P-O-D and the Library

September 17, 2007 at 7:30 AM Leave a comment

For $100,000 – reportedly soon to come down to $25,000 – any library or bookstore can have on site a working print-on-demand system that can produce a book in five minutes from out-of-copyright content (courtesy of Brewster Kahle’s Open Content Alliance). The system, called the Espresso Book Machine, is running in a test installation in the New York Public Library’s Science, Industry and Business Library.

Jason Epstein founded On Demand Books, the marketer of the Espresso, in 2004 after a long career in the publishing business, primarily at Random House. He is credited with inventing the mass-market paperback, and his partner in On Demand Books is the co-founder of Dean and Deluca, so there is quite a lot of marketing talent behind the seemingly simple web façade presented on the ODB web site.

The news for libraries in this story is, I think, all good – though naysayers, doomsayers, and nervous Nellies may be, well, nervous about it. The tremulous may ask, “What if Joe Patron can go to the local bookstore and print out his own copy of Romeo and Juliet for $1.99? Won’t that drive our circulation figures down?” But the visionary will imagine being able to say to a patron, not, “Sorry, the waiting list for Harry Potter and the Petronum from Mars is 239 people long – you might be waiting a while” but, “Sure – let me print one out for you. Would you like to surf the Internet while you wait?”

May we mark as a point of irony the fact that Epstein’s publishing memoir (with a dollop of vision on the side), Book Business: Publishing past, present and future, now can be had on Amazon.com for the princely price of $.04?

Entry filed under: Library Futures.

One Web Day – Sept 22nd From the Don’t Give them Any Ideas Department

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