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Read the Printed Word!

Bridging the Gap: Espresso Book Machines

Back in March 2011, That’s Not Online!'s thirteenth post was written on QR codes. At the time, we wrote:

That’s Not Online! was founded in the conviction that the “tension” that is meant to exist between print and digital resources is, in fact, a fiction.  At this blog we believe — nay, we KNOW — that print and digital are meant to be together.  They are different, but they complement each other.  They are a marriage made in information heaven. 

QR codes — squares full of black and white blocks that your smartphone can read — are one way digital information can jump to print and vice versa. Espresso Book Machines, a turning point for the publishing industry, are another.

Of course, they might be better suited to another blog called That’s Not In Print!, but that blog doesn’t exist yet (anyone?) so we’ll just have to cover them here. Espresso Book Machines print, trim, bind and cover paperback books in minutes, on demand. Books are ordered via its ExpressNet software. According to their website, ExpressNet can access content from:

  • Publisher clients of Lightning Source, Inc.™ (the POD subsidiary of the Ingram Book Group), including Random House, Hachette, McGraw-Hill, Simon & Schuster, WW Norton, Macmillan, and others;
  • Google Books;
  • Internet Archive;
  • Numerous major publishers, content aggregators, and foreign-language content, representing additional titles, journals, and other material.

They also provide a self-publishing service. Espresso Book Machines are not the only print on demand service available, but seem to be the only one that can be installed anywhere. They can be found in bookstores and libraries worldwide; here is a map of locations.

Is this the last gasp of relevancy for the printed book? A final attempt to stay current? This perception surely comes from the conviction that print and digital media cannot live together. But why not? Speedily transmitted digitized books, from the most comprehensive library in human history, might still find their best expression on paper, between two covers. As author Audrey Niffenegger pointed out in the New Statesman:

The book has been with us for hundreds of years. We’ve had so long to make it interesting and well suited to us. A book is built for the human hand and we’ve made all these glorious physical environments for books. We’re moving towards this ethereal space where books are yourself. It doesn’t seem quite as fun.

Posted on October 15th, 2011
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