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Industry Insight

Xerox Gives Book Publishers One More Thing to Think About


By Cary Sherburne
Published: January 16, 2010

Yesterday,  Xerox announced a joint sales and marketing agreement with On Demand Books wherein the Xerox 4112 Copier/Printer will be integrated with the Espresso Book Machine - a fully integrated solution that prints, binds and trims books with full color covers on demand in retail locations and libraries.  The Espresso Book Machine can produce paperbacks in variable combinations of trim sizes between 4.5" x 5.0" and 8.25" x 10.5" for a production cost less than one cent per page and can produce a 300 page book in about 4 minutes.

While the Espresso Book Machine had already been on the market, it was configured with a lower speed machine from Kyocera  By incorporating the Xerox 4112 into the solution, both speed and quality are improved.  The system uses inkjet printing to produce color covers.

Publishers have relatively recently adopted on demand printing for part of the book lifecycle, but these initiatives have largely  involved centralized printing from sources such as Lulu or Lightning Source, with book printed and shipped to order, or printed to limited inventories for distribution.  While this has made the book supply chain more efficient, the new Espresso configuration, which requires an installed footprint of about 9' x 12', brings another radical change to book publishers who are also struggling with how best to handle ebooks.

Dane Neller, CEO of On Demand Books, indicates that there will be nearly 30 systems installed by the end of next quarter, with about a third in university book stores and the remainder in libraries and retail (independent and chain) locations.

"From a Xerox perspective," said John Conley, Vice President, Publishing, "the whole publishing model is going through tremendous change, and we believe fully distributed solutions will become an integral part of the supply chain."

Neller added, "This is a transforming time, and content is increasingly being offered centrally with distribution and consumption being offered on a massively decentralized basis, along with personalization and easier access to self-publishing. This solution offers a new channel, eliminates out-of-stock conditions, and can deliver more sales per square foot."

University book stores have shown particular interest in this solution, according to Neller, because it is seen as a greener solution, and because more professors are writing their own text books largely due to the high cost of textbooks and a desire to have more focused course content.  On Demand Books also has a relationship with Ingram which gives the Espresso access to Ingram's massive library of digital books for distributed printing.

"This will also be a boon to self-publishers," added Neller.  "Combining Espresso with tool sets from Author Solutions, for example, an author can come to a location to get their book published, printed and sold.  This is truly transformative."

For book publishers, wide Espresso adoption means they need to again examine distribution strategies as they work to make the supply chain more efficient.  The other community this solution could hugely impact is book manufacturers, many of whom are already struggling with the need to produce much shorter runs economically and quickly. For many books, Espresso may cut them entirely out of the manufacturing loop.

Conley adds, "To the extent that ebooks continue to grow, and I think they will, it will continue to force publishers to look at new models of revenue and distribution of content as well as to grow the amount of digital inventory.  This is very positive.  I can see a day when I can access a book on my iPhone, review snippets and then decide to have the book printed on Espresso.  It reinforces the theme of producing books at point of sale and gives you the largest bookstore in the world sitting in a 9' by 12' space."

According to Neller, Dr. Jason Epstein, cofounder of On Demand Books, believes this is a worldwide trend.  Neller says, "Outside of the U.S., the supply chain is often much less efficient, and this is a perfect soltuion.  We need to get out of the parochial mindset that a bookstore is five minutes away.  Maybe there is no bookstore, or it is far away, or the books are not available in your preferred language.  This makes books ubiquitously available."

"This is a solution whose time has come," concludes Conley. "Xerox is doing this now because the time is right.  It is a new opportunity for us, a little different than what we have done in the past.  But with the changes in content creation and distribution, this is an exciting and untapped opportunity.  You don't find many of those these days."

Cary Sherburne is a well-known author, journalist and marketing consultant whose practice is focused on marketing communications strategies for the printing and publishing industries.

Cary Sherburne is available for speaking engagements and consulting projects. To get more information contact us.

Please offer your feedback to Cary. She can be reached at cary@whattheythink.com.



By Michael J on Jan 17, 2010

When I saw the announcement it recalled the feeling I had when I saw the first story about the Docutech in the Wall Street Journal.

It seems that this deal is the docutech reinvented for a networked society. The money sentence to me is "we believe fully distributed solutions will become an integral part of the supply chain.”

It's the same idea of a mature "distribute and print" model the industry has been talking about for years. But until the web matured it was a vision instead of a strategy.

O'Reilly has said that the web is now moving into the real world. He calls it "Web squared." QR codes are an on ramp from the print to the web. The Espresso/Xerox deal is one off ramp from the web to print.

One can only assume that once the Xerox engineers take a really close look at the output box, it will get more and more efficient. One can also safely assume that if Xerox sales gets involved it will get less and less expensive.

One interesting question going forward is how Xerox will integrate selling Espresso with their PSPs. The natural would be to sell through the MFP channel.

I'm hoping they are figuring out a method to use their Premier Partners to add the Espresso offering to increase the PP value to their clients.


By Cary Sherburne on Jan 17, 2010

FYI, for now, all sales are being handled by On Demand Books ... they are a channel for Xerox in this case ... But it does call into question how Xerox positions this with book printers who have a lot of high speed B&W digital as adoption rates grow!


By Michael J on Jan 17, 2010

I saw a story at printweek that says

Xerox has signed an agreement to sell the Espresso Book Machine (EBM), the revolutionary on-demand book printer, alongside its Xerox 4112 printer.



By Cary Sherburne on Jan 17, 2010

In my conversation with John Conley and Dane Neller, Conley was very clear that for now, sales are being handled through On Demand Books. That, of course, is likely to change in the future. But for right now, it has limited availability (U.S. only) and sales through Neller and team. PrintWeek didn't ask the right questions :-)


By Michael J on Jan 17, 2010

Good for you. It's why I'm a blogger and you are a journalist!

Since I don't have a day job, I tend to focus on "is likely to change in the future." It's always what got me in trouble back in the day :-)


By Michael J on Jan 17, 2010

Just a thought..

I've always thought one of the biggest challenges for Xerox was to get to market and execute. Based on the paucity of information about actual sales of the ColorCube, I can only assume that the execution problem is not completely solved.

In that context, I hope that they get to "likely in the future" much faster rather than much slower.


By Chuck on Jan 18, 2010

I heard a fascinating interview on Charlie Rose this weekend with Jason Epstein, 78 years old, the former Random House editor and founder of On Demand Books. Really interesting: he talks about his new memoir, Eating, but also about how much the publishing industry has changed and will continue to change. What he said that really struck me was about the changing economics of publishing-- he said it used to be the backlist that supported the publshers, and over the last decade or so that's gone away due to non-digital distribution challenges, and been replaced in the publishing houses with gambling on best sellers. Said the Espresso machine is all about the backlist. He described this XRX deal, but the segment must have been taped before this announcement: he characterized Xerox without mentioning their name as a "printing partner", and said they would be servicing the machines on a global basis. Checkout the interview here: http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/10804


By Cary Sherburne on Jan 18, 2010

Certainly on demand printing of all types has changed the nature of the backlist and helped publishers monetize it. I don't agree that the Espresso machine is all about the backlist. I think there are venues for this machine where it provided the opportunity for people to buy the frontlist as well. More sales per square foot is one of the keys ... and while bookstores are available on every corner (more or less) in the U.S., there are many places in the world where this could literally put the world at the fingertips of readers. For example, it is next to impossible to buy a new English-language book in the Dominican Republic without shipping it in yourself or depending on your Kindle ...

This is another entry to the market that will require publishers to really re-think their business plans.


By Patrick Henry on Jan 18, 2010

Jason Epstein, the conceiver/developer of the Espresso Book Machine, foretold the publishing revolution he is helping to bring about in a July 5, 2001 essay for The New York Review of Books ("Reading: The Digital Future," http://www.nybooks.com/articles/14318).

He wrote, "These neighborhood machines for making paperbound books can, like ATMs, be placed wherever electricity and supplies of paper exist—whether in Kinko's, Starbucks, or high school and university libraries and residence halls, to name only a few possible sites."

It's interesting that in 2001, Epstein—a co-founder of NYRB and the Library of America—still foresaw a continuing role for conventionally printed books in traditional bookstores:

"(I)t is likely that shops offering carefully chosen inventories of new and used titles, especially books in hard covers, art books, and many kinds of childrens' books which cannot economically be printed on demand will become neighborhood meeting places, while outlets that specialize in hardcover commercial best sellers will continue to do so."

But lately, his outlook for bookselling and the publishing business as a whole has grown darker. In a grimly titled post ("An Autopsy of the Book Business") for The Daily Beast about a year ago, we find him predicting that "the business as it exists cannot survive." (http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-01-08/an-autopsy-of-the-book-business)

According to the best estimate (with quotation marks around "best") that I've been able to find, digital printing now produces about 6% of all books sold. But, other sources tell us that the number of books printed digitally has risen sharply over the last few years while conventional production has stayed flat. Xerox's backing of the Espresso Book Machine venture seems all but guaranteed to give a dramatically self-fulfilling quality to Mr. Epstein's prophecies.


By Michael J on Jan 18, 2010

On the backlist question. I think it's much, much bigger than that for readers. It seems that at the Harvard Square Bookstore they spend hours printing out Google Books.

In essence all the non copyright protected back list of human thought can now be output wherever and whenever somebody feels like reading it.

It's hard to figure out the details of what this means for publishers or XRX PSPs but I can't see how this isn't a huge score for Xerox.


By Adam Dewitz on Jan 21, 2010

While the Espresso Book Machine has the potential to be a game changer, one Australian bookstore has taken the machine off its store floor to make room for traditional book merchandise. http://thedigitalnirvana.com/2010/01/espresso-book-machine-goes-offline" rel="nofollow">I wrote about this at Digital Nirvana


By Michael J on Jan 21, 2010

Fair enough. But not every box fits in every location. The counter example is the bookstore in Cambridge.

Now that Xerox is doing service support and given that Espresso today is version 1.0, the direction seems pretty clear to me.


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