Espresso Book Machine: Print On Demand in the Brick and Mortar Book Store


I don’t know how many of you know about this wonderful yet pricy device made by Xerox, but check the video below:

You can find a pdf brochure here.

Amazing, huh?  It has a hefty price tag, though.  $150,000 as a base price, but college libraries like The University of Michigan have been able to get it installed for a $50,000 discount.  There are a few independent book stores getting on board with these devices as well.  The books cost about $10.38 and retail for around $16.00.

I see pros and cons concerning this device:

Pros:

  • Book stores can print POD books in their store while customers wait.  It only takes a few minutes to print a paperback book, and the cost of the book is relatively the same as a traditionally published book.
  • Self-published authors like myself can keep a file on the machine of my books which can be sold in the store without worrying about the book not being returnable.  Book stores are more apt to keep and sell my book if it is simply a file in the computer.
  • Out of print books can be printed by this machine.
  • No warehousing.
  • Local authors can have a way to sell their books in the local book store, or people who want to simply publish a book for family can have it done locally at a reasonable price.
  • It gives a brick and mortar book store another sales option other than selling coffee or millions of other gimmicks (even though the coffee is really good).

Cons:

  • This machine is expensive.  I don’t know too many shoestring budget book stores who are willing to take out a business loan to get this machine.  It’s almost like buying a house.  One bookstore that uses the machine stated that it only garners 4% of the revenue for the store.  Is that enough to offset the hefty price tag?
  • Upkeep on this machine is a little pricy.  It uses a laser printer and the cartridges are usually very expensive.  There is also the matter of the paper being used.  What quality is necessary for publishing house books?
  • Space can be an issue.  If the book store is a small one, this machine takes up a pretty large area, and what are its power needs?

As always, I covet your thoughts and comments.  Please post here with any ideas.  Any of you book store owner/operators who read my blog have anything to say about this?  Do any of you use this machine?  I think my readers would like to know more about the practical side of using it.

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5 thoughts on “Espresso Book Machine: Print On Demand in the Brick and Mortar Book Store

  1. Digital print on demand is the economic way to go for smaller publishers – I’m aware of several locally in New Zealand who use it. All that’s necessary is to print enough for some initial stock and to meet legal deposit requirements. The advantage is that the publisher doesn’t have to carry the cost of unsold stock; and a book never goes out of print. All this is hugely important for the publishing industry, and for authors.

    You’ve spotted the main disadvantage – purchase price. It’s possible to hire them, but the cost will still be recouped by the lessee. The output is also usually of lower quality. A lot of them use the same paper stock as trad offset, but the quality of laser still doesn’t come up to offset in the end. Also, the costs are linear, whereas with trad print it’s a case of the ‘more the merrier’, up to around 20,000 units, owing to having to amortise the costs of plate-making and machine setup. Linear costs are great if you’re running one-offs or even a few hundred. But if your book suddenly jumps demand, you’d better know where to jump to trad print, or you’ll ruin the economics of what you’re doing. That isn’t always obvious if demand is high but comes in dribs-and-drabs.

    There are also things that can be done with trad printing – embossing, gloss overprinting, spot colour and some tricks to go beyond the CMYK colour limits, which aren’t yet possible with digital POD. And if you want anything other than perfect bound, you still have to go to a bindery.

    So – lots of plusses, lots of minuses. Which to me adds up to the usual story with any new tech; it won’t completely replace the old – there will be a re-balancing, a shift; and it will take its place alongside offset print and traditional case binding. With pure e-books, I’ve no doubt POD will make a dent in the pulp paperback/Royal Trade end of the market, if they haven’t already.

  2. Wow! I’m envisioning a future where book stores won’t actually stock books, you’ll just flick through a huge catalogue, go up to the desk, place your order, which then arrives 5 minutes later. Not sure if that’s good or bad really lol

    Xx

  3. Coolest thing ever! I love that! Okay, maybe a bit pricy for most places, but as technology advances and becomes cheaper, I bet we see more and more places having these. It will do away with ordering in out-of-print books! Win for everyone! 😉

  4. There is one of these in my local bookstore. I think it’s a very neat idea, but too expensive to run for most stores. Also, I am not sure how often people purchase books from a machine like this and if consumers would actually search through a catalog to find a novel.

    Maybe this is the beginning of this sort of technology and in the next 5-10 years this will be a way of getting books. I will miss the beautiful hardcover that will be replaced by this more economical substitute, if this is the case.

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