Sunday, March 6, 2011

Why is the Expresso Machine Taking so Long?

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.

9 comments:

E.J. Wesley said...

Behold ... THE FUTURE! :-)

I remember these things as well. That video makes them look like a tech dinosaur already!

Is this the same machine they're using at the Harvard Bookstore? Maintenance would be a huge consideration. Unless they can make them function in a way that regular copier techs can fix, that is.

wannabuy said...

Related to this thread and the last one: Publishers seem to be pricing ebooks to keep pbookstores alive. Could it be that publishers are discouraging the adoption of espresso machines by B&N and Borders? Just a thought...

I B&N doesn't replace their failing CD/DVD section with an espresso (or other POD), they will fade away.

Comment on your last post: "For the first time an indie hit the #1 Spot - John Locke's Saving Rachel"
While not indie, the Hangman's daughter at #1 was a 'wake up call' for the big6. A translation at #1!

Would you mind if I blog about your prior post? I've been stating that the big6 would be in trouble if indie authors broke 30% of the top 100 for a long time... That threshold has been crossed!

Neil

Christopher Wills said...

I remember these as a revolution in waiting. The idea I heard was that we could go into a bookstore and get anything printed including out of print books and even books we had written ourselves. We could also choose designer bookcovers so we could build up libraries of our favourite authors in a set that might look smart in a bookcase. I was looking forward to these.

The only thing I can guess is that the ebook revolution has taken away the market for out of print books and made the machines uneconomical. I still like the idea of having my bookcases full of my favourite books in designer covers.

I loved your last post on the numbers in the top 100, and all the work you did on analysis. It's perfect timing for me because in the next two weeks I will be putting my book on Amazon and Smashwords, and your post has given me a lot to think about in terms of pricing.

By the way it time you came out of the closet and revealed the true you? You really want to be a statistician don't you? :)

Thanks.

V. Furnas said...

This does look like its better years have since passed.

It is no match for e-publishing.

Robin Sullivan said...

Lol - Wanabuy - its a free country with free speech - post on whatever you feel like if you happen to mention that I gave provided some inspiration or data - that would be nice too.

Robin Sullivan said...

Christopher Wills said... By the way it time you came out of the closet and revealed the true you? You really want to be a statistician don't you? :)

Lol - I'm far worse - a software engineer turned marketing guru. I'm a firm believe in data it helps me navitgate all the hyperbole.

India Drummond said...

It's really too bad these haven't taken off! I was talking to someone just the other day who said, "You know what they need is..." and then proceeded to describe the Expresso. I had no idea it had actually been invented. Just goes to show that I don't pay as close attention as I thought.

Tokrika said...

... the thought of this concept used in the bookstores found at university campuses around the world made me drool. Imagine being able to access an entire world-wide library of books ready for print on demand right then and there. I've atempted to read large bulks of academics in various electronic formats, and on various devices, but it simply never works as efficiently as attacking that stack of musky paper with a highlighter. But reading and marking works is not even the main problem - aquering them is. For more specialized fields, prints tend to be _very_ limited in numbers, distribution is random at best and the price is usually disgustingly high.

I've previously had to order books from libraries in other countries, and in one case even another continet, just to vertify if the research presented was even worth the read.

Applying this sort of technology on a wider scale would be a god-send for students, researches and casually interested alike.

Lexi said...

I think you are spot on with the maintenance issue. Imagine having that great machine sitting there not working, or failing to do one part of the process.

Also, while really clever, no thought seems to have been given to the design of the thing - it looks like a prototype. For that money, I'd want something sleek and futuristic that would be a feature in my shop.

I think you're right, it's an invention that has missed its moment.