“I like the part where it pops out,” says Beth Steidle, who is one of two primary operators of McNally Jackson’s Espresso Book Machine. “It’s kind of like Willy Wonka.” But despite the analogy, this machine isn’t popping out candy (or coffee beans or a steamy brew!); it’s printing books. One at a time. Exactly how the customers want them. Last week, NYU’s M.S. in Publishing: Digital and Print Media Program students got a first-hand look at the machine and its wonders during a private visit to the Nolita bookstore.
The Espresso Book Machine (EBM) is a giant contraption that creates print-on-demand paperback books, fully bound, in minutes. The 87 EBMs in the world are sold or rented/leased by On Demand Books. The New York-based company was founded in 2003 by publishing legend Jason Epstein, who had long envisioned an efficient way to print books at an affordable cost in a neighborhood setting. Today, the company stores all of its books on a network database. They’re boldly tackling the old publishing model of gambling on print runs. And they are partnering with major publishers like HarperCollins to deliver out-of-print books at the customer’s convenience (and expense!). In addition, On Demand Books is providing an instant means for self-publishers to see their e-creations in printed form. With all this undeniable business potential, it’s no wonder McNally Jackson was the first in New York to invest in an Espresso Book Machine—and they’ve never regretted it.