As regular/longstanding readers will know, I have long thought that POD (print on demand) technology is the future for authors, readers and publishers – and I am not alone, though possibly in a minority. I've written about lots of examples, one post from December 2006 is here, for example, and a nasty attack on it discussed here. Various developments in the interim have bought closer the concept of a reader being able to search for a book and to buy it POD "on the spot", some of which I've written about, but this post at theBookseller.com is well worth noting. According to the Bookseller, the publisher Blackwell is installing the Espresso machine (EBM for short, and it does not make coffee) in its 60-store chain in the UK. From the Bookseller piece:
"The EBM is already installed in 11 sites worldwide. It can access around one million titles, of which more than 600,000 come through a partnership with Lightning Source; the rest are in the public domain. It is also in talks with publishers about adding their content, although On Demand c.e.o. Dane Neller stressed the model was not to own content but to act a facilitator. The machine, which On Demand describes as an "ATM for books", prints, binds and trims paperback books with four-colour covers, on demand and at point of sale. Version 1.5 prints around 40 pages a minute and is 9 ft long and 5 ft high and deep."
Although these are early days, and this pilot scheme is for academic books only, the technical systems are now pretty much there. How long will it be before you can go into a bookshop (or even a coffee shop) and get an "out of print" book printed up while you wait (or drink your coffee)?