bookmachineIt’s really annoying to go to the book store and discover that they don’t carry the book you wanted to buy.  Some retailers like B&N let you check their inventory on-line (though it’s not always accurate) but that just saves you a wasted a trip and still forces you to wait for an on-line retailer to ship you what you wanted (meaning you might have to pay extra for shipping charges). eBooks have alleviated this annoyance for me, but not when a book isn’t available in eBook form or it’s contents (such as a picture book or coffee table book) don’t translate well to the small-screen, black & white world of 1st gen eBook devices.

So I’ve been very interested in The Espresso Book Machine since I heard about it some time ago. This “print on demand” machine is capable of taking a PDF and printing and binding a book (“library quality paperbacks… identical to factory made books”) within a matter of minutes. I had to be expensive, so it’s not something just anybody would pick up for personal use.  But purchased as part of a business, think of the possibilities…

  • Small bookstores could compete with the big chains and even e-tailers like Amazon
  • Books would never go out of print (and out of print books would be back)
  • Large print & foreign language would finally be as easy to get as their mainstream versions
  • Independent authors can walk in and print affordable copies of their work

The roadblock here, as with everything else in the world of books, is the publishers. On Demand Books, the company licensing the hardware, is already working with LSI (a subsidiary of the world’s largest wholesale distributor of books) to bring copyrighted works to the device’s catalog, but I have yet to find any information on-line about was exactly is currently available. The Boston Globe does say that “85,000 book titles from major publishers like Simon & Schuster and McGraw-Hill [are currently] available to Espresso machines”, but also quotes On Demand Book’s chief executive as saying “it’s taken us longer than we expected to get publishers to share their catalog”.

I would say there should be no question about publishers wanting to make their content available via The Espresso Book Machine, but with the way so many of them are dragging their feet with eBooks, I now consider common sense in the publishing world a rarity.