Home » Small Presses » One Small Publisher’s Experiences with the Espresso Book Machine

One Small Publisher’s Experiences with the Espresso Book Machine

19 February 2015

From TeleRead:

As a small publisher of literary fiction, I am very grateful to have a retail resource like Espresso On- Demand Books.

Publerati will have three titles available through the Espresso Book Machine Network this spring, and although there are a number of unique challenges to marketing and selling books this way in the current retail climate, I remain optimistic that this, or something similar to follow, will be an important part of future print book distribution.

. . . .

The first thing one has to accept is the eventual disappearance of most standalone bookstores. Ouch. I know, that hurts, and as a former bookseller myself I wish it were not so, but all the trends of the past ten years in book and other retailing (e.g., music, software, photos, DVD movies, florists, post offices) point to this reality.

In a future world where only the bestsellers and illustrated books are preprinted and sold mostly not through bookstores but in mass market channels like Target, supermarkets, and Amazon, how will the rest of the industry’s titles make it into print? How many standalone classes of retail trade can you think of in this day and age of the “huge general store”? Why should books be any different and deserve their own dedicated space in the era of the store-within-store?

I wonder how Big Publishing will distribute the needed quantities of preprinted books when Barnes & Noble is gone. B&N is already barely surviving due to selling more non-book items, while quietly closing underperforming stores, so this trend is established. These trends don’t just simply turn around and change direction suddenly because we hope they will. The only way B&N might survive is to become a general store themselves, with less merchandising space given to lower margin books. Which is what they have been doing and so have indie bookstores. For years.

My experience with On-Demand Books has been excellent. I received the necessary advance training to learn how to format and upload our titles correctly. Because the machines are so groundbreaking and mostly under-utilized in these early days, the operators at the various locations have been open to hearing from me as a small publisher and working together on store signings and promotions. There is no way I would get similar attention from the current physical book channels.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

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18 Comments to “One Small Publisher’s Experiences with the Espresso Book Machine”

  1. It is simply an example of just-in-time inventory management applied to books. When there is no need for warehouses of books, there will be no warehouses of books. We aren’t there yet, but are on the way.

    Abusing a tangent, but it does seem part of the same trend:

    3D printing is now producing working artificial hands for kids at a fraction of recent costs. Anyone can download the program for free, produce, and assemble the parts into a hand that works far better than no hand.

    • Yes. People shouting ‘but Amazon will TAKE OVER THE WORLD!’ obviously haven’t the first clue about how 3D printers and similar devices are going to decimate the retail business over the next few decades.

      Though I guess, at that point, we could see a world where everyone goes to KDP to download their new car. Or picks the design on amazon.com and has it printed for them at the nearest Amazon store.

      • Looking around my office, I can see exactly zero objects that are candidates for 3D printing.

        3D car printing? Ain’t gonna happen – not unless you can work out some way to have someone deliver a pile of scrap metal you can use for raw materials, and also solve a few other minor issues with industrial sintering, alloy design, and metallurgy.

        Plastic bodies and engines you say? Engines – not a chance. Bodies, maybe. But you still need to have a giant reel of plastic on hand to even consider the idea.

        Ironically, books are one of the few products that are relatively easy to auto-print. You’ll always get better print and cover quality from an industrial press, but Expresso is kinda sorta good enough for many people.

        What they aren’t is cheap enough. And unlike photo print, it’s not obvious that the auto-print book market is big enough to drive down prices through competition.

      • To decimate is to reduce by 10 percent. Not to annihilate. Please use words correctly, unless that is what you mean. It dates to Caesar’s organization of the legions. I don’t think reducing online sales by 10 percent is ominous.

  2. When I last looked into Expresso, they were a bit on the expensive side, but the machines are pretty cool for worldwide distribution at the click of a button. It cuts out the delivery costs for starters, so you’re just paying for printing. Also, the carbon footprint on distribution disappears. Still, if memory serves the printing prices were way high when I looked into them a few years ago.

  3. Hm… I don’t know enough different places in the States, so I might be off, but…

    I see two (of maybe more) scenarios. Target / Wallmart /… on its own, out there. Why can’t they have a EBM of their own? Not at current prices / capabilities, MAYBE, but… when it becomes possible, it could be next to the coffeeshop (I’d say IN, but I suppose the blasted thing smells).

    Other one, for places with several such Target / Wallmart / Sam’s Club… A single bookshop/printer with an EBM and some sort of agreement with those chains.

    It would be sort of a bookshop… sort of not.

    Take care.

    • I’ve been envisioning a futuristic scenario where a store has the equivalent of Redbox kiosks, only instead of movies you pick the book you want and Espresso prints it for you. And to be really wild and crazy, you can even choose the font size (the reason I’ve largely abandoned print) and trim size–would you like that in trade paperback size or mass market? French flaps with deckled edge, or straight with gold gilt edging?

      It’s one of those “twenty-minutes in the future sci fi” scenarios that I hope becomes reality soon.

      • I’ve never seen a Redbox (outside of jolly ol’ England phoneboxes). I think it’s similar to something one of the big banks here tried to do some 15+ years ago (20?), here.

        It couldn’t. Which sums my thoughts about the Spanish “culture” stablishment.

        Take care.

      • Jamie, I love that vision, especially with the format choice (which I can’t see quite yet, but maybe programs will get that much smarter soon).

        And I can see a wonderful, relaxing environment where people can wait for their book, chat with others, have a chai, and possibly be entertained with trailers for other books.

        Btw. Earnest Callenbach describes such machines in “Ecotopia”. Written in 1975…

  4. Expresso has been around for a few years, and this is the first time I’ve seen someone write about using them.

  5. I nominate Kinko’s, or whatever they call themselves today. They know how to keep this kind of machinery running. Anywhere else would be plagued with paper jams, out of Tray-1 lights, and the mysterious CALL OPERATOR light.

    “Marge, this thing jammed up in the middle of Chapter Six. What do I do?”

    “Go to lunch and pretend you didn’t see anything. Let Jeff fix it. It’s his big idea.”

  6. Glad to see people talking about my article. I worked in the photo industry in the mid-1990s when the first on-demand kiosks came out and they were too unwieldy and expensive. But here we are 20 years later and there are over 10,000 installed in the US alone at Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, airports, etc. Photos are not the same as books but I think the potential is there once the technology and distribution align properly.

  7. “The first thing one has to accept is the eventual disappearance of most standalone bookstores.”

    I’m not sure I agree with this, though that may be a matter of semantics. In the current environment, with Espresso Machines being as expensive as they are, a stand alone bookstore can’t operate one profitably. If the price comes down or more likely the patents expire and more companies offer competing machines a pod printer will be standard in most bookstores, grocery stores, and Walmart/Kamrt/Target/Cotsco/Sam’s Club…..

  8. Libraries. Airport, train, and bus terminals. Hospital gift shops. Coffee shops. Hotel lobbies. Interstate rest stops. Grocery stores, in the “coffee cafe” or by the customer service desk.

    There are *so* many places where a POD machine could take advantage of serious traffic and make a lot of money while making customers very happy.

    The price just needs to come down a bit more. (Both on the machine itself, and the POD books.)

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