From a speech given by Jason Epstein at the 2009 O’Reilly Tools Of Change for Publishing Conference, an interesting assessment of where we’re going. Walk into your local bookstore, choose any book you want from a catalog, and minutes later, one is newly printed for you and delivered into your hands. Forgive me if this sounds like hype but it really could revolutionize the industry:
The ATM for books that I envisioned ten years ago is today’s Espresso Book Machine whose latest iteration is here on display. Together with a high speed duplex printer this compact version 2.0 which, when its design is completed, will accommodate books of as many as 800 pages and can produce a 320 page, library quality paperback of any size between 4 x 4 and 8.5 x 11 identical to the factory made original in seven minutes for about a penny a page for consumables. The eventual cost of the machine will be no more than an office copier. The Espresso machine eliminates completely the Gutenberg supply chain by delivering a finished book from a selected digital file to the end user with no intervening steps: no inventory, no warehouse, no delivery cost, no spoilage and no returns. Ten test versions of Espresso 1.5, a predecessor version, are now operating in bookstores and libraries in the United States and Canada, Australia, Egypt and Great Britain.
I’m delighted to learn that a new e-reader is being developed: a super-thin, lightweight device with a large enough screen that you will be able to read a full magazine page without scrolling.
It’s not that I plan to rush out and buy one. I like my paper books just fine. But, if ebooks are the future, I don’t want a proprietary system from Amazon to become the de facto monopoly distribution system.
We’ve seen what happens when Amazon is in position to strong-arm
publishers on traditionally printed and POD books.
This device will be open source — meaning that you won’t be limited to reading text in a system owned by the e-reader’s makers, which is now the case with the Kindle. It will handle Word, pdf, and other documents, and it will cost about what Kindle costs.
We all know that retailers of all types have taken a beating lately. And while bookstores weren’t immune to the downturn, Publishers Weekly reports that December sales were down only 4.7 percent versus general retail sales, which dropped more than 8 percent.
So, people are still reading, still buying books as gifts. Not as many as before but hey, we take our good news wherever we can find it.
Joe the plumber, political spokesperson, author, war correspondent, is back again, in yet another new role, advising Republican congress people on the economic stimulus package.
Which makes me think that Joe is our very own U.S. version of Britain’s Catherine Tate. He’s just as funny but perhaps not intentionally so.
For those unfamiliar with Catherine “I can do that” Tate, you’re in for a treat. Watch one of her best “I can do that” routines and you’ll see what I mean.