24 June 08 | Chad W. Post

The first is from The Guardian:

Blackwell’s is to become the first high-street bookseller in the UK to offer print-on-demand books while customers wait. The innovation will be delivered by an “Espresso Book Machine” (EBM), which can print and bind any one of a million titles.

Set to be piloted this autumn in a branch that is yet to be announced, the chain plans eventually to install EBM machines in all 60 of its shops across the UK. The machine can currently print about 40 pages per minute, but a newer model due later this year is expected to double that speed. [. . .]

[Blackwell CEO Vince] Gunn stressed that embracing print-on-demand did not imply that shops would run down their stocks of conventionally published books. “People come into shops like our Broad Street branch in Oxford because they love browsing. The EBM will simply add to the number of available titles available. We believe in a combination of ‘clicks and bricks’.”

It’s interesting that there are only 11 or so of the Espresso Book Machine’s in the U.S., but will soon be more than five times that amount in it the UK . . . And this idea of “click and bricks” is intriguing.

On the more electronic side of things, Joe Wikert just got a Kindle and has a pretty solid review of it. He does have good things to say about the design and functionality, but his criticisms are pretty damning, since they all revolve around content:

130,000 is a smaller number than you think. I’m referring to the number of Kindle edition books available on Amazon. As of right this minute there are 131,637 books available, and while many bestsellers are there, it’s amazing how many I want that aren’t. I’m looking for a great World War II book to read now that I’ve finished Citizen Soldier and World War II For Dummies. The selection is fairly limited and I can see where this will be a roll of the dice every time I go searching…at least until the number of available titles grows by a factor of 10.

Ditto for newspapers and magazines. I was thinking about returning to BusinessWeek via the Kindle but it’s not an option…yet. There are only 16 magazines and 19 newspapers available. Talk about tiny numbers… At about $1.50 per month for several magazines the price feels right, although I’ve seen plenty of customer complaints on Amazon regarding content that’s in the print magazine but not the Kindle edition. Amazon and their publishing partners need to fix this ASAP.

Why would I pay for newspapers/magazines? I’m wondering whether I can rig up an RSS feed option where the key newspapers and magazines are accessible via the Kindle’s browser instead…all for free. I’ll dig into it and see if I can come up with a viable solution.

The browser is as slow as advertised. I’ve heard complaints before and they’re legit. In Amazon’s defense, Kindle is an e-book reader first and the browser is just an experimental feature. As slow as it is I hope it doesn’t go away. It will do in a pinch but you wouldn’t want to depend on it for very long.


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