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[BKARTS] Interesting article from the Boston Globe on books on demand

Machine downloads books from a massive database while the customer  waits
Boston.com article page player in wide format. 

By _D.C. Denison_ 

Globe Staff / June 29, 2009  

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The Northshire Bookstore, in quaint Manchester Center, Vt., has all the  
classic trappings: exposed beams, wood tables stacked with hardcover  
bestsellers, comfortable leather chairs nestled into alcoves.

Discuss  _COMMENTS (2)_ 

And then there’s “Lurch,’’ a hulking jumble of machinery that is often  
groaning and shuddering in a corner behind the sales counter.

Officially known as the Espresso Book Machine, Lurch, as the employees call 
 it, is a “print on demand’’ setup the size of a meat freezer that creates 
books  for customers while they wait.

The publishing world is closely following the experiment at Northshire, the 
 first independent bookstore in the United States to install the clattering 
book  machine. If Northshire can make money printing books downloaded from 
massive  online catalogs, it will show how small brick-and-mortar bookshops 
might be able  to match the overwhelming variety of products offered by a 
giant online retailer  like _Amazon.com_ (http://amazon.com/) .

It could streamline the traditional book supply chain, with much less nee d 
 for space in warehouses, inventory on hand, shipping expenses, or 
management of  returns.

And no book ever has to go out of print.

Espresso’s print-on-demand technology could also change the dynamics of  
large bookstore chains. On Demand Books, the New York company that produces 
the  book machine, has just launched a pilot program with a distributor, 
making  85,000 book titles from major publishers like Simon & Schuster and 
_McGraw-Hill_ (http://finance.boston.com/boston?Page=QUOTE&Ticker=MHP)  available 
to Espresso  machines.

Espresso machines can also access thousands of titles that are in the  
public domain and available on the Internet.

To a publishing analyst like Brian F. O’Leary, a principal at Magellan  
Media Consulting Partners in New York, the deal between the machine’s makers 
and  such big publishers “shows that the traditional book business is at least 
 willing to test-drive the Espresso.’’

The next question is whether the big book retailers will adopt the  

“Chain stores have always been part of the business plan,’’ said Lauren  
Parker, a spokeswoman for On Demand Books, though she declined to name20any  
chains. The company is “planning for dramatic growth in 2009,’’ she  added.

Spokesmen for the giant chains Borders and Barnes & Nobles were aware  of 
the Espresso, but declined to comment on whether they were considering  
placing the machine in any stores.

But Lurch already looks like a success at Northshire.

“This has added an entirely new element to the bookstore,’’ manager Chris  
Morrow said as the machine churned out a novel written by a local  author.

When the machine is connected to an expanded online catalog of titles later 
 this year, Morrow said, the bookstore will be able to offer customers an “
ATM  for books’’ that will provide access to millions of works.

“The idea is that soon we’ll be able to print out any book that’s ever 
been  printed,’’ he said. “That could really change people’s image of the 
small  bookstore.’’

The Espresso Book Machine comes with a publishing industry pedigree. Jason  
Epstein, who cofounded On Demand Books in 2003, is the former editorial 
director  of Random House in New York. Epstein’s vision was a fully automatic, 
low-cost  device that could be placed in a neighborhood bookshop, coffee 
shop, newsstand,  library, hotel, even aboard a cruise ship or in airports.

Northshire took delivery of its unit last year. Other first-generation  
machines went to college bookstores, like the one at the University of Alberta, 
 and libraries, including the Library of Alexandria in Egypt and the 
University  of Michigan Library in Ann _Arbor_ 
(http://finance.boston.com/boston?Page=QUOTE&Ticker=ARBR) , Mich. The newest version of  the Espresso, about 
half the size of the one in Northshire, costs between  $79,000 and $95,000 and 
is available for lease for between $1,250 and $1,650 a  month.

Northshire wanted the new machine to connect the store’s customers to  
millions of book titles. That part of the business has developed slowly, as On  
Demand Books works to develop partnerships with publishers. Morrow expects  
millions of books to be available by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Northshire discovered that the machine’s ability to print  
original books in very small numbers was attracting a lively customer base of  
local authors. “Self-publishing was a plus we didn’t expect,’’ said Annette  
Rodefeld, Northshire’s print-on-demand coordinator.

In its first year, Northshire’s book=2 0machine printed dozens of original  
books by customers, including memoirs, autobiographies, poetry collections, 
and  cookbooks, usually producing from 30 to 50 copies of each. The 
bookstore also  published a young adult novel written by a local 12-year-old and a 
previously  out-of-print guide to Manchester.

Self-publishers pay a $49 setup fee and a per-page rate that ranges from 5  
to 9 cents, depending on the length. Northshire provides an a la carte menu 
of  editorial and design services from a network of providers. Copy editing 
costs 1  cent per word; book design services, $40 an hour.

“Since it’s taken us longer than we expected to get publishers to share  
their catalog, the self-publishing businesses has taken up the slack,’’ said 
 Dane Neller, chief executive at On Demand Books.

In September, Michael Cohen, a rabbi, printed 50 copies of his novella  “
Einstein’s Rabbi’’ at Northshire. Reaction was so good he revised the book 
and  printed an additional 300.

“It’s been a wonderful experience,’’ he said. Cohen is now selling his 
book  on _Amazon.com_ 
(http://finance.boston.com/boston?Page=QUOTE&Ticker=AMZN)  and on Northshire’s  website.

Rodefeld, a for mer graphic designer who works at a tiny desk next to the  
Espresso machine, produces up to 35 books a day. “It’s exciting to see an  
author’s face when I hand them the first book off the press,’’ she said. “
To see  the dream, the fantasy, become a reality - that really tickles me. I 
get to be  Santa Claus all the time here.’’

The Espresso also comes just as electronic book readers, like _Amazon.com_ 
(http://amazon.com/) ’s Kindle, seem on the brink of mass market  
acceptance. But Morrow thinks that won’t be a serious challenge to the paper  products 
of the Espresso.

“E-books are about 1 percent of the market right now,’’ he said. “Maybe  
they’ll get to 10 percent in the next few years. That still leaves 90 
percent of  the market in paper. And print-on-demand will give independent 
bookstores a  bigger slice of that very big pie.’’

“The Kindle is hot,’’ agreed O’Leary, “but e-books will be a small 
segment  of the publishing industry for the foreseeable future. Print-on-demand, 
on the  other hand, is growing. Because of digitization by Google and others, 
more and  more books are becoming available every day. A lot of those books 
are going to  come back to life as print-on-demand.0’

Last month, Morrow was invited to give a talk on his print-on-demand  
experience at BookExpo America, the publishing industry’s annual conference in  
New York. There was great interest in the machine from other independent  
booksellers, he said, but “it all depends if the numbers can work out for an  
individual bookstore.’’

The numbers at Northshire Bookstore, Morrow said, are “on the cusp’’ of  
working out. The big payoff will come, he said, when the Espresso machine is  
seamlessly connected to the entire universe of books, allowing the store to 
 fulfill any request in minutes.

“It’s been great for building community,’’ he said.

Asked if he foresees a day when every bookstore will have an Espresso  
machine, Morrow paused.

“Maybe not every bookstore,’’ he replied. “But every smart  bookstore.’’

D.C. Denison can be reached at _denison@xxxxxxxxxx 
(mailto:denison@xxxxxxxxx) . 

© Copyright 2009 Globe New spaper Company

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