There are 12 Expresso Book Machines in the US, and the newest one is at the Darien Library in Connecticut. So, not only can you print other people’s books, you can print your own as well. Yes, the Darien library has gone into the self-publishing business. Find out more here.
I was curious about the quality of these books so this New Year, during our annual pilgrimage to Vermont, I went to the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester and tried it out.
I ordered ‘Leo Tolstoy’s 20 Greatest Short Stories Annotated’ by Andrew Barger. There are actually two machines; one to print the pages of text, and another to print the cover art on paper sized 11′ x 17″. Then the machine that prints the pages does the binding. Here’s the video of my purchase being bound:
The quality of the binding is perfectly adequate – similar to many other books now sitting on my shelf. The cover design is okay, professional enough, although the graphics of St. Basil’s Basilica could be crisper. As it turned out, I hadn’t chosen the best example to print. A display of books nearby showed how great the covers can look, and the person in charge of the EBM explained that they also work with a third party publisher which makes it possible to print top-quality illustrations and covers.
And that brings me to what I realized, in retrospect, was most significant about this experience. The person in charge: Debbie Wraga. Standing in the delightful Northshire Bookstore, I could discuss the print publishing of eChook’s short story collections by interacting with a person instead of committing to yet another lengthy, solo, computer-bound project. Human interaction! Oh, the joy! The relief!
Helpful and charming, Debbie is a graphic designer with a printing background. Knowledgeable as well as flexible (self-publishing packages are available but she also works in 1/4 hour segments at a rate of $40 per hour), she offers a cost-effective solution for authors by phone, in person or (yes, of course) online.
Now that the creators of EBM, On Demand Books, have partnered with Xerox and leases are available without upfront costs, I think we can expect to see them popping up everywhere. And if people like Debbie are operating the machines, that’s a pleasure in store for all of us.
Debbie Wraga at Northshire Bookstore
Debbie and friends!