6 Feb 2012

Print-on-Demand Book Machines

The print-on-demand espresso book machine is now making inroads in libraries across America. The machine can print, collate, cover and bind a book in a few minutes. The machine has access to EspressNet, a database which holds about four million titles that are in the public domain. Many of these are from Google Books, but some publishers such as HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan have made some of their back catalogue available as well. Three public libraries have already installed the machines, as well as several bookshops and two academic libraries. It also provides a way for aspiring writers to have a print run of their book made possible, providing they are willing to pay the cost. The video below gives an idea of the espresso book machine process:

There are some exciting potential advantages to the book machines such as: students being able to print off a college book that is available from their institution, but not at their campus without waiting for an inter campus/library loan; potentially, students could print off selected chapters from different books on required reading lists instead of photocopying from titles only available in print; and for book lovers in general, who may not wish to join the seemingly inexorable rush into using e-readers, this may be a way of combining the best of the print and digital worlds.

Detractors may point to the large cost of acquiring a machine, and purists may wonder where the direction of libraries is going: are we going from being a repository of knowledge to a digital kiosk vending operation?

1 comment:

  1. I can see this working in book stores, particularly for 'long tail' titles as ebooks continue to grow and print becomes less popular, but in libraries not so much. The idea that 'students could print off selected chapters from different books' is already a pretty painless option with most ebooks - it may not look as pretty as a POD book but do students mind so much about that? (I'm thinking back to my days in Trinity when students would pile into Reads to photocpy entire textbooks & happily staple them together!)