Monday, December 6, 2010

Coffee with that Expresso Book?

It isn't exactly dinky, but there's something a little evocative (and scary - new technology is always scary) about being able to walk into a bookshop or library, and print out any book in print in a few seconds and watch it construct in front of you.  The latest version of Espresso Book Machine® 2.0 is just 3.8 feet wide by 2.7 feet deep by 4.5 feet high (that's even shorter than I am).  You can watch a video of a book being made at The Expresso Book Machine Channel. It's pretty cool and looks a little like a big photocopier (what will they be able to expresso next?).  So will this be competition for the ebook?  Will it help authors and publishers who couldn't otherwise get shelf-space in the big chains?   Only time will tell.  I know from personal experience that book buying, particularly in a shop, is often based on serendipity - you grab what's featured, on sale, being talked about, has an evocative cover.  None of these things are conducive to using the expresso machine.  The initial launch of the book machine at Angus and Robertson in Melbourne was not a success.  However, the new machine is lighter, faster, and might be a bit cheaper.  If those things come together with the increasing cost of property, warehousing and shelf-space, then perhaps this can be a win-win for everyone who loves and lives by books.  I have to admit that I often spend many hours searching for particular titles for gifts, and knowing I can pop into my local and get anything within a few minutes, at a good rate (that's probably fairly key), would be great.  As an author, if I knew I could send readers to their local shop for a copy of any of my books, or do a reading anywhere I might happen to be visiting at the drop of a hat, with no stock and still have infinite numbers of copies to sell, then this would be a significant win.  Still, the machines retail at about 100k, which equates to a lot of stock, so probably only the big guys would have one, and those big guys might end being the supermarket or chains like Wal-Mart or Target, which would be good for authors like me, but maybe not so good for those cozy little shops down the street that know you like a friend and make wonderful suggestions.  Not that I can think of any in my area that haven't gone under to Borders or A&R.  Alas.  The future marches on. 

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