We've had a number of discussions concerning changes in the publishing industry, how those changes might impact sales, and what the future of publishing may hold. I came across the following information today and thought it could have a profound impact on publishing. I'm interested in your thoughts.

Lightning Source Demonstrates the Espresso Book Machine® Channel at BEA:

See the Espresso Book Machine (EBM) in action at the Lightning Source Booth (#4069) at BookExpo America, May 29-31 in New York City. The EBM is a print on demand device that's small enough to fit in a bookstore or a library. In a matter of minutes it prints, collates, covers, and binds a single book that is indistinguishable from the thousands of other titles on a shop's shelves. The EBM channel has been fully integrated into the Lightning Source print on demand model, enabling consumers to immediately access and purchase - at point of sale - the extensive range of titles available in our library.

The EBM channel will eliminate the frustration a consumer experiences when they walk into a bookstore or library and do not find a physical book in stock. Additionally, EBM enables publishers to enter or expand into international markets cheaply by printing and shipping closer to the consumer.

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Hi, Kris. Nice to run into you here and see that all is well with you.

I would have thought that publishers who want to sell their books would provide the technology. Perhaps small POD publishers need to form a co-op that puts the machines in likely stores.
Hi Ingrid,

Great to see you, too.

I don't think the margins are there for POD publishers, either, even if they join forces. This might be the future, but right now, it's simply not practical.

Kris
Hi,

1) It does produce excellent quality books. (As told to me from more than one person who has tried it.)
2) It does take up floor space, it requires maintenance and ink.
3) The cost benifits analysis excluded it from being in my stores.
4) Wharehousing for the number of books this would replace is minimal in cost.
5) Consumer confidence is not yet at the level where the average consumer will trust the product delivered by this device.

It may be the way of the future, when costs come down but who is going to monitor this marvelous piracy tool. In the past paper book piracy was too expensive. This device makes it a simple thing to pirate a paper book (as if we don't have enough to worry about with electronic piracy).

Smiles
Bob

I can imagine Lightning Source's business proposal for the EBM.
"We will sell 300 to stores, mianly big chain stores."
"But that won't cover the development and production cost. Where will we get out profit?"
"We forecast guarenteed sales in the thousands to flee market vendors around the world."
Man, I pity the fool trying to make a living pirating books.
I found this interesting:

http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=131&aid=164252

It pertains to an experiment being done by the Denver Post, but somewhat related to the discussion.

My experience with "big presses" - and mine's from news presses - is this:
Pros:
Generally, maintenance is nil. The things just don't break down. When they do, most problems are minor and can be handled in house, or even by a local mechanic. Not too terribly difficult to run.

Cons:
Terribly expensive to buy. You need a large building to house it. Warehousing of paper. If you have a serious problem, expect to pay thousands an hour to get it fixed.

And then you have the additional expenses of warehousing books, etc.

However, the above link really is fascinating to me.
Quite right. That should be of interest to newspapers everywhere.
The Espresso Book Machine that Lightning Source is marketing is 3.8 feet wide by 2.7 feet deep by 4.5 feet high, which would allow placement of the machines in most book stores and libraries worldwide. More sites should mean more opportunities to sell books, particularly if a book is not in stock.
If I'm not mistaken, at $175,000 each, this machine must generate a profit of well over $1,500 a month just to pay the interest. Most independant stores do not have that type of spare capital.

Smiles
Bob
Bob,
Yikes, I think I'll wait until they come down to the $300.00 range.

As a guy who spent a career looking at the bottom line I think we are probably looking at a few years before this prototype is viable.

As always, distribution of product is a problem.

I wonder if this problem couldn't be solved with a dependable, inexpensive, maintenance free, home printer and a good stapler. Of course, ink cost would have to go way down.

I actually wrote the above paragraph with tongue in cheek, but I wonder......hummmm.
My $0.02:

When I go to a bookstore, I'm rarely looking for a specific book. I usually go to browse, to get out of the house, and to sit in the corners and read stuff I don't really want to own. Occasionally I'll find something I like and buy it. When I'm looking for a specific book, the first place I go is online, to see if the library has it. If they don't, and I really really want it, I'll buy it online, or order a copy through my local independent bookseller. So this gadget, cool as it sounds, would be something I would probably never personally use.

It seems to me that the better application of this thing would be installing it in bookstores behind the scenes. Then, when a customer comes in and asks for a book, and there's not one on the shelf, a staffer goes into the back and prints out a copy. If the customer just wants to look at it and not buy it, the bookstore is only out the (wholesale) cost of one book, which can sit out on the shelf until the next browser comes along. To me, it doesn't make sense to have the end user access the machine -- it makes more sense as a flexible inventory control device for bookstores.

Also, as to the cost, surely the manufacturer isn't seriously going to try and sell a $175K machine to bookstores that are barely getting by? Since it's mostly to the benefit of the manufacturer and the publisher to have this machine in stores, they should be the ones underwriting the cost of the thing. No bookseller in his/her right mind is going to pay to have it in their store, undercutting their profit margin.

MK
www.minervakoenig.com
No bookseller in his/her right mind is going to pay to have it in their store, undercutting their profit margin.

Set up a kiosk in Wal-Mart. Problem solved, from the machine-maker's point of view. Who needs a bookseller in that case?

To me, it doesn't make sense to have the end user access the machine -- it makes more sense as a flexible inventory control device for bookstores.

You could say the same thing about ATM machines, yet they work just fine.

Also, Blackwells, a bookseller in the UK, is already installing them in their stores: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/apr/24/espresso-book-machine-b...

It should also be pointed out that the person who first thought up the idea for this machine is none other than Jason Epstein, former editor at Doubleday, creator of Anchor books, co-founder of the Library of America, and the creator of the trade paperback. So if a guy like him isn't afraid of such an idea, why should anyone else be?
Not sure if you're arguing or agreeing, since your point about Wal-Mart supports my own re: booksellers having no love for the device, and the fact that Jason Epstein came up with the idea goes to what I said about publishers having a vested interest...

My point is, exactly, that people *don't* buy books in the same way that they get cash from ATM machines -- it's not a question of being 'afraid,' it's whether people will use the machine in the way the makers hope they will. I'll be curious to see how they fare at Blackwell's.

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