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Espresso Book Machine arrives in SA

The Espresso Book Machine prints a bookstore-quality paperback in minutes, and has been called the biggest change to publishing since Gutenberg's press.

Bringing what has been called “revolutionary” book-publishing technology to SA, Self-Publish Press – together with Xerox – has launched the Espresso Book Machine (EBM) at the University of Johannesburg's main library.

The EBM is the creation of On Demand Books, in New York, and is capable of producing a bookstore-quality paperback with a colour cover, in minutes. The books can be printed in any standard trim size, and the machine eliminates the problem of minimum print runs.

The EBM looks like a large photocopier – not exactly an espresso machine, but the comparison lies more in the speed and ease of production than the aesthetics.

“The EBM technology offers libraries and bricks-and-mortar retailers the opportunity to become community self-publishing centres,” says Xerox, which is represented locally by Bytes Document Solutions. “In addition, the EBM provides a new sales channel for publishers and vastly increases the availability of titles for physical bookstores, thus significantly reducing loss of sales due to books being out of stock.”

Xerox has partnered with On Demand Books to start selling, leasing and servicing the EBM worldwide. “By the end of 2012, we're projecting to have over 150 EBMs installed,” says On Demand Books, adding that – to date – EBMs have already been placed in bookstores, libraries and universities in the US, UK, Japan, China, the Middle East, Asia, Australia and the Caribbean.

Dane Neller, CEO of On Demand Books, says he believes the implications of the EBM for education in Africa are enormous.

“Following the lead of the Library of Alexandria, in Egypt, and other prestigious universities in the US and Canada, UJ can claim a first for South African universities,” says head of library and information services at UJ Dr Rookaya Bawa. Xerox will maintain, service, and market the EBM in SA and throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

'iTunes for books'

In order to print, the EBM draws the content via EspressNet, which is On Demand Books' digital network with over eight million titles. On Demand Books explains: “Much like an iTunes for books, EspressNet retrieves, encrypts, transmits and catalogues books from multiple English and foreign language sources (including public domain sources, traditional publishers and self-published authors). Writers can upload their own books for printing into a physical book, and, if so desired, for inclusion on EspressNet.”

According to On Demand Books, EspressNet also tracks sales, delivers payment to content publishers and uses industry-standard encryption methods to keep titles safe. Through EspressNet SelfServe, writers and publishers can make titles available for sale worldwide through the EBM.

“Authors simply need to provide two print-ready PDFs per book (interior and cover) and, once uploaded, these titles will be available for sale throughout our global network of EBMs almost immediately.

“The self-publishing author retains full ownership and control over the digital files, meaning that you have the ability to modify or delete your books at any time. All sales are tracked by EspressNet, assuring the security of your titles and providing for all payments due to you as their author and self-publisher. And our distribution arrangement is, of course, non-exclusive,” says On Demand Books.

Use of EspressNet SelfServe is free of charge, and self-publishing authors can set the suggested retail price of their works. There is, however, a base minimum of $0.05 per page and $1 per book.

When the EBM was installed at a Blackwell bookstore, in London, in 2009, the Guardian quoted Blackwell's head of marketing, Phill Jamieson, as saying: "I do think this is going to change the book business. It has the potential to be the biggest change since Gutenberg and we certainly hope it will be.”


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