Bookshop Santa Cruz unveils the future: the Espresso Book Machine
Coming soon to a bookstore near you: the future of bookselling. That’s what Casey Coonerty Protti, owner of Bookshop Santa Cruz, calls the Espresso Book Machine. It’s a piece of technology about the size of an old-fashioned Xerox copy machine that’s capable of creating a professionally printed, perfectly-bound, and trimmed paperback book in minutes—books to go, while you wait. And it’s being unveiled to the public at a special launch party at Bookshop Santa Cruz next Wednesday, July 11.
Bearing the weighty technical name Espresso Book Machine® (EBM)—A Xerox Solution, the device is produced by parent company On Demand Books, and positioned to send the beleaguered book industry reeling into the future—ready or not. Can’t find the book you want on the shelves? No need to make a special order (or order it online), and wait days, or weeks, for it to arrive. The EBM will print one up for you on the spot—so long as the desired title is available through EspressNet®, the EBM’s digital catalog of content. With major-player publishers such as McGraw-Hill, Simon & Schuster, and HarperCollins (among others) making their in-print backlists available, and public domain titles provided through the Google Books program, there are currently some eight million titles available in any language via the EBM. As more publishers and book providers sign on, those numbers will only increase.
“People are clamoring for it,” says Protti, citing the “endless possibilities” of EBM technology. It gives booksellers access to what she calls “the longtail”—thousands of titles in a publisher’s catalog beyond the bestsellers. Besides this expanded inventory, Protti notes the EBM is great for readers “who want to support a local business. In Santa Cruz, we’re all about shopping locally. Now we can print locally.”
According to On Demand Books representative Bronwen Blaney, who was in town last week to help set up the equipment, publishers are also enthusiastic about the EBM as “a sales channel that supplements the existing industry.” She notes that On Demand is in partnership with BSC to install the machine, an arrangement she likens to “a concession, like a coffee shop.”
But wait—there’s more. In addition to ushering in a brave new world of instant book access for readers, the EBM is poised to be a boon for authors, as well. The same technology that makes it possible to format and print a book on the spot will also allow an author to upload his or her manuscript and turn it into book form in a matter of minutes. Hard copy—an actual book!—that most elusive Holy Grail of so many unpublished authors is now within everyone’s grasp.
Here’s how it works: the author submits two PDF files, one for the text of the book, and one for the color cover. Onsite consultant Sylvie-Marie Drescher will be available to help authors navigate the various formatting, design, and set-up options. Once the formatting is complete, an author can start printing out as many or as few copies of his or her work as desired, at the push of a button.
On one hand, this is the democratization of book publishing that fringe authors have dreamed of for so long. But, like all self-publishing ventures, the author pays for production costs. Blaney says there are various levels of set-up fees, depending on the size of the work, the length of the project, and the author’s tech expertise. (“Somebody professional, who knows what they’re doing,” she says, “we’re not going to ask them to pay us for what they can do themselves.”) Protti adds that a table of projected self-publishing costs will be available in time for the launch party.
If you’re an author who doesn’t want to print out more copies of your book, says Protti, you can still pay to upload your book into the system, making it available through EspressNet® at all EBM locations worldwide. Once it’s in the system, the author retains all rights to the work, decides on the retail price, and receives the full retail amount per sale, minus a small consignment fee per copy.
“Santa Cruz is such a creative community,” says Protti, adding that she’s thrilled to be able to provide this service to the literary community. Citing the “wildly successful” local author events at BSC, she hopes the EBM will help to expand on that relationship.
The EBM is capable of turning out books in a range of sizes from 4 1/2 x 5 inches to about 8 1/4 x 10 inches. Forty is the minimum number if pages (20 sheets of paper); maximum page count is about 800. (Only note that while images such as photos or line drawings can be printed between the covers alongside the text, it’s not possible to reproduce images in color inside the book.) Novels, poetry, family histories, story anthologies, even recipe collections are among the works suggested for publication. But get creative! Blaney mentions two little sisters who were so inspired by the EBM, they made a book to give their mom on Mother’s Day.
Indeed, the EBM in action is an inspiring sight. Glass doors let you view every aspect of the printing, collating, gluing and trimming process, which takes about 10 minutes for a 200-page book. Protti says that kids are so thrilled by “the magic of seeing a book printed,” they instantly want to go write one. BSC customers were similarly awed the day the machine was demonstrated for me. “Is that like a $100 book?” wondered one passer-by as the demo book came out, literally hot off the press. Nope, cost of an EBM book to the consumer is comparable to any other retail outlet. It’s just faster.
At present there are only about 80 EBMs in existence, located in bookstores, libraries and universities around the world. Bookshop Santa Cruz in one of only 12 independent bookstores in the United States to acquire one (and one of only two in California), so this is a very big deal.
To celebrate the arrival of its very own EBM, and introduce it to the public, BSC is throwing a launch party next Wednesday, July 11. Along with raffle prizes and various discounts, the event will feature a panel on successful self-publishing. Local journalist Christa Martin will discuss promoting your book to the press, and BSC’s own Nici McCown will offer tips on positioning your book in neighborhood bookstores, and promotion via social media.
Festivities begin at 7 p.m., and include a sneak peek of the EBM in action. Drop in and say hello to the future.
The Espresso Book Machine launch party takes place at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 11, at Bookshop Santa Cruz, 1520 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Call 423-0900 or visit bookshopsantacruz.com.