Exploding books: Decaf prose

I missed the announcement that the print-on-demand Espresso machine — backed by publishing veteran Jason Epstein and former Dean & DeLuca president Dane Neller — is now being tested at the World Bank, where digital books can be printed, trimmed and bound in 8 minutes.

“Our goal is to preserve the economic and ergonomic simplicity of the physical book,” said Epstein, who laments the disappearance of backlist and ready access to books in other languages. By printing from digital files, ODB hopes to make warehousing–and much of today’s distribution model–obsolete. “In theory,” said Epstein, “every book printed will be digitized, which means the market will be radically decentralized. A bookstore with this technology, without any expense to themselves [other than the machine] can increase their footprint.” Of course, that also means that Kinko’s or Wal-Mart can transform themselves into mini-bookstores, especially given the machine’s affordability. Neller anticipates that it will retail for less than $100,000.

From a World Bank story:

The Bank works with approximately 100 commercial distributors worldwide, who struggle to have a few of these publications in stock and sell them locally. The Bank also supplies nearly 100 public information centers and roughly 250 depository libraries worldwide with free copies of Bank publications for local distribution.

“To maintain this infrastructure, we spend almost $1 million annually on shipping alone. And still, all too often, customers and clients don’t find exactly the document they want at the location they want it at the time they need it,” said Koehler. “And all too often we have books sitting in warehouses overseas and nobody wants them. This is a bigger problem for us than it is for the typical academic publishing house because our books are supposed to reach developing countries and to be affordable there.” . . .

Jason Epstein, former Editorial Director of Random House and a main supporter of the Espresso, called the book machine “the future of publishing.”

“By the time all books are digitized over the next few years, we will have replaced the 500-year- old Gutenberg system,” said the publishing industry icon. “Everyone will have access to the machine and will be able to download any book ever printed,” saving thousands of dollars in inventory losses from unsold books.

See this post on the role of print-on-demand in the business. [via Hal Halladay]