Blackwell books on demand April 2009
Blackwell books on demand
Leading academic bookseller, Blackwell, has introduced on-demand book printing to customers in the company's flagship branch at 100 Charing Cross Road, London. With one million books soon to become available, including out-of-print texts, this five minute, high-quality printing service could catch on. We gave it a first look hands-on test.
This article, Blackwell books on demand, was last updated on 24 April 2009 and is now out of date and held in our online archive for reference. Explore our latest Technology articles.
Blackwell launched its in-store book printing to customers on 27 April 2009, but Which? was present for an early preview and had the chance to print a book in less than ten minutes.
The service could take a lot of the legwork out of hunting down out-of-print books, and also provides a solution to those times when the title you're after is out-of-stock.
Blackwell's Espresso Book Machine (EBM)
The quality of the book we printed was similar to the books available on the shelves, although the colour cover was slightly tacky when it first came off the press. This stickiness, we were assured, passes with time and the colour print wasn't prone smudging.
The cost of the books printed on the Espresso Book Machine (EBM) is the same as the cost of the books when sold from the shelf. Out of print books will be priced depending on the number of pages printed. Foreign language books, books with basic illustrations, and books with large text can also be printed.
The service was initially launched with around 400,000 titles available, but this is set to increase to around one million in the coming months.
Print books on-demand, for the same price as an off-the-shelf edition
As things stand, the service is only available at the company's flagship branch at 100 Charing Cross Road, London, but if the trial is a success, then we can expect to see similar services offered in other Blackwell branches over the coming months. Customers not living near the Charing Cross branch will be able to order books to be printed through Blackwell's website.
The machines are about ten feet long, four feet tall, and able to print around 105 pages per minute.
Blackwell expects the EBM to be able to create custom books for students. Depending on copyright issues, the option to assemble single books comprised of sections from a variety of books and tailored to students' courses, could become a realised service.
This new service will help match quantity with demand, reduce transportation costs and the need for pulping unwanted returns. According to Blackwell, studies have shown that each book currently printed, bound and shipped creates about 4kg of CO2 emissions.
Print your own books
The ability for customers to print their own books is also available, which may appeal to budding want-to-be writers or students putting together the finishing touches to their dissertations. The machine will be staffed initially, to help customers with ordering and any jamming issues, but could become unmanned in the long run.
The EBMs cost around US$100,000 each, and Blackwell has struck an 18-month exclusivity deal with manufacturers Books On Demand, so it will be a year and a half at least until we see such devices in other book shops such as Waterstones and Borders.
Pros: Cuts out legwork and hours of internet searching when looking for out-of-print books, no more frustrating out-of-stock scenarios, more accessible to consumers than current print-on-demands services, environmentally sound
Cons: Unable to flick through books before printing
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