The Espresso Book Machine, launched in 2009, offers a print-side answer to some of e-books' many advantages. Through a new partnership with Xerox that improves both the technology and its distribution possibilities, it may soon be clear whether or not the concept takes off.
The Espresso Book Machine makes "library quality paperbacks" from digital files by connecting to a network of 3.3 million titles obtained with publishers' approval. Content owners retain full rights and control of their digital files. With the help of Xerox technology, the resulting Version 2.0 produces a 300-page book in less than four minutes and at a cost of less than one cent per page.
According to creator OnDemandBooks, "What Gutenberg's press did for Europe in the 15th century, digitization and the Espresso Book Machine will do for the world tomorrow."
The EBM presents an intriguing alternative to e-reading for those who prefer a physical book. From the reader's prospective, it grants quick access to a wide range of titles. On the author's side, the EBM - and technology like it - could offer competition in the growing area of self-publishing, a field where digital technology is increasingly replacing print-on-demand solutions.
OnDemand says it expects the Espresso Book Machine to be valuable for educational institutions and libraries, public libraries, and bookstores, and in self-publishing and multilingual environments. The company is now rolling out the 2.0 in North America and expects to have 80 machines in place by the end of 2011.