Village Books and the Espresso Book Machine – 4 million Books to Go

village books-BellinghamFuture Perfect Publishing has been following the Espresso Book Machine for the last several years.  The Espresso Book Machine, sometimes called the “book ATM” is developed and marketed by On Demand Books.  The system, about the size of a photocopier, allows a book to be selected from a digital catalog, then printed and bound in just a few minutes. 

Now it is beginning to make serious inroads into the bookstore community.  Two of the latest installations are going to be right here in the Pacific Northwest.  One is at Third Place Books in Bothell, Washington, just outside of Seattle.  The other is at Village Books. It is a community-based, independent bookstore located in the historic Fairhaven district of Bellingham, Washington, and was honored as the 2008 Outstanding Philanthropic Small Business in Washington State.


Village Books, Outstanding Philanthropic Small Business 

Chuck_Robinson_Village_BooksChuck Robinson has been co-owner, with his wife Dee, of Village Book in Bellingham, WA, since June of 1980.  Chuck has pioneered many causes in his community so it seems only natural that his bookstore would be one of the first to make this innovative new way of producing books available.  He’s a former board member and president of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association and the American Booksellers Association and currently serves as a board member of the Community Food Coop and as a trustee of Whatcom Community College.  He is currently writing a book about the history of Village Books to be published–on the Espresso Book Machine–during the store’s thirtieth anniversary next June.

Lindsey McGuirkHelping him with the installation is Lindsey McGuirk, Digital Marketing & Publishing Manager.  Lindsey has been in the book industry for over 5 years, beginning as a bookseller at Village Books where she eventually became the Events Coordinator. After a short stint on the publishing end of things with Algonquin Books, she returned to her true love as an independent bookseller at Village Books.  She now does the online marketing for the bookstore and will be the go-to person for Village Books’ Espresso Book Machine.

Chuck and Lindsey recently took the time to share their plans for the bookshop’s new Espresso Book Machine.

FPP:  How did you first learn about the Espresso Book Machine (EBM)?

CR & LM:  Though we had read about the machine in trade publications we first saw an early model of the EBM at Book Expo America a couple of years ago.

FPP:  What convinced you to put it into Village Books and how do you plan to use it?

CR & LM:  We’re convinced that “the times they are a’changing” and that we need to be on board or we’ll be left behind.

FPP:  What type of books do you expect to use the EBM to produce?

CR & LM:  Although we’ll have access to books through LightningSource and now Google’s public domain books, the bulk of the books we will be printing–at least in the short term–will likely be self-published. We have already been receiving inquiries from authors interested in having their books printed on the Espresso Book Machine and have a few projects lined up to print when the machine is installed.

FPP:  How many titles are available in the EBM catalog overall?

CR & LM:  Between LightningSource and Google Books, there are nearly 4 million books available to print through the EBM. There are also nearly 600,000 backlist titles that are in-copyright that we can print thanks to publisher’s permissions.

FPP:  Could you describe what happens when a customer places an order that requires the EBM?

CR & LM:  This could be an elaborate answer, but I’ll try to simplify it as much as possible. Assuming that an author brings us print-ready PDFs (those that will not need any additional layout changes or adjustments) of both the book block and the book jacket, we will simply upload those files to the EBM and let it do its work. It prints the book block, glues it, prints the book jacket, and binds it all together. It will then take the book and trim it to its specified trim size. It’s an amazing process!

FPP:  How does the cost of producing a book on the EBM compare with ordering it from a wholesaler or distributor?

CR & LM:  Pricing in print-on-demand, like that of e-books, is still shaking out. However, we expect the retail price for books printed in-store to be comparable to those ordered from distributors.

FPP:  Will having an EBM change how many titles you carry in your physical inventory?

CR & LM:  We believe the EBM will allow us to enhance our inventory by being able to offer books that would otherwise be unavailable. There will be some books that we may carry in smaller numbers because we can instantaneously print a replenishment copy and there will be other books that we won’t have on the shelf–just as there always have been–but, unlike the past, will be able to provide very quickly.

FPP:  What is the purchase model for the EBM? Is it an outright purchase? Lease? Per book fee?

CR & LM:   There are a couple of ways one may obtain a machine. We have chosen to lease ours.

FPP:  Will Village Books use the EBM to support self-published authors or small presses without distribution?

CR & LM:  We absolutely will be supporting self-publishing authors! We’ve been highly supportive of self-published authors for year—we have a strong consignment program and carry dozens of books by local, self-published authors. We haven’t considered printing books for small presses without distribution, but you have just added another element to our growing list of possibilities. Thank you!

FPP:  Are there any special logistical considerations for operating the EBM? For example, space, power, supplies, etc?

CR & LM:  We did have to provide 220V wiring to the site and we will be moving shelves around to accommodate the machine. And, we will, of course, need to stock paper, glue, etc.

FPP:  If you could design the next version of the EBM, what features would be on your wish list?

CR & LM:  It’s a little hard to say prior to our working with the machine for a while. We’ve spent some time with an earlier model and feel that the company has addressed many of the issues we would have had with that machine. I’m sure that this is a question we may have a better answer for in a few months.



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