sallyhanan’s blog

A writer’s blog

Espresso: In-store book printing August 6, 2009

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What is an Espresso machine?
This is an Espresso machine. It makes you coffee and serves up a warmed chocolate croissant. . . .

“Up close and personal it is as if the Gutenberg Press met with Willy Wonka, and the chocolatier come out on top.” ~ Felicity Wood, editorial assistant at The Bookseller

What can it do?
The Espresso machine is like an ATM for books because it prints books while you wait. The exact number of minutes it takes to print a book depends on the number of pages being printed and the size of the book, but in one machine,
pages are printed,
a cover is printed,
the spine is glued,
the pages are evenly chopped,
and a finished book slides out of the chute.

How fast is it?
Version 2.0 will print a book of 300 pages in about four minutes. The older version is three times slower.

What can be printed on it?
Books can be printed from the Public Domain list, as can books from a PDF file. Publishers that work with Lightening Source have made their titles available. Writers and content owners can also print their own books on it.

How much will it cost to print a book?
The cost to the store owner for one book is about $2, but we have yet to see what price the retailers settle at for having the machine in their store. The older machine costs a store/library $75,000, and the newer one $175,000. The store also has the option to rent it for $1,000 a month.

If a newer machine prints 60,000 books a year when it’s working 24/7, then it produces 20,000 if it only works an 8 hour day. If the retailer charges double the cost to make a book, then he will only make $40k in the first year, assuming that books will be churned out of it like play-dough. It will take over four years before he begins to make a return on his money, so I assume that he will charge the public about $7 in order to pay off the machine inside of two years instead. Add on the royalties for the publisher and the writer, and you shoot up the price even more. This would end up costing more than the basic price of a paperback, so who benefits, then?

Writers might.

How might it benefit writers?
Writers can send their files electronically to the Espresso machine and have them printed while on their way to pick it up. As long as retailers settle at $8 a book, it ends up cheaper for writers to print their books on an Espresso than print the book with print-on-demand companies. Most print-on-demand books end up charging the writer over $10 just to print, and that’s before shipping costs are added. As long as retailers make the use of the Espresso machine cost effective, a writer can price a book to be more competitive with bookstore prices and still receive some sort of royalty.

Another beauty of printing on the Espresso is that writers and publishers can see exactly where their content has been ordered and produced, and the system tracks all the data needed to divvy up royalties, production costs, network fees, etc.

“We’re looking forward to a rapid expansion of available content, moving us much closer to our goal of 1 million titles available on the Espresso Book Machine.” ~Andrew Hutchings, Blackwell Group Chief Executive Officer.

All of this is only good news to writers if stores and libraries are smart about their pricing system. In England there is a set fee of $17 a book, plus 4c for every page, although a popular book costs the same as its cover price. Rare books could cost about $25. Not so smart. . . .

Where are these machines?
Libraries and bookstores will be the main outlets for this machine. As I write, the Espresso machines are available in the following places in the US:

Internet Archive, San Francisco
New Orleans Public Library
University of Michigan Library
Northshire Bookstore, Vermont
Brigham Young University Bookstore, Provo, Utah
University of Arizona Bookstore, Tucson, AZ
University of Missouri Bookstore, Columbia, MO
The InfoShop, The World Bank (exhibition, 2006), Washington, District of Columbia
New York Public Library, SIBL (exhibition, 2007), New York, New York

Click here to find the location of Espressos in other countries.

Click here for more information about the Espresso machine.



Every piece of writing needs to be clear and precise. With microscope in hand, Inksnatcher’s writing and editing service will hone any work until it glitters in the light of a 1,000 watt bulb.

sallylogo3 INKSNATCHER.COM                                                                                                                                      





3 Responses to “Espresso: In-store book printing”

  1. Excellent site, keep up the good work

  2. cuileann Says:

    San Francisco! That’s my city! Maybe I should go see that sucker in action . . .

    Thanks for the lovely comment. Your piece of advice is something I really hadn’t thought before, but just what I need to keep in mind when I’m making Decisions About The Future.

  3. AM Says:

    This is such a cool machine! Too bad they’re so far from me. Hmm, any excuse for a vacation is good. 😉

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