As I reported in this blog a while back, Bellingham, Washington’s Village Books became the first bookstore on the West Coast to acquire an Espresso machine — not the caffeine-producing kind, however: the book-producing kind.
Many of you may already be familiar with the Espresso Book Machine, which allows bookstores to offer customers out-of-print books or self-published books on demand. While I’ve written about it before, last night I got the chance to see the Espresso — and its products — firsthand.
The EBM can print “over two million public domain and in-copyright titles,” as its web site tells us, and its main purpose is to serve “educational institutions and libraries, public libraries, bookstores, self-publishing, multi-lingual environments and in many other global point of sale or point of need locations.” What does this mean for us as writers and readers? For one, if your book is out-of-print, this machine will bring it back. If you want to self-publish, readers have (relatively) instant access to your books, without your having to go into debt and sell copies out of the trunk of your car. And for readers, the EBM means you can walk into Village Books and acquire any out-of-print or copyright-free book in about the time it takes to order and enjoy a regular espresso.
Robert, who introduced me at the reading last night and was ever so kind and patient to indulge my fascination with the book machine, showed me the machine as well as a couple of printed books. They looked and felt as good as any perfect-bound paperback original — and the whole process, he says, takes only about ten minutes.
As Village Books co-owner Chuck Robinson told the Herald back in September, “There are obviously changes rapidly taking place in our industry, and instead of standing on the sidelines and waiting to see what will happen, we’ve decided to jump right in.” The EBM, he hopes, will provide a market for readers looking for out-of-print books by local authors, as well as anyone who plans to self-publish, from novels to compilations of recipes or family histories.
If you’re in the Bellingham area, drop into Village Books to check it out (though that’s not the only reason: the store also has three floors of already-printed books, and two adjoining cafes have regular espresso). You may not find the machine as fascinating as I did (but I’m nerdy that way), but nevertheless it offers a glimpse into book publishing’s high-tech future.