The Espresso Book Machine

The Espresso Book Machine is in the purple room of the downtown Portland Powell’s Books.

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.

You can watch a book being made with the Espresso Book Machine.

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?


About Laura Stanfill

Publisher, Forest Avenue Press
This entry was posted in Books, Technology, Writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to The Espresso Book Machine

  1. emmaburcart says:

    I have to say, the name left me feeling a little cheated. I was looking forward to a cart where you can get a book and a latte! But then again, I think coffee should be served with pretty much everything. As a reader, I like the idea of being able to get the book I want when I want it. I am impatient and hate to have to wait for books to be ordered when they are not on the shelf. This seems like a nice option. As a writer, it sounds like an expensive way to publish. But math is not my strong subject, so I could be wrong on that. 🙂

    • But you could stand there and drink a latte while your book is being printed, Emma! I’m definitely going to use that service for novel research. I have a hard-to-find French tome in mind.

      As far as the expense, the EBM costs more than some other options, but you don’t have to buy your own inventory and your book is available in 80 locations around the country. Distribution is a huge obstacle for self-publishers, and often readers are stuck paying shipping charges on top of the list price. With this technology, anyone who lives near one of the machines can get your book for no extra shipping costs. It’s the distribution avenues, and the potential for national marketing efforts, that makes the EBM so appealing to me.

  2. susielindau says:

    Sounds like another interesting idea! I hadn’t heard of it!
    Thanks for sharing~

  3. Laura … it is yet another in the growing field of digital bliss. I can see how this would appeal most to those going indie, those who do memoirs or even the occassional graduate student who wants to print their thesis.

    I hope you little secret includes a date ?? Hint/hint 🙂

    • Digital bliss–love it, Florence! There are so many options these days and this is a remarkably innovative one. And yes there will be a date associated with my little announcement. I’m thinking October. But I’ll keep you posted!

  4. Emma says:

    Never heard of this before but it sounds great. Doubt we’ll have them over here for awhile yet.

  5. Here’s the map, Emma!

    P.S. Just resubscribed to your blog. I swear sometimes my subscriptions drop away!

  6. I have to admit, I expected a coffee post…lol.
    Sounds interesting Laura!
    And I can’t wait to hear your announcement 🙂

  7. I don’t immediately know of any books I need this way, but I would love to see the machine work. My first novel is available by POD, but it’s through Lulu, so I never get to see the books being made.

  8. robincoyle says:

    We have one of these at our Sacramento Central Library. I went to the orientation meeting. The machine is amazing in action. Rather spendy, but a great way to get to see your words in print!

    • Oh cool, Robin! I’m so glad you got to see it in action. Yes, the price isn’t super low, but it’s such a fascinating concept, and having your book available at other machines around the world (Polly corrected me that they’re international, not just national) is amazing, potentially, for distribution.

  9. Sara Flower says:

    Well, this is super cool! Wow. If there was one in my area, I would certainly consider it.

    • It’s really interesting technology! We have similar machines at two places here in Portland (that I know of), but neither offers the distribution channels that the Espresso Book Machine does.

  10. I wonder if that is like the machine set up at the Lake Forest Park Third Place Books. It sounds like a great idea. Thanks for sharing, Laura.

  11. Deb says:

    I used the machine in June to get a physical copy of my husband’s first novel! He published it as an ebook, but when I saw this was available at Powell’s (a #1 stop during my vacation) we jumped on it. We posted a short video of his book being printed.

    • That’s amazing, Deb! Thanks for sharing your husband’s story, and congrats to him for publishing his first novel. I’m excited to check out the video.

    • That is so cool. How can anybody be satisfied just doing e-books? 🙂

      • For a one-time setup fee of $25, you can get your ebook printed through the machine if you want a hard copy (or a number of hard copies). That fee doesn’t allow the book to be saved in the system for other people to buy, but it’d make a great keepsake edition just like Deb explained. If I ever go the ebook route, I think I’d do that so I could have something to put on my bookshelf!

        • Do they also charge per book printed? In addition to the setup fee? I assume they probably do, so Lulu might be a better bet since they have no setup fee at all. Or does the “setup” fee also include laying out the file? Lulu will do that, but they charge for it (I’ve been doing DTP work for a couple of decades, so I did it myself).

          • From what I understand, yes, there’s a fee of $5 plus $0.049 per page for every book printed. The setup fee covers a number of things; the $149 rate (if you want to have your book on the server for others to buy) includes things like basic cover construction, basic PDF alterations if needed, one proof copy, and a review to ensure proper formatting. For that one you’re paying for distribution channels as much as anything, I think.

          • Deb says:

            I set our book up, designed the cover, and uploaded it all to the self-serve system. I called Powell’s and made sure that the files were in the system and were accessible. They were. I went in and had two copies printed. There was NO set-up charge. There was a dollar service fee in addition to the, I believe, $.07/page cost of the book. The books ended up being about $16.50 each total. Now, I took all the responsibility for the files being correct, and if there was a mistake, too bad, that would not have been their problem and I would have paid for the book anyway. For multiple quantities of paperback copies of the book, we’re looking at other options, but for the “instant” gratification and sheer coolness of being able to walk into a store like Powell’s and print a copy of your book, it’s a wonderful system.

            • The instant gratification and sheer coolness of seeing it happen in that setting would definitely be worth something. 🙂

            • Thanks for all the details, Deb. The brochure I was given had a setup fee of $25, so it’s great to know you can print copies without that surcharge. Maybe the $25 is for people who want to get their files checked.

              I loved your video and seeing the copy of the freshly printed book on the pillar outside Powell’s. What fun! Thanks again for sharing.

  12. Pingback: Drum Roll, Please… Announcing My Secret Project | Laura Stanfill

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