20 April 09 | Chad W. Post

So right before leaving for the London Book Fair (and Free the Word! festival), I talked to a class at the University of Rochester about e-books, print on demand, and the digital future of publishing. Of course, during this discussion the Espresso Book Machine came up, and I made everyone watch this video, which we posted back when Three Percent was in its infancy.

Well, by complete coincidence, this past Thursday, Blackwell unveiled the Espresso Book Machine 2.0 at their Charing Cross Road store—which I just happened to be in yesterday.

According to the Webwire article about this event, the catalog for EBM 2.0 is greatly expanded:

It is the first bookshop installation of its kind within the UK, allowing any book to be selected from an inexhaustible network of titles and prints on demand in just 3 minutes from a digital file onsite, online at www.blackwell.co.uk, or uploaded in person from CDs or flash drives.

And, as you can see above, it’s still a beast of a machine, but not nearly the Frankenstein-like creature featured in the video we posted back in 2007. Nevertheless, my belief is still that looking toward the future e-books will end up being much more popular than this machine. The fact that you can download a book anywhere, without having to visit a specific location, is still a huge advantage. Especially after you feel the quality of the EBM production . . .

When I was talking to the media class, I claimed that print-on-demand production quality wasn’t that much different than your crappy trade paperback. Well, that’s not exactly true. The books they had on display at Blackwell were pretty cheap—poor cover stock, stiff paper, etc. The quality actually wasn’t that much different than the first p.o.d. titles from back in the late-90s. (When I was there, some guy came in and was asking the EBM operators about the crappy quality, so I’m not the only person who thinks this.)

And in case you can’t remember who’s behind the EBM and On Demand Books, you can find dozens of copies of his own book on display in front of the machine.


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