Saturday, June 21, 2008

Books on Demand

A company called On Demand Books is producing a fascinating piece of machinery that is capable of printing library quality paperback books that are said to be indistinguishable from those produced by a publishing house. The machines are being sold to libraries and, more interestingly, to bookstores looking for a way to compete with the likes of

As the video demonstrates, this would be the ultimate toy for the multimillionaire book collector:

All the specs and details are covered at the On Demand Books website. The only thing I haven't been able to find is the cost of the machine. Maybe I just missed it, or maybe it's one of those "if you have to ask, you can't afford it" things.

Blackwell, a bookstore chain in the U.K., is leasing and installing the machines in 50 of its locations and claims to be able to offer a choice of "around one million titles" that can be produced in something like seven minutes.
Alison Flood, news editor of The Bookseller, said: "Imagine going into a book store and getting an obscure title while you wait. It could be a way for street chains to compete with the range that is offered online. The novelty for readers will also be exciting and it could be a great thing for the high street."

On Demand has been in talks with other British retailers about stocking the Espresso. Blackwell is the first chain in Europe to place an order for the machine and the largest commercial retailer in the world to do so.
So books are dead, are they, doomsayers? These books can be produced for a penny a page, three dollars for a 300-page book, so they can still generate a nice profit at a relatively low sales price. Now if I could just come up with the cash, and the space, to get one of these gizmos for my home library...


  1. That's pretty cool. I wonder how widespread its use will become?

  2. I read that the machine is about $100,000.

  3. Jeane, I suspect that it will become more common every year and, if the manufacturer can hold on long enough, that there is quite a bit of money to be made from this invention. I find it completely fascinating the way that the book looks so perfect at the end of the process shown in the video.

  4. Wow, Annie...$100,000? I'm going to have to get a bigger jar to throw my change into every night...

  5. Bybee, see Annie's comment, above. It may be on your wish list for a while. :-)