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."