While New York's downtown indie bookseller McNally Jackson has had the city's first Espresso Book Machine (which can print and bind books from, among other sources, Google Books, Lightning Source, or from files supplied by authors) for about a month, the store held a coming out party for it on Tuesday, February 15. Situated amidst the store's periodical racks, next to the cafe, the huge machine (essentially a photocopier attached to a book binding machine) is a central focus at the front of the store. On Tuesday, the Espresso Book Machine was the subject of a panel discussion between the bookstore's owner Sarah McNally, Jason Epstein, and Dane Neller of On Demand Books, the company behind the Espresso.
Before the event, I had the chance to test out the machine and talk with McNally bookseller John Turner about the Espresso's first month in the store.
Turner said interest in the machine has been strong, but customers were slow to begin using it, though some recent press, including a piece on NPR, has drawn more and more people. McNally's machine came set up to print from Google and Lightening Source--On Demand Books lets stores set their own prices for these books, depending on what paper the store chooses and other factors.
Surprisingly, Turner said that while he expected the machine to be used mostly for backlist and public domain books from Google, McNally's machine has been used more frequently as a printing press for self-published authors, who have been using it to do small runs of their books, from 20 to 300 copies, for $6 plus $.02 per page. Self-published authors are also able to place their books in Espresso's system at no extra charge, so that they are available for printing on other machines
Other surprising uses of the machine have included printing an emergency galley for W.W. Norton and printing up copies of an author's books for an in-store event for which books didn't arrive in time.
For my own test run, I decided to have an 1818 edition of John Keats' book Endymion, which was scanned by Google from the Harvard library. From picking it on Google to it popping out as a bound book, the process took about five minutes. The book emerged from a chute at the back of the machine, as a neatly bound paperback in McNally Jackson's generic binding. It cost me $13.