Monday, October 29, 2007

Espresso Book Machine

Marcus Sakey at The Outfit: A Collective blogged today about the future of books, "Books 2.0."

Have you heard of the Espresso Book Machine? Evidently, they’re placing them in between 10 and 25 libraries and bookstores this year, even the New York Public Library. You press a button, and it prints out a book with a color cover, fully bound, everything.

What would that mean to the industry? Less waste, the ability for publishers to take more chances without loss of profit ... but then also more work for the authors to stand out of the crowd, more work for the reader to find books. But every Starbucks could have a book machine. You grab a cup of coffee, print out a book, enjoy an afternoon.

But then whole bookstores might become 100% co-op. After all, there’s a book machine in the store. Right now it may not print royalty books, but I’m sure it won’t be long. Why risk printing books if they’re available in store at the touch of a button? So publishers might be taking bigger risks by having print runs at all.

Readers will still buy more of the books they see up front. And a little less of the ones on the regular shelves. And much less of the books not in the store. Hence, real estate on actual bookshelves would be more competitive.

Oh, who knows. It’s cool to watch it work, isn’t it?

9 bonus scribbles:

Stewart Sternberg 10/29/2007 09:01:00 PM  

Wait. Let me kill myself now. Here, let's load the gun, hold our breath... It's not bad enough that less and less people are reading and that corporations are taking less and less writers and marketing stuff in a way that would shame even the most lurid prostitute from the Victorian era, but now...now we have the autobook. No more browsing. No more publishing an author who might take off. Now it's corporate spam and godblessye.

Thanks. Tell me it's a Halloween prank.

Edie 10/30/2007 09:13:00 AM  

I was thinking the opposite of Stewart. I had an email from a friend this morning who said publishers aren't willing to take on a book that's unique. This might be the way they'd do it. I think we'd have to do a lot of promo, but it could work. Like you said "the ability for publishers to take more chances without loss of profit".

Look at Amazon. I buy debut authors on Amazon because I've heard buzz about their book. Wouldn't this be similar? I'd love to see this machine in doctors' waiting rooms, lol.

L.L. Bartlett 10/30/2007 10:11:00 AM  

As a former "key operator" of copiers for many years (how else was I going to copy my manuscripts for free?) I can tell you that there are many ways this machine can F-up. I almost hope it does... The idea is great, but when this happens as every day practice it'll mean less and less authors will find an audience in an already overcrowded field.

spyscribbler 10/30/2007 10:40:00 AM  

No prank, Stewart. It is a problem; no browsing. But then as the publishing model stands right now, bookstores aren't the ones taking the risk on books, so I expect that the most promising and the most proven writers would still get print runs. But, (I'm just imagining, here,) that getting a print run would be a big push for an author.

However, it's like ebooks. Without the print run, the publisher is risking less money, so there's publishing riskier books.

In music (sheet music), browsing is a dying luxury. Music stores don't stock much music anymore, and the only way you can find new music is by attending huge conventions (and even then ...) or browsing the internet. And then you have to buy by title alone, because only about 20% have sample pages.

You can't leaf through anymore. I can adapt to no browsing in a bookstore, but I need to leaf through, you know?

I don't know if sheet music stores buy on consignment or outright (pretty certain music stores take the risk, not the publishers), so I'm guessing that the same fate won't befall books.

I don't know.

spyscribbler 10/30/2007 10:42:00 AM  

This is very true, Edie. I think that is what made ebooks stand out from the beginning. They can handle the niches that are profitable but will not interest a huge market. This is a step up from ebooks, I think.

Speaking of which, I've been noticing a trend in my sales. People aren't buying as many ebooks as they were--they want the print version.

So maybe this POD thing will be good.

spyscribbler 10/30/2007 10:45:00 AM  

i.l. bartlett, that's so true! The guy, when he was demonstrating at the World Bank, said that this was a "beta" machine and that they were still working the kinks out.

About the overcrowded field, I think that's only going to increase. I wonder if that's why so many people are afraid of self-publishing. Well, anyway, I'm musing that it's going to get harder to stand out from a bigger and bigger pack.

That's okay, though. You gotta do what you gotta do.

spyscribbler 10/30/2007 10:45:00 AM  

(Yikes. Notice how the less I know, the wordier I get? *insert eye roll*)

Stewart Sternberg 10/31/2007 11:34:00 AM  

No, the publishers are only going to promote those books which they promote now. Print by demand is a bust, and no one takes PBD seriously. So, I can't see this opening doors for anyone..unless that person's name is Conformity or his cousin Mediocrity.

spyscribbler 10/31/2007 09:28:00 PM  

You're right about promotion; I agree. But POD is not a bust ... or did you mean self-publishing? EC became a multi-million dollar publisher with POD books. They're probably the biggest, but they're not the only publisher to turn a profit from it. That's not exactly a bust ...

I've even heard people say that major publishers use the technology sometimes, too, not just the small publishers. That's just hearsay, though.

But POD is where ebooks get their second life. Most of my royalties come from POD books; without POD technology, I'd still see royalties, but not quite as much. Some people buy the ebook, then, if they like a book, they'll order the print book. That's sweet, LOL.

Let me put it this way: I wrote a 4,000 word essay that was distributed in an anthology in all the bookstores. Six or seven years ago, I wrote a 4,000 word short story that was sold digitally. My short story is never going out of print, and it keeps selling, and selling, and selling, month after month. I don't make a huge amount from it, but that trickle amounts to way more than I got from the essay I wrote for a "real" book.

Although that short story isn't available in print (POD) form, the novellas that are make even more, proportionally.

Because they'll never go out of print, the royalties will just keep adding up. It's really not a bad deal.