I recently met with Polly Dugan, a consultant with the Espresso Book Machine located at Powell’s Books in downtown Portland, Oregon.
The EBM arrived at Powell’s, in the Purple Room, on May 4. It’s a quick, easy way to access out-of-print books, or out-of-stock books, and it’s also a way to self-publish. The machine can print a book in five to ten minutes, depending on the length of the book and whether the machine has warmed up.
“It’s super fast,” Polly told me. “That’s where the name comes from. You can get an espresso brewed in the same amount of time you can get a book.”
Authors use the technology for two types of projects–the one-time publication of, say, a recipe collection, or as a way to self-publish your work and have it be easily accessible to readers. Books can have full-color covers, matte or satin, and they can range from 40 pages to 800 pages long. Best of all, you–or anyone–can walk up to an Espresso Book Machine and get a copy of your book published in minutes.
These fascinating devices are installed in intellectual centers across the world; Polly said there are 80 of them currently. A book submitted to the kiosk at Powell’s would also be available at the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, Vermont, and at the University of Arizona Bookstore, for instance (once the sales channel is up and running, which it isn’t quite yet). That eliminates the cost and environmental impact of shipping. A select number of Espresso Book Machine installations offer online sales, so if you don’t live near one, you can easily order a title and have it sent to your home.
Of course, like most self-publishing options, the author assumes all responsibility for promotion.
“We really are just a printer, not a publisher,” Polly explained. “There’s no outreach or marketing.”
Polly said an author who chooses to publish through the Espresso Book Machine will get shelf space at the EBM kiosk at Powell’s, and occasionally there are events to promote a particular title.
Since the machine’s May arrival at the country’s largest independent bookstore, Polly said it has been used to print memoirs, fiction and individual projects, including a 13-year-old’s school report about Mount Hood. It’s also a great way for authors to print out galleys, she said.
To use the technology, there’s a setup fee of $25 for one-time use (such as your galleys or some copies of your aunt’s genealogy research to distribute to your family), or $149 for standard setup, which includes file reviews, a chance to upload one set of revisions and keeping your file on the EBM server indefinitely (unless you choose to remove it). There are a variety of trim sizes as well as available add-ons, such as cover design, ebook conversion and barcode help.
As far as cover prices, you choose how much to charge for your book. Whenever one is purchased, the EBM fees ($5 plus a $0.045 per-page rate) are taken out of the book’s cover price, and the rest is given to you as royalties.
Just as interesting for readers, and those of us involved in heavy research for our novels, you can get titles that are in the public domain through the Espresso Book Machine. Polly said there are eight million available, including out-of-print books and rarities, as well as books from publishers who have signed agreements with EBM. If a book is out of stock at Powell’s, for instance, and it’s available through the EBM, a reader can have that book printed for the same retail price in a few minutes.
Polly was very helpful in answering specific questions and helping me brainstorm about a project I’ve been thinking about for a while. I’ll keep it a secret for now, until I make some more inquiries and run the numbers, but I hope to have an exciting announcement in the next few months. Stay tuned!
What do you think? Will you go check out an Espresso Book Machine if there’s one near you?