As more and more readers make the switch to eBooks and other digital formats, there are still many who prefer physical books. The problem, of course, is that you either have to order online and wait for shipping, or choose from what is available at your local bookstore. You could try to print a book at home, but you would burn through a lot of ink cartridges in the process, and the result likely would not resemble a real book. But what if you could simply choose from a large library of books and print yourself a physical copy on demand? Well, a number of companies have already started to make professional-quality on-demand books a reality.
One of the largest companies in this space, On Demand Books, has begun rolling out its Espresso Book Machines, where users select a book from a large library of digital files, then pay for and print their book in minutes, ready to take it home. By signing deals with Kodak, they even plan to utilize that company’s existing network of photo printing kiosks for a wider rollout.
While this might sound like bad news for already-struggling brick-and-mortar bookstores, book chains such as Books-a-Million are also installing the Espresso machines in stores, according to the Wall Street Journal. Given the wider variety of books available, this allows the stores to provide many titles that might not otherwise be popular enough to keep in stock, giving users more choices. School bookstores and libraries have also installed the devices.
Who Will Benefit Most?
Applying the print-on-demand kiosk model to books could be a very successful business model for On Demand Books, but it is also likely to benefit several different groups:
College bookstores have a reputation for high prices and lots of overhead, but book kiosks could help to limit the need to stock multiple copies and could eventually help drive prices down for academic books. With the kiosks already showing up in university libraries and bookstores, students can also print rare and hard-to-find materials that might be helpful to their education.
The company’s website provides a method for self-published authors to upload their own work and have it printed at a kiosk nearby. They claim the finished product will be indistinguishable from a traditionally published book. This could significantly reduce the costs involved in self-publishing, and allow more authors to get their work out to readers.
With On Demand Books working with several publishers to buy up their catalog of out-of-print and rare books, numerous titles that were previously difficult to find could simply be printed on demand. While they may not match the thrill of finding that rare first edition, book collectors can at least have the opportunity to keep rare works on their shelves.
Online shoppers used to buying books from Amazon and other retailers often have to wait a few days or even more for their books. With on-demand printing services, users can order a book online and have it ready for them to pick up in the store a few minutes later. Shoppers who can’t wait to get started on that next novel now have a new option.
Book publishers have a new outlet for their back catalogs, which might otherwise sit unused, as titles are too old or too limited in appeal to be printed on a large scale. It also may give publishers a new way to test out books on a small audience, or to market those with a niche appeal.
As on-demand book printing expands to new markets, more and more users will see them pop up in their area, reaping the benefits. Keep your eye on this exciting trend, as it could drastically change the way we purchase printed books in the coming years.
For a demonstration of the Espresso Book Machine, see the video below: