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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Books: Print 'em as you need 'em!

As will soon become obvious, I am catching up on a few topics that I meant to get to in December. First (well, maybe second after the CSE update): the Espresso Book Machine from OnDemandBooks. A
story from CNN provides the details, and the vendor's site includes some further links and a video of the machine in operation.

Fast facts: Two books, printed and fully bound, created in seven minutes. The New York Public Library will receive one in February. You can have one of your own for $50,000. 2.5 million books are currently available (1 million in English, all in the public domain).

So, does this mean that providing printed books on demand is a viable concept in libraries? Well, not exactly, at least until the number of books expands and the entry price goes down. But for the moment, it is an interesting possibility for a library to use to expand its collection without expanding the required space for printed copies. Small libraries could expand their collections exponentially for a $50K investment. Larger libraries could avoid using interlibrary loan to track down public domain materials; just print them in house. There's quite a move on now to just buy inexpensive copies of ILL-requested items from auctions and then give the book to the patron. Isn't this much the same?

Well, there are obviously a lot of holes here. But I am interested to see NYPL give this a try and watch how the idea expands. I hope we'll hear more about this in the months to come.

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