So I remember years ago coming across a video of the Expresso Machine on Lightning Source's Website. It was the coolest thing I had seen in a long time. Producing a print on demand book in just a few minutes. I envisioned a world where Expresso Machines were in every major brick and mortar bookstore and a fair number of cafes as well. This would truly revolutionize self-publishing allowing booksellers to sell virtually any book without the hassle of returns or stocking slow moving titles.
Here it is 2011 and I don't see us any closer to making this a reality. I realize that as I kid I wanted flying cars and that was probably a bit ambitious, but the first videos I saw of the Expresso in 2007 were pretty impressive. In fact the video I've seen now, seems to be a step backward as I recall the machine having a much smaller footprint then the current 2.0 model.
If you want to see the machine in action here's the latest video (I wish I could still find the original).
The price tag I've seen on this machine is $50,000 which all things considered isn't bad but I think the bigger issue for the retailer is fear surrounding maintenance and upkeep of the machine. Personally I would like to see OnDemand Books adopt a business model where they own the equipment, require the bookstores to buy materials from them, and send out technicians to service, clean, and calibrate the machines on a regular basis for a monthly fee.
Between wide adoption of Expresso machines, and ebook technology, virtually any book can be made available without the headaches of a centralized distribution channel. As Xerox and OnDemand has dragged their feet in launching these machines in any major way, I have to wonder if the window of opportunity has passed. Recent numbers still show ebooks at 8% - 11% of total book sales but it continues to climb.