Saturday, September 24, 2011

POD with Your Espresso

I’ve blogged before about Print on Demand and the Espresso machine. Personally, I think it’s one way for bookstores to survive and remain relevant. An article in The Wall Street Journal agrees with me.

If you’ve never heard of the Espresso machine … it’s about the size of a desk and can print a book in a few minutes. So, you see a book online, perhaps mentioned on Goodreads or a blog or on the best-seller list, and you want it. If your local bookstore has an Espresso machine, you go there and, hopefully, have it printed and ready to take home in minutes. I say, hopefully, because the particular book you want would need to be on their list of books they can print.

Publishers seem to be jumping on board with this idea. HarperCollilns is about to make 5,000 current paperbacks available via the Espresso. You might ask why other publishers wouldn’t follow suit since there are paperback and hard cover books not available in stores. (They often are not available because stores only have limited room to stock books, especially when big name authors can have twenty or fifty or even more copies of the same book.)
One leading publisher who asked not to be identified said his company is unlikely to make more titles available, in part because they are concerned that bookstores with the machines might then order fewer titles.
This seems like shooting yourself in the foot to me. If there is always one copy for readers to look at, then that’s all you need. They can sell hundreds of copies without having to stock that many. Which means they can have a display copy of many, many more books, and they won’t have to pay to ship back the remaindered books.

You might wonder if POD books will cost more.
Brian Murray, chief executive of HarperCollins, said that the paperbacks printed by Espresso will list for the same price as the traditional paperback version.
I don’t know what the revenue split with authors would be. That would vary from publisher to publisher, I suspect, until some “standard” is figured out (even now that varies).
In most cases, HarperCollins will receive about 70% of the revenue from an Espresso-printed title, with the retailer taking 30%.
What do you think about buying your paperbacks via a fast-printing machine? Do you think such a machine would make it a bit easier for local or lesser-known authors to get their books into the hands of readers? Is it a possible rescuer of the print book?


  1. Wow! The writing world is getting awfully fast. However, this will be nice for the holiday season.

  2. Wow! The writing world is getting awfully fast. However, this will be nice for the holiday season.

  3. I think the expresso book is a great idea. It's often difficult/impossible for midlist authors to find their books in stores because hundreds of copies of the current bestseller have to be in stock. With the expresso book, stores would only have to stock one copy of each book.

    We live in interesting times, that's for sure.

  4. What a good idea! And yes, more copy books on the shelves the better for all.

    Interesting post, Helen.

  5. Is the quality as good? I don't want to buy a book that may break apart within a few weeks. Other than that, I think it's a brilliant idea.

    Every Savage Can Reproduce

  6. Hi Helen .. I think it'd be a great idea ..

    .. and perhaps allow unknown authors to pay to upload their book .. so it's available POD at the stores ..

    I'd like to do that for magazine style books .. short story books etc ..

    As the others say - so much is going on .. cheers Hilary

  7. A fast printing book machine seems to fit right in with this fast-moving world.

  8. Well Helen, I'm going to throw a monkey wrench into the comments. I like the Espresso name, but ... Will the books be bound and have covers like traditional books? I don't know, it sounds like an old printing press. What happens when there's a paper jam, or it needs ink? No, no, no, I don't think this will ever fly. I think customers might be more inclined to just order the book online, or an E copy ...

  9. It will come out looking like a paperback book, with cover, etc. I agree, Joanne, it will have huge competition from online stores. The advantage it will have is that the reader gets to start reading within a short time, rather than waiting days for it to arrive in their mailbox. Plus, people still say they want to go into a store, thumb through the book and hold it before deciding, so for those people this will be an option. There will probably be glitches, just like there are sometimes glitches when you order online. I look at it as another way to keep the print book alive.

  10. The fact that you can get a book that isn't stocked and get it right away seems like a plus to me.

  11. Depending on the cost of the machine it might save a lot of indie book stores. I like the idea.

  12. I think the Espresso machine is a brilliant idea. It will broaden the spectrum of books that are available, in particular for small-town (and small-country) bookstores that will otherwise have only the bestsellers in stock >:)

    Cold As Heaven

  13. As an author and reader I have recently been thinking about ebooks and their effect on publishing, and now you bring up a new permutation: POD right while you wait. Very intriguing; I definitely want bookstores to stay in business so I hope this will help them do so.

  14. It makes sense for businesses to adapt to a new business model, especially in times like these. If more books were available, that would give the consumer more options for books they could buy immediately instead of waiting for a book to be ordered and picked up. One stop shopping in its purest sense. It just makes sense and it saves on resources since the books bought would not be books that needed to be remaindered.

    A substantial number of books would be ordered for the launch and then the rest would be available on Espresso. That's logical.

  15. Ahh, J.M., you've hit the flaw. It's logical.

  16. Okay, I really thought you were talking about strong coffee at first!

    I think a machine that prints books on demand at a bookstore is an amazing'd love to see that take off!

  17. I don't know what to think of the machines. Seems the bookstores might like them though it cuts into their take which I think is usually 40%. I'll be buying most of my books on my eReader.

  18. Great post! Yes, I think these POD Espresso machines are going to catch on. Some people will love them and others will prefer eReaders. As far as making more books available in less populated areas, I think these machines will really catch on. I can see one in every Starbucks right next to the other espresso machine!

  19. I don't know what problem this solves. If readers want books fast, an ereader is the way to do it. The espresso is slower than a download. It's even slower than grabbing a book off the shelf and standing in line to pay. With espresso you have to stand in line to get the book printed and then stand in line to pay.

    This doesn't promote impulse buying of books. Amazon already has that beat. With espresso, you still have to make a trip to a bookstore. Once you're inside, the store encourages the impulsive shopper by having the book on the shelf, not making the customer wait by a machine.

    The expresso is is only faster than ordering your book from customer service.

    B&N has already discovered that the Nook allows them to stock fewer copies of a title and give shelf space to more titles.

    There will always be people who appreciate the art and craftsmanship of a physical book, but espresso doesn't produce books artfully. It's really just another copy machine.

    I could be all wrong, but I think six years ago espresso would have been cutting edge, now it's an afterthought.


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