Tuesday, May 15, 2012

new ways of printing books

My online friend Robert L. Bacon, a professional editor and publishing guru who sends subscribers a free newsletter, The Perfect Write, has useful thoughts about new ways of printing and selling books. Following is his discussion of The Expresso Book Machine. [Robert's web site is http://theperfectwrite.com/home/]


I've been advocating the replacement of large brick and mortar bookstores with kiosks in malls that contain the latest copier technology which allows for a book to be printed with a cover and a perfect spine before the customer can even let the coffee cool enough to drink.  The machine is even being billed as The Expresso Book Machine, and the original model dates back to 2007.


If you don't click another link in my Newsletter all year, access this one and spend the five minutes to view the Expresso Book Machine Video.  It's a Xerox 4112 copier and two other machines assembled together as one unit.  From the information I gleaned from the many articles I read, when it rolled out in 2007 it had all the usual glitches associated with any new technology.  At the forefront, it was notorious for crunching the book covers!  Now, however, it apparently works as designed, and a writer can expect a 300-page paperback printed in less than four minutes, and that includes a four-color cover.  The book will also have a perfect spine, which means it will look just like what we see on a bookshelf.


Here are a few issues to consider:


The Expresso Book Machine is marketed by On-Demand Books in conjunction with Xerox the relationship was never fully explained in any of the material I accessed).  The latest-generation equipment is around $125,000 for all the bells and whistles and the fastest speed.  Currently, the cost per page is advertised at a penny each.  Add to this the cost of the cover, which I'll generously put at a buck, and someone wanting to self-publish can at least have a baseline from which to negotiate.  I'm going to guess that it wouldn't take a lot of arm twisting to get 100 books printed for between $7 to $8 each, as this should provide the machine's owner with a margin of somewhere around 40 to 50 percent.


There will be a slight setup fee, which it appears has averaged $10, and authors should be prepared for a rough first copy to get out the bugs before the machine is configured correctly for their manuscripts.  If I understand what I've read, all Expresso Books are converted to a PDF format, and the software will accommodate material written in Word.  Here's the link to Using the Expresso Book Machine that's furnished by a library in California.  The instructions are rather daunting, but this library lets a patron schedule a 30-minute session that I believe comes with a human "helper." 


In any setting that has one of these machines, I'd once again prepare for the first book's not meeting the standards of the desired finished product (read "It's gonna come out crummy"). This is why it's probably not a bad idea--if the desire is for more than a few copies--to pay a premium and go to an outfit like Lightning Source (Ingram's POD subsidiary) once the book is copy-perfect and the writer doesn't relish the task of facing off with the technology.  But this is a topic for another time, as I'm primarily interested in explaining how easy it will be to have a single book printed once this technology becomes more widespread and user-friendly.  Currently, a single softcover of new material in the 300-to-400-page range should come in at around $35, and the print time, again, is four to five minutes.  I expect both the cost for new material and speed to improve.


[Robert's web site is http://theperfectwrite.com/home/]


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