Print me a paganini” (or something like that, don’t remember exactly) which forecasted that the era of large scale production factories would end up soon. The article discussed 3D printers and how these new technologies would enable people to produce goods locally and using their own design, just using software. I believe that Espresso Book Machine is just a beginning of this global change.