Saturday, June 21, 2008

'Clicks and Bricks'

Blackwell Publishers are to become the first high-street bookseller to offer print-on-demand books while customers wait. The innovation will be delivered by an "Espresso Book Machine" (EBM), which can print and bind any one of a million titles.
Set to be piloted in this autumn in a branch that is yet to be announced, the chain plans eventually to install EBM machines in all 60 of its shops across the UK. The machine can currently print about 40 pages per minute, but a newer model due later this year is expected to double that speed.

Print-on-demand remains a controversial technology, with publishers' promotional duties to authors relegated to print-on-demand lists, and their rights to such titles as yet unclear. The Society of Authors welcomed the idea of "increasing the ways of getting books to readers", but stressed the importance of resolving these issues as soon as possible.

"It's obviously still at a very early stage," said Blackwell's CEO Vince Gunn. "But the market's changing and that's something we've got to embrace. The EBM is potentially mainstream technology in the future, so why not give it a go now? It might be a white elephant, but who knows until you give it a try?"
"Embracing print-on-demand did not imply that shops would run down their stocks of conventionally published books. The EBM will simply add to the number of available titles available. We believe in a combination of 'clicks and bricks'."

He added that it was not possible yet to say how much the print-on-demand titles would cost, partly because this would ultimately be decided by what customers were prepared to pay.
Target customer includes public and academic libraries, bookstores, coffee shops, university bookstores, university presses, hotels, US post offices and other government offices, reprographic shops, supermarkets, mass retailers, cruise ships, UN agencies, etc.

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