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!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Deep Depth of Data to be Mined - Smart Meters

Recently I've been involved in a lot of discussions around the subject of energy saving, sustainability, green power, high power bills and the like. Picking the bones out of these discussions would leave me with pile on bones, but to break down all the ideas I need to get my brain around them.

To start with tackling that challenge, and to start this Blog off in a way that may help others, I will be listing the 'Smart Meters' as I find them.

Another part of this 'Wave' is the linking of devices via the Internet, the collecting of data without pre-defined goals, data mining of this and existing data. As well as the usual interests undertaking this work, we have the amateurs, the home hacker, the DIY'er with an interest.

PacHube are building such a linking function. Their site links data source input, display
via Google mapping and output feeds using XML, JSON and CSV.

In the UK there is a group, with a mix of parties, working together in a social way to build on this 'Wave' are getting together on-line, in 2nd world SIM's and in 1st life get togethers.

These are the fisrt two links that come to my mind, follow me for more. Any that you know of, and wish to note in the comments, will be welcomed, let us know any USP and any experience you have with the device or service.