Anyone who has seen the Espresso Book Machine 2.0 designed by On Demand Books is likely to be impressed by its efficiency in producing a printed book from one of more than 2 million public domain digital books offered by Google Books. At the Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, a terminal at the store’s entrance allows one to browse titles. Once a book is identified as available, an assistant reviews the electronic images to make sure that the book has been adequately filmed.
The next step is to walk to the back of the store, where the “Espresso Book Machine” (or, as the Harvard Book Store calls it, “Paige M. Gutenborg”) abides. This looks like a fancy photocopier with binding accessories (see below). The assistant types a number into the machine; the machine does the rest. A cover is produced in color and lowered face-side down onto a binding table. Copies of pages (recto and verso) shoot onto a tray above the binding table. Once the pages are printed, they are clamped, producing a bookblock, which is turned vertically, spine downward, so that the spine can be milled. A glue bar applies a coat of glue to the spine. The pages are then lowered onto the cover, which is lifted flush against the bookblock and clamped in order to allow the glue to set. The “book” is then cropped on three sides, and sent down a chute. It arrives still warm from being photocopied and smelling of glue. The paper quality is acid-free and superior to the paper most photocopying machines provide. The entire printing process for a 400-page book takes about 8 minutes. The books cost $8.
Versions of these machines exist, have been exhibited, or are coming to about 26 locations in North America, Australia, Egypt, and the U.K. Their most obvious use is in libraries. Instead of photocopying (and damaging) books, one can now use this machine to produce far better working copies of texts than most photocopiers provide. The machine costs $100,000, which will limit its purchase by university libraries undergoing severe budget cuts. Nevertheless, its potential is promising.
The following YouTube video is offered by On Demand Books: