Ask The Editor

February 23, 2009

The future of book publishing

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.

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