Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Your very own 'Limited Edition'

So I heard about the actuality of an idea that has been discussed for so many years it is on a par with 'space travel'. What is the idea? well 'printing books'! 

Books! you may say, "what about the printing press, described as the Internet of its time?". Well this time the printing press has been moved into the bookshop. On Demand Book Printing.

I saw a clip of the machine on a recent UK TV News feature and it caught my eye. It looked a bit Heath-Robinson in its mechanics, but I recall is was described as being able to print, collate and bind a book in about 20 minutes, the time that a cup of coffee and a Danish takes to enjoy in the bookshop cafe.

So I looked for a bit more info via du'Web and found a useful 'executive summary' of the 'Expresso Book Machine aka the EBM' at that enlightened the information that Blackwell's bookshop in London had installed the machine. 

So a trip over to the Blackwell's website provided all the details. It isn't 20 mins wait, it's only 5, so there goes my coffee thoughts, they must have come from the name of the machine (with a copyright symbol I note).  The first machine is in the Charing Cross branch in London, the machine has a local store of 400,000 publications, can access rare and out of print books at the 'Wayback Machine' (aka, accepts customer files from CD or flash drive, boasts about "being green", and they say "Book prices on the EBM will be the same as those currently instore", it is based around a Xerox 4112 printer and has a "constant positive retention" accumulator. Soon books be ordered 'online' as well as in-store.

An impressive list of features and that is just my summary of the Blackwell's article. 

A couple of questions came to my mind that I didn't find the answers to though.

Can I have a custom cover to the book, maybe personalised to match the theme of the occasion if the book is a gift, or coloured to match the decor of the book room, or maybe even digitally signed by the author?

The BBC Radio 5 Book Review Show with Simon Mayo has a panel who are always fascinated by discussing the cover of each book which emphasises the importance of the cover in my mind.

And I trust it will be more reliable than the last "high speed" photocopier I used, but at least someone will be 'minding' this one, rather than letting the customer loose on it.

It sounds like a great innovation, although a long time coming it must be the time for such ideas to become real, and it shows that there is life in the old bookshop yet!

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