(The Necessary Coffee Joke for a Title...)

This is actually quite interesting--a potential fusion of the independent publisher and the independent book store. A potential solution to some of the issues I've discussed in the past.


The brainchild of American publisher Jason Epstein, the Espresso was a star attraction at the London Book Fair this week, where it was on display to interested publishers. Hordes were present to watch it click and whirr into action, printing over 100 pages a minute, clamping them into place, then binding, guillotining and spitting out the (warm as toast) finished article. The quality of the paperback was beyond dispute: the text clear, unsmudged and justified, the paper thick, the jacket smart, if initially a little tacky to the touch.

Described as an "ATM for books" by its US proprietor On Demand Books, Espresso machines have already been established in the US, Canada and Australia, and in the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt, but the Charing Cross Road machine is the first to be set up in a UK bookstore. It cost Blackwell some $175,000, but the bookseller believes it will make this back in a year. "I do think this is going to change the book business," said Phill Jamieson, Blackwell head of marketing. "It has the potential to be the biggest change since Gutenberg and we certainly hope it will be. And it's not just for us – it gives the ability to small independent bookshops to compete with anybody."


Says $175,000... I know large, top of the line digital presses are somewhere in the neighborhood of $5,000-20,000 depending on finishing options. This machine is, in essence, ALL the finishing options. That price is before per-impression costs, service, and in the case of marketed books, the associated fees.

Still, introduction is the first step to acceptance, and lowering prices. In the end, localizing production lowers costs as well. And hell, I'd pay a premium to avoid the dreaded Amazon.

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