A new world beckons in book publishing with 'print on demand'

Posted

Friday, February 22

Brandon Canevari

Editor

MANCHESTER - Northshire Bookstore has procured an Espresso Book Machine (EBM) to print books on demand - making them only the fifth location in the world and the only commercial location to have such a machine.

The machines are currently not available for purchase, according to General Manager of the Northshire Bookstore Christopher Morrow. The bookstore was able to obtain one from On Demand Books in New York City through a friend of Morrow's parents who works for the company, in return for which the bookstore will test it and provide feedback regarding the interface.

The introduction of the machine into the mainstream - which Morrow said is still years away - will change the book industry.

"What we're looking at is just the beginning of what can revolutionize the book business in many ways," said Morrow. "What we're talking about is to have quick and easy access to any book that's ever been published."

Morrow said even the largest booksellers can only house approximately 100,000 titles in their stores. The print on demand machine would make millions of titles accessible to the consumer. Morrow said in five years time it may be possible for anyone who has access to the machine to be able to print any book that has ever been published.

Currently that is not possible because of the copyright laws that exist. Therefore, the bookstore will be offering three publishing imprints. The first will be known as the Shires Press - self publishing services for everything from fiction to corporate reports. The second - the Northshire Press - will be the bookstore's editions of classic works that are out of copyright, books of local and regional interest and rare and out-of-print titles. The third publishing imprint will publish high quality reprint editions of rare, out-of-print, and unavailable works from online archives throughout the world and will be known as the Northshire Press Facsimile Editions.

There are many rules regarding copyright laws, but in general anything published in the United States prior to 1923 falls under public domain and may be published.

Another advantage of the machine is its ability to print books in foreign languages. Morrow provided an example by recalling a customer last summer who was looking for a book in Russian.

"We don't carry books in Russian but [with the machine] we could go to a Russian Web site, download a book and print it out for them," he said.

While the machine does have numerous advantages, Morrow said there are some disadvantages as well. One such disadvantage is mass producing a work. Morrow said producing thousands or even hundreds of copies of books on the machine would not be cost effective.

However, this disadvantage was minimal compared to the other one he mentioned.

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"In the future this could bypass the bookstore," said Morrow. "So there is, from a bookstore point of view, a potential disadvantage."

According to Morrow, some of the publishers he has spoken with are not in favor of the machine.

"They're confused and threatened a little bit, but it can work to their advantage," he said. "A big part of what we'll be doing over the next couple of years will be developing relationships with the publishers. It's still all so new that all these things need to be worked out, [but] I'd say within five years we'll be able to download any copyrighted work that's been published."

The idea of being able to print out a book on demand was clearly a hit with the handful of customers queried about their reaction to this next step in book publishing.

Jon Ehrmentraut, a landscape designer from Rochester, N.Y., was intrigued and excited about the idea, especially if the machine could print out line drawings as well as text, he said. Being able to access designs and sketches of landscape designs developed by artists that were hard-to-find would be a big benefit to him, he said.

It was hard to believe such technology was only now starting to make it to the marketplace, he said.

"I think that would be fantastic," he said. "I'm surprised it's not more common already."

Jeanne Mally, of Granville, N.Y. said the idea sounded interesting, but the cost would be a factor in her decision-making, she said.

"I'd want to know what we're talking about price-wise," she said.

Maureen Maher, from Chicago, Ill., and a reporter for CBS-News, said the ability to access new sources of information was always a benefit in her line of work.

"I think it would be fantastic, it would be great to have an extra source," she said.

Morrow said the cost was still being determined, but that there would be an initial set up fee as well as a per page cost ranging from .05 to .08 cents.

The machine can print paperback books between the sizes of 4 1/2 by 4 1/2 and 8 1/2 by 11 and prints at a rate of 35 pages per minute.

Morrow said the bookstore is still waiting to receive important software for the machine and they may be able to begin printing books for the public by the beginning of March.


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