NEW YORK—With a few clicks, the transparent, steel-framed machine whirs to life. After clanking busily for a few minutes, with a final hum and whir, out pops a brand new book. A book that looks and feels exactly the same as any other paperback displayed on bookstore shelves.
This machine, called the “Espresso Book Machine,” since the time it takes to print a book is about how long it takes to make an espresso—allows customers to print books they want on the spot, for the same price as a regular book.
Customers are not the only ones who benefit, self-publishing authors and book-sellers like this innovative concept too.
Compared to printing presses that take 24-48 hours to finish a print run, “there’s no other machine that can print a book on the spot and let you leave before you can finish drinking your cup of coffee,”, said Nicholas Melhado, the lead developer at On Demand Books, the company behind the Espresso Book Machine. At Shakespeare & Co., they frequently use the machine to restock the shelves too, instead of waiting up to two days to get the books from the publisher.
Publishers who have signed on with Shakespeare & Co. range from HarperCollins to Penguin, allowing customers to print any title they want from the thousands of books that are available, on the spot.
Melhado said printing books for customers who actually want to buy the book is good for the environment too, as there will be less wastage if books are over-printed and have to be destroyed.
Boon for Self-Published Authors
Self-published author Lese Dunton also likes the machine. She said, “It’s a little bit more than, say, printing in Amazon, but it’s really been worth it, because the print quality, the color, and the sharpness of the text, the paper quality, the cover, is so much better.”
The machines use thick paper stock and quality covers. The binding is also professional-quality making the final product indistinguishable from other paperbacks sold in bookstores.
Dunton also appreciates the exposure Shakespeare & Co. provides authors. She can tell people her books are available there, and with her books on display, her sales at Shakespeare & Co. have now exceeded sales from at Amazon.
For authors like her, she said, “It’s very empowering, to be able to just walk there, and get your book printed out, whatever your book might be.”
Your Neighborhood Printing Press
According to Melhado, about 60 percent of the books they print are for self-published authors; 25 percent are published books, and the remaining 15 percent are books in the public domain. They have been approached by many people to print books that are out of print and the customer couldn’t find a physical copy anywhere.
With three stores in operation and two more set to open in Manhattan by the end of 2019, more New Yorkers will get to enjoy the convenience of having their books printed, on the spot, at their neighborhood bookstore.