An ATM for books

The Espresso Book Machine in action Guest post by George Angus

Imagine a book store that always has whatever book you are looking for in stock. Imagine that the title you are seeking could be in your hands at a traditional book cost in about 5 minutes. No ordering over the internet and paying for shipping. No days or weeks of waiting. Sound too good to be true? Well, the future is here, and it's called the Espresso Book Machine from a company called On Demand Books.

Dubbed the “ATM for Books”, the Espresso Book Machine is about the size of a large copier and is a completely self contained unit that prints, binds with a full color cover and slides it out a slot, straight into your eager hands. Amazing.

There is talk that this could revolutionize the publishing industry and some are hailing the machine as the most important advance in publishing for more than half a century. You can check out an image gallery on The Guardian website.

Originally unveiled at the London Book Fair in April of this year, the Espresso Book Machine was put through its paces and performed quite impressively. Capable of printing more than 100 pages a minute and binding the book with a full color cover, folks said the end product was virtually indistinguishable from a store bought off the shelf book. Here's how On Demand Books describes the machine:

“Library quality paperbacks at low cost, identical to factory made books, printed direct from digital files for the reader in minutes, serving a radically decentralized world-wide multilingual marketplace. In essence, an ATM for books.”

Wow. How's that for cool?

So, what does this mean for writers? It could mean a lot. One of the unknowns that new writers face especially is the “return factor”. Essentially, with most publishers any book store can send back any unsold copies of your book – these go against whatever royalties or advances that have been paid out. Suppose the EBM took off like a rocket. It's possible that you would have no more worries about distribution and returns. Someone wants the book, they print one off and everyone is happy.

I have to admit it is an intriguing concept.

As a writer or published author, what are your thoughts about this. Will it change publishing as we know it? How do you think this might change your writing process?