Tuesday, October 27, 2009

An Ode to the Expresso

As I sit at my desk, sipping coffee, I’m reading an ode to the Expresso. No, not that kind of expresso. This “ode” is to the Expresso Book Machine. We haven’t heard much about that Expresso in a while. All the talk has been about e-readers and pricing wars. But Richard Griffin waxes poetic in the Allston-Brighton about the machine that can turn out a book in less than five minutes. “Almost four feet wide, three feet deep, and four and a half feet high, this new contraption prints, binds and trims in remarkably short order.”

Griffiin loves the Expresso. He’s astonished others don’t gaze on it in wonder, as he does at The Harvard Book Store. In the article, he says the inventors cite five benefits of the Expresso:
1) books can be produced and distributed on site;
2) books can be chosen from an almost limitless digital list and delivered more efficiently;
3) the work of self-published authors can be distributed instantly;
4) literacy can flourish more easily in undeveloped areas; and
5) fewer materials will be wasted.
Others may cherish their e-readers, but Griffin laments:
Surprisingly, no stores in New York City or Los Angeles have it yet. Nor does Barnes and Noble or any other large chain of booksellers.
Sure, the machine costs $100,000, and to make it pay, it has to print at least 20 books a day, but he believes it can be viable. People can request out of print books, or rare scholarly books, or even have their own manuscripts printed.

Considering the Expresso is fast, “green” and makes affordable copies, Griffin is surprised others don’t visit The Harvard Book Store just to gaze on this invention of the future.

He’s writing a memoir. I see him one day sitting at a small table, no books laid out, just a pen in hand and a smile on his face. Customers will order his book from the Expresso then bring it to him to sign. No remainders, no relegation to the 50cent table, and it’s always “in print.”
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  1. I think the Expresso is a great idea! My books are avilable through it, too.

  2. I think the Expresso sounds fascinating and I'd love to see one in action.

  3. I have had the same vision since I heard about the Espresso. I think it's magnificent but sadly underutilized piece of technology, and I wish every major city had one.

  4. That is a WONDERFUL machine. And it's green too? Cool. I'd love to see it and marvel ... with a nice Mocha Latte with a shot of expresson added in hand.

    Marvin D Wilson

  5. I love the idea of the Expresso. Maybe the technology will get less expensive and more stores will be interested in carrying it.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  6. I get it! Every local writer's group (The Writers Federation here in Nova Scotia) could canvas their peeps and get the moolah to buy one. Then set up downtown in a cafe and voila - let the fun begin. What would it do to independent book sellers though? Hmm...green is always good but we need to think this through all the way to the end. Maybe the independent book sellers could be the ones that host the machine. There are so few of them left in any city. And people will still want big photo rich books and old used books that smell a certain way so...

  7. I'd buy a book from the Expresso just to see it in action. I wish there was one around here.

  8. I want one!! god to get any books I want by sticking in my credit card and pressing go. I'd have one in my garage in a heartbeat. :)

  9. Finally, publishing innovation!! I'd love to see this in action, does the article mention if it gets a lot of use?

    P.S. You've won Therese Walsh's book from yesterday's post, congrats! I'll be in touch for shipping info :)

  10. I would love to see one of these machines. It's a great idea. Is the one in Harvard the only one?

  11. I actually wish this thing would be more available. Out of print books bought to replace my long-lost copies are breaking my book budget, lol.

    Seriously, now I want to go the Harvard Book Store next time I'm down that way just so I can get a book printed. Maybe for a joke I'll bring the file with all my bad poetry on it and give copies to my friends for Christmas and pretend I'm really serious...but have a page somewhere in the middle explaining the joke...

  12. I think it's extraordinary and don't understand why it's not everywhere already. The savings in limited space, print overruns, consumer satisfaction, indie authors,out of print,...the list is long.

  13. My hope is that this one will become a success and the store will make their money back and then some. If one or two stores can make it viable, others will join. If there was one in my area, I'd use it. I wonder how many Expressos are in use currently and where they are.

    I've won a book! A Therese Walsh book, no less! I'd take a picture of me dancing around my office, but it's not a pretty sight with one broken toe and a sleeping dog that won't move off the dance floor. Thank you, Joanne.

  14. A road trip! To Harvard Book Store! And from its description, it sounds as if Expresso could have had a starring role in a Star Wars movie, heh.

    I'm in NYC for 10 days, several blocks away from a Barnes & Noble. Darn. I could get an espresso there but that's not what I would want...

  15. Wow, I've never heard of the Expresso machine! It'd be fantastic for all sorts of applications. I'm wondering, if like all technology the price of the machine may come down?

  16. What am I missing? i don't see the attraction of it. A book is more than a rectangular stack of paper with text and a cardboard cover. It's a combination of ideas, art and industry. It's a cultural artifact. Just because it lands in an output tray with a "clunk" doesn't mean it contains solid ideas.

    IMHO, a fast book is like fast food. While we can't equate fast food with bad food, we know the prevalence of so much bad food is the result of the proliferation of fast food. The expresso will have no effect on good books, but will lead to a lot more bad books. Garbage in, garbage out. How is that green?

    I know this machine is being pushed as a way to get a hardcopy of any of Google's out-of-print/out-of-copyright books, but is that really necessary? Sure you might have to pay a lot in a rare bookstore for some of these, but you can get them free electronically. If the content is what you need, printing out the pdf would do just fine, but if it's the actual volume you want, will a $10 cheap copy do? Probably not.

    Where ebooks are a step forward, this expresso looks more like a side step to me.

  17. Hmmm. Never heard of it, but I like the concept, if the binding and paper, etc. are good.
    I prefer this approach to e-books (shoot me!), but tend to agree with Mark's comment that a book is a cultural artifact.
    And how do you browse Expresso?
    But I'm trying to keep up with new concepts in publishing and find so much information on your blog that it's one reason I've awarded you the One Lovely Blog Award.
    Thanks for all the great info, Helen.

  18. Bermuda Onion makes a good point besides making books quickly, which is wonderful in its own right, it could be a bit of a tourist attraction just watching it do its job.

  19. Ha ha! I love the ending visual. But the out of print is what truly got me. I have 4 in mind I'd order right up.

  20. This gizmo can give me out of print books? Point me in the right direction.


  21. Thanks for this post. I had never heard of the Expresso, well...not since inarticulate buffoons used to order expresso at my coffee shop!

  22. It is possible for writers to have their own books printed by the Expresso, but it will print any book that's available to print, whether it's a rare book or a best-seller or a small press or the latest thriller. The idea is to do away with all those remaindered books and having to have a huge store with fifteen copies of a book (or more for the mega books). I believe it only prints paperbacks; Don't know if that will change.

  23. Cool! I'll be looking out for more about this.

  24. How interesting! Thanks for sharing that, Helen!


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