Lightning Source Teams Up with the Espresso Book Machine

Via Dear Author comes the news that the Espresso Book Machine is teaming up with Lightning Source to provide access to 85,000 titles from 13 publishers, beginning in May.  Simply, the Espresso Book Machine is an in-store print on demand machine that can a high-quality book in under five minutes.  News comes that:

The participating publishers, which include Hachette, S&S, Wiley, Macmillan and Norton, already work with Lightning Source. After the pilot, other publishers that print and distribute with Lightning Source will have the option of participating in the Espresso Book Machine program. That should occur in the second half of this year.

In a statement, David Taylor, president of Lightning Source, said that the program would allow “the many thousands of publishers with whom we already work the chance to get their books into this new distribution channel with minimal effort.”

This is a significant development for self-publishers, as Lightning Source is the premier printer and distributor of self-published titles, either directly or via a service like Lulu.  Though the Espresso Book Machine is starting with traditional publishers, this is actually a good development for self-publishing, as it legitimizes the technology at the onset and ensures its potential for wide distribution.  If the EBM was only used for self-published titles it would not gain the same attention.

Though the EBM has enormously positive implications for self-publishers, getting a book printed through the machine still depends on a book buyer knowing about a book beforehand in order to request getting it printed up in-store.  That’s the downside, but it’s generally positive and ensures a whole new avenue for print on demand publishers to reach a new audience.  This is only the beginning for how print on demand will be used by traditional and self-publishers.

Additionally, as the Dear Author site points out, this could help smaller booksellers compete with the major superstore chains, as they’ll be able to sell a wider variety of titles, as small book stores just don’t have the shelf space to shelve all of the titles of major stores.

  • Presently, they’re planning to put these machines in book megastores in the States, so print on demand becomes print on the spot. But it might be better if they’d put Espresso machines in distant places where English-language books sell well, but shipping costs drive up the cost and delay delivery. With more people ordering books by mail rather than driving to the mall, the real barriers to distribution aren’t the few miles to a store but the thousands of miles across continents and oceans.

    I’d suggest they start with Expresso machines in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, South Africa, and India. China, India, Africa, and Australia are much bigger markets that the north Seattle community they’d serve if they installed an Expresso in the Barnes and Noble near me.

    It’d also be great if Lightning Source would add large scale printing facilities at their Oregon warehouse, so west coast bookstores and readers would be better served. I hate telling clients that their order of 1500 will spend a week on the road from Pennsylvania when it could come from Oregon the next day.

    –Michael W. Perry, author of Untangling Tolkien