The Espresso Book Machine

Increasingly, discussions about thee EBM center around the possibility that this ingenious piece of hardware and software might save the small bookstore.

The Espresso Book Machine (EBM) is a print on demand (POD) machine that prints, collates, covers, and binds a single book (trade paperback) in a few minutes. The quality is surprisingly good–and the machine if fast.

Giants such as amazon and the rise of ebooks are stealing business away from small bookstores, which also cannot sustain the large inventories of larger box bookstores such as Chapters or Barns and Noble. The EBM is a way to cut costs and to have a huge inventory, as large as any electronic database of books can sustain. It also solves the problem of returns and how to supply out-of-print books.

Publishers such as Simon & Schuster and Hachette are setting up to provide all their titles for the EBM. Many other publishers will follow suit. It also brings to the bookstores people who wish to self-publish and have printed copies of their books, and most of the small indie publishers registered with Ingram who cannot afford to ship copies to bookstores.

The EBM has transparent walls so it’s possible to see a book being created from beginning to end, something most people never see.

Although it’s a pricey initial investment ($75-95,000), all university presses and bookstores that bought them fully believe they’ll recoup their investment in a few years.  Marcus Gipps, the Blackwell store manager in London, England, says that his customer base has increased since they brought in the machine; it has been dragging people away from their computers and into the store.

The number of university presses and bookstores that have Espresso Book machines is now up to 86:

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