LONDON: Ever really wanted a particular book, only to be told that it is out of print? Well this may not be such a problem any longer thanks to the new Espresso Book Machine.
The ATM for books, as it is nicknamed, is able to download a book from the internet, print, trim and bind it, all in seven minutes.
“Books are here to stay and this is a great invention which will give more choice to readers,” said Vince Gunn, chief executive of Blackwell, the book chain with more than 60 shops in the UK. Blackwell will be the first to install an Espresso machine in October this year.
The Espresso is 9ft long and 5ft high. It binds the books using glue heated to 150C inside the machine giving a finished product a quality comparable to that of a conventional paperback. However critics claim that illustrations are of poor quality and the books have a “rubbery” feel.
The backers of the Espresso claim it will revolutionise publishing by giving shoppers the choice of downloading over a million books – many of which are rare or discontinued. It will also mean that writers and poets who do not have the backing of multinational publishers will also benefit. The machines are able to design and print books of reasonable quality in runs of 50 for as little as £200.
The victims of on-demand books could however include second hang dealers, who control much of the market in out-of-print and obscure works. But second dealers claim they are not worried as “not everything will get on to the net”.
While big publishers are trying to take advantage of Espresso for their established authors, it is already helping undiscovered amateur writers in the USA where the machines are already in use. Experience from across the Atlantic shows that customers are using the Espresso to buy obscure books and to get their own writing published.
The ability to print everything that out there on the virtually unlimited internet will have the same affect as the internet has had on the music industry. More and more new music is being released over the internet and many are considering making their entire back catalogues available for downloading.