Self-publishing has taken off in a big way, changing the game forever in the literary world. It's now possible for anyone to write, upload and publish their own book on Amazon and a range of other websites. In 2009 76% of all books released were self –published and, although sales of e-books are growing rapidly, the majority of these self-published titles were released in print. It used to be easy to spot self-published books as they were generally poor quality but it is getting easier, cheaper and more convenient for authors to create books indistinguishable from those printed by a publishing house.
There are various companies that offer an on-demand printing service to self-published authors but the Espresso Book Machine (EBM) from Xerox is a printing press small enough to fit into a book shop or library. Xerox claims that customers can have a book printed in the time it takes them to get an espresso and that the EBM has a huge number of potential applications besides self-publishing.
The first EBM was installed in the World Bank InfoShop in Washington D.C. in April 2006, followed by the Library of Alexandria in Egypt in September 2006 and the New York Public Library in 2007. There are now EBMs in locations around the world, including the U.S.A., The Netherlands, Japan and the U.K.
The Espresso Book Machine incorporates a Xerox D95/ D110 which prints the book, the EBM itself then trims and binds the book and an Epson inkjet printer prints the front cover. Working from a pdf file, the EBM can print books of up to 830 pages and takes around ten minutes to create the finished product.
So far, the EBM has been used to create family histories, recipe books, memoirs and dissertations as well as self-published novels. The low costs and lack of a minimum print run mean that it is practical to create small numbers, or even individual copies, of your self-penned poetry collection, for instance.
On a less self-indulgent note, the EBM is also useful for printing rare, public domain and out-of-print books which would otherwise be too costly to produce, ship and store. It's even possible to modify public domain titles so that teachers and lecturers can add notes and annotations specific to their course.
There might not be anywhere in the U.K. that you can turn up to and sip a coffee while your book is being printed but companies like On Demand Books in the U.S. will ship worldwide. So, if you fancy yourself as an author and want to create something that you can hold, leaf through and even make notes in, it's never been easier.
Have you self-published anything, or want to? Do you prefer digital or paper books? Let us know your thoughts.
by Anthony Morgan