Tomorrow, on April 27, Blackwell, one of the largest booksellers and distributors in the UK and the world, will launch a three month trial of the Espresso Book Machine, in its Charing Cross Road branch in London.
The Espresso Book Machine
This is a "Print-on-Demand" service for shoppers in an effort to consign to history the idea that you can walk into a bookshop and not find the book you want.
The idea is, that you can choose from any of some 400,000 titles and print the one(s) you choose right on the spot. Blackwell's goal is to extend this to a million titles by the summer, and to spread out more machines to the rest of its sixty stores once it works out pricing.
Currently, they charge shelf price for in-print books, and 10 pence per page for those out of print (about $55 for a 300-page book), but are analyzing customer behavior to get a better pricing model. Says Blackwell chief executive Andrew Hutchings: "This could change bookselling fundamentally. It's giving the chance for smaller locations, independent booksellers, to have the opportunity to truly compete with big stock-holding shops and Amazon ... I like to think of it as the revitalization of the local bookshop industry."
Their website notes that in addition to getting books printed in-store, in the future you will be able to order titles via their site too. (They also mention that one of the titles you can print is the 1915 Oxford Poetry Book, which includes one of Tolkien's first poems, "Goblin's Feet.")
Just as importantly, you'll also be able to bring in your own book to print from two PDF files, one for the book block and one for the cover. That should get your penmanship going!