On Demand Book Printing at Airports?

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Dec 21, 2011

The last couple of months have seen a slew of new placements for Xerox and On Demand Book’s Espresso Book Machine (EBM). Installations have been growing rapidly, with four installs (Darien Library in Connecticut, Tattered Cover Book Store in Colorado, Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington D.C., and  Sacramento Public Library in California) occurring throughout October and November. The new installations have brought the total EBM install base to over 50 installs worldwide, with about half of them located in the United States, and with over 25 additional units pending installation. The increases in installs is a good sign for on demand book printing technology in kiosks, as well as an enduring demand for physically printed books.

In addition, the amount of content on the Espresso network is rapidly growing: within the past couple of months HarperCollins, O’Reilly Media, Baker Publishing Group, and The Perseus Book Group have made their titles available for purchase. These new acquisitions bring the Espresso network’s number of available titles to over seven million.

With the growing number of EBM installations worldwide, widespread on demand book printing could one day become the standard. What implications could arise from an increase in EBM installs? How may the increase in on demand book printing affect us as consumers? As I pondered these questions, I was reminded of my recent experience at Logan airport.

I was at the airport a couple of months ago waiting for my flight over to Istanbul for a weeklong vacation. Faced with an eight and a half hour flight, it suddenly dawned on me that I had forgotten to bring along my constant travel companion: a good book.  I knew that I could have bought one of the new hardcovers at the airport bookstore, but I’m very specific in regards to my reading material and I wasn’t satisfied with the store’s limited selection (particularly since my current reading area of interest consist of old detective novels that were turned into film noire many years ago).  It was then and there that I realized how useful it would have been if an Espresso Book Machine (EBM) was readily available.

As I waited for my flight empty handed, ruminating the possibility of a future with ubiquitous on demand book printing technology, I concluded that an airport would be an excellent place for an Espresso Book Machine to sell its product. An airport garners a lot of foot traffic and is full of people who have a lot of time to kill so browsing and printing a multitude of titles should not be an issue (it takes about three minutes to print one book). Also the Espresso printed books are usually higher priced than their retail counterparts, but limited alternatives within an airport lends justification for the increased expense. Content purchased from an EBM can soon also be converted and viewed on an e-reader, so electronics users can also enjoy new titles while flying. Other great locations to have an Espresso Book Machine installed include hotels, cruise ships, and convention centers. All in all having an Espresso Book Machine installed at every large airport in the world would be a great benefit to avid and casual readers alike. Until then, it will be, as Humphrey Bogart so aptly put it in the 1941 film “The Maltese Falcon”; “the stuff that dreams are made of.”

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