Thursday, December 15, 2011

Espresso Book Machine

McNally Robinson’s, an indie book store from the prairies, has recently installed Espresso Book Machines in their stores. In the amount of time it takes to brew a coffee, they can print up a book for you.

Espresso book machines are attached to a computer through which a customer can order a book. The machine will start to print the book and as the pages are printed they will drop down onto a tray. Once all the pages are together, glue is applied to the spine. At the same time, the cover is printed and dropped down to meet with the pages. Cover and pages are glued together and pressed down. A sharp blade cuts the book to size and it shoots out a slot.

There are only 11 such machines in Canada.

Self-published authors can use the espresso machine to make a limited number of their books. The machine can also make physical copies of out-of-print books and public domain titles. For example, Alice in Wonderland is a book in public domain which you could order a physical copy of with an Espresso Book Machine. If you could then find a coffee espresso machine and get a nice hot latte, your morning is set.

V says, “What’s the difference between this an e-reader except it wastes paper?” I sigh.

But he does have a point, especially when it comes to public-domain works. If you want to read Alice in Wonderland, you can download it for free from Project Gutenberg. And e-books are apparently outselling paper books on these days as more people become comfortable reading their books on their computer or hand-held devices.

I remember making the switch from print to pdf with texts and articles I had to read from my master’s program. It felt odd at first – I missed being able to highlight as I read – but I soon got used to it. I also found it very helpful to be able to do word searches when I was trying to find a quote or passage from the text.

And so the question is – is the espresso machine part of the future of e-literature, or is it clinging to the paper-based-past?

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