Distribute, then print

If you’ve seen the Espresso Book Machine, a single unit that prints, binds and trims a book while you wait, you know that the process is not instantaneous. The first-generation machines used a print engine supplied by Japanese manufacturer Kyocera, and the printing took some time.

On Demand Books recently made a deal with Xerox to integrate a faster print engine, the Xerox 4112, that is expected to cut production time for a 300-page book to about four minutes. Dane Neller, On Demand’s CEO, says that the firm will have nearly 30 systems installed by the end of June, 2010 – a huge increase over their 2008 installed base.

Interestingly, both Xerox and On Demand see the growing base of machines as evidence that a “fully distributed” publishing model is going to become a supply-chain option. Already, print-on-demand is used by mainstream and self-publishing operations.

Now, there’s a sense that, if e-book sales volume continues to grow, it may reduce aggregate demand for print enough to broaden the cost-effectiveness of on-demand technologies. For retailers, the faster speed and diminished footprint of the more recent Espresso models can begin to turn the growing volume of digital content into an almost limitless virtual bookstore.

With Ashley Gordon, I am presenting a workshop on the business case for print on demand technologies at O’Reilly Media’s Tools of Change conference, scheduled for February 22 – 24. We’ve put together a good overview and some useful models to share. If this is a topic of interest, there is still time to join the discussion.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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