Today’s Boston Globe has an article about the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont, which looks like a classic bookstore, but has taken a big step into the future. Northshire has installed an Espresso Book Machine, dubbed “Lurch” by the staff, which prints books on demand for customers while they wait. The Globe article is accompanied by a short video that shows the machine in action, and this will be of particular interest to librarians.
Northshire is “the first independent bookstore in the United States to install the clattering book machine. If Northshire can make money printing books downloaded from massive online catalogs, it will show how small brick-and-mortar bookshops might be able to match the overwhelming variety of products offered by … giant online retailer[s].” The producer of the machine, On Demand Books, has contracted with several major publishers to make their titles available through the Espresso Machine; in addition, the “machines can also access thousands of titles that are in the public domain and available on the Internet.” According to the On Demand website, the Espresso machine has been installed in several libraries and in a number of college and university bookstores. “It could streamline the traditional book supply chain, with much less need for space in warehouses, inventory on hand, shipping expenses, or management of returns.” Although the impact on libraries is not discussed in the article, several spring to mind immediately. The machine could obviate the need for interlibrary loans, and could vastly expand the resources available to a library’s community without the need for more shelf space.