But it Doesnt Make Coffee!
Harley Sachs 9/7/09
For a gag once I hoped to glue the spigot from a coffee machine to the side of my desktop computer with a sign coffee and a little card saying out of order in case someone thought my computer -- besides doing so much -- could also make coffee. Now there is an Espresso Book Machine (EBM) that was chosen by Time magazine as Best Invention of 2007. It prints books on demand. Unfortunately, its not in Traverse City yet or anywhere in Michigan. But that day is coming.
It was only a matter of time before the ordinary office copy machine would be upgraded to not only print downloaded digitized documents, but also to do a cover and the binding as well: an entire paperback book.
The Espresso Book Machine (EBM) of which there are about a dozen now operating (most of them abroad) will print you a book in about four to seven minutes, before your coffee gets cold. In fact, the plan is to put these machines in coffee shops so you can buy a latte and have the book of your choice printed while you wait.
Currently, Lightning Source, a print-on-demand book printer owned by Ingram, the largest distributor of books, is contracted with the independent Northshire books (www.northshire.com) which owns an EBM. The EBM obtains digitized books from an alliance which includes Microsoft, Yahoo, Adobe, and the Internet Archive. It can also print any of more than one million public domain books.
And of course, Google is in the process of digitizing entire libraries. In digitizing libraries, Google also glommed onto books under copyright, so theres been a lawsuit by authors defending their rights. Ultimately, almost every book is likely to be available through this new technology.
The alternative technological route to books are the portable readers like the Kindle which download digital books that can then be read on a screen. But not everyone is used to reading books on a screen. True book lovers go into rapture at the touch and feel and fragrance of a real book in their hands. A real book needs no batteries and can be read in the bathtub without fear of a short circuit or on the beach without being ruined by sand. Books are friends to be cherished. To love an electronic gadget is, well, unnatural.
The Espresso Book Machine was first installed in Australia four years ago and is gradually being introduced to other locations around the world, such as Blackwells Books at Charing Cross in London. There are currently five EBMs in America, including one at the New York Public Library.
If you ever searched in vain for an out-of-print book in a bookstore or in a university library, the EBM is a godsend. Consider this: back in the 1960s I did a story about Oslo University Books. Not just a bookstore, the Oslo, Norway business located out-of-print books and then partnered with an American publisher to split a conventional press run, each adding their own title page. It was Oslo University Books proud achievement to resurrect hard-to-find, important books.
Now, with digitized books and the EBM, no book need ever go out of print.
Michael Powell, of Powells Books in Portland, Oregon foresees the day when there will be an EBM in every major airport. While waiting for your flight you will be able to choose not from the meager stock of mainly best-sellers usually found in airport bookstores, but from over a million choices. An EBM on a cruise ship would be a boon to readers on board.
For booksellers, it means they no longer have to inventory hundreds of books and deal with all the invoicing, returns, and paperwork typical of an independent bookstore. Instead, bookstores will be able to offer as many titles as you will find in a university library.
Recently, Amazon.com discovered that their download of George Orwells 1984 and Animal Farm were pirated copies that violated copyright law. The online bookseller deleted these books from Kindle owners. Considering that Amazon.com charges as much as 10 bucks per download for an electronic book, a print-on-demand, honest-to-gosh book is a competitive option. When youre done reading it you can give it away or donate it to your local Michigan library for a tax credit.
Theres just one drawback to the Espresso Book Machine. It doesnt make coffee.
Visit the web site www.hu.mtu.edu/~hlsachs where you can listen to two stories, read a third, read reviews, and find links to the publishers of my books.