The Blackwell bookshop in London have unveiled their first 'on demand' book printing machine at their flagship store. Called the Espresso, customers will be able to buy books from the machine after April 27th. The machine is being shown at the London Book Fair.
Using digital files from over 400,000 titles available, customers will be able to order a book and have it printed in about 5 minutes. Blackwell is planning to have the machines in many of their stores.
One of the reasons for this move is to save on inventory cost and it does make available books that normally wouldn't make it to the stores, because of the high cost of normal printing and shipping.
I do know on demand books can look very good, when care is taken, but I can easily see the quality can vary, especially being created this way.
Our SG book is printed on demand, but I have control over the production quality. Any books that don't measure up, I take care of all the issues. I know how SG should look and be printed. Yes, it adds to our overall cost, but insures that you get a well produced book that you will be happy with, and not fighting with the sellers about production problems.
Buying from a store, an on demand book, the customers will be at the mercy of the stores staff in creating the book and their judgement on how it should look.
If you decided to buy a book from one of these Espresso machines at Blackwell, don't settle for anything they produce, but make sure they give you a well bound and well printed book. If you order a book loaded with colour photos that have very noticeable green cast images and the pages loose, you know you are getting a poorly produced product. Customers must be firm and demand a well produced product from the stores.
As an author, who cares about the books sold, I would find this sort of delivery unnerving, but that's because I care what the customers gets. Just make sure and check your book fully before leaving the store.
It should be noted too, that many (millions) of books today are printed on demand. While I still love a regular press run book and the tradition behind it, on demand printing is the future in books. Just where it is heading.