Wendy Soriano, Deon Fuller, and Shanita Conley
April 11, 2006––Last Thursday the Bank’s InfoShop inaugurated the Espresso Book Machine—a machine that looks like a large-scale copier, but prints and binds paperback books on demand within minutes. The InfoShop is the first retail site to offer the service anywhere.
Young ambassadors from Washington, D.C. high schools were the first to debut the machine, pressing the print-on-demand button and less than ten minutes later holding a copy of A Guide To The World Bank.
Students Shanita Conley and Wendy Soriano, seniors from Bell Multicultural High School and Deon Fuller, a senior at Cardozo High School—all of whom were interns at the Bank last summer—were the first retail recipients of an on-demand book. They each received the 248-page book, which was printed, bound and trimmed within eight minutes. “It was exciting to be the first to push the button and to be part of the youth reading books on development,” said Conley. “This machine proves the Bank is fulfilling its mission by providing information for countries that are in poverty. Students will be more encouraged to get involved,” said Soriano.
The new fully automatic book machine, developed by On Demand Books LLC with initial funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, will revolutionize book sales by printing and binding a single copy of a book at the point of demand. The machine can produce 15–20 library- quality paperback books per hour, in any language, in quantities as few as one, without any human intervention. On a global scale, this would eliminate the costs of shipping and warehousing, returning and pulping unsold books, while allowing simultaneous global availability of new books. Print jobs can be initiated from the machine itself or from any locally connected computer using nothing more than a web browser.
Print-on-demand as such isn’t new. The revolutionary concept of the Espresso machine is the fully automated integration of binding, so that buying a book will eventually be like getting cash from an ATM. You choose a title, insert a credit card to pay for the book and walk away with the finished book a few minutes later. “This is a wonderful milestone for the way we spread development knowledge, making it available to anyone, anywhere, any place and in any language as these machines become more available,” said Bob King, Manager, Communications Network Anchor for EXT.
Ruth Kagia, Sector Director, Education, Human Development Network called the event an “historic day. For those of us who care about reading, learning and growing, this is a giant leap forward, opening up lots of new possibilities,” said Kagia. “In this [machine] lies the potential to transform the way we reach out to remote areas of the world we serve. My dream with this machine,” she said, “is to see one in every district center.”The event was moderated by H. Dirk Koehler, the World Bank’s Publisher, who dreamed of a print-on-demand network for the Bank for many years, was very much waiting for the technology to become available, and eventually brought it to the InfoShop.
According to Koehler, the Bank produces about 200 books annually along with thousands of other documents in book length, most of which operational documents disclosed to the public. The Bank works with approximately 100 commercial distributors worldwide, who struggle to have a few of these publications in stock and sell them locally. The Bank also supplies nearly 100 public information centers and roughly 250 depository libraries worldwide with free copies of Bank publications for local distribution.
H. Dirk Koehler
“To maintain this infrastructure, we spend almost $1 million annually on shipping alone. And still, all too often, customers and clients don’t find exactly the document they want at the location they want it at the time they need it,” said Koehler. “And all too often we have books sitting in warehouses overseas and nobody wants them. This is a bigger problem for us than it is for the typical academic publishing house because our books are supposed to reach developing countries and to be affordable there.”
Hafed Al-Ghwell, the InfoShop’s Manager said he’s hoping to open up this technology to publishers from across the globe to bring in literature from the developing world to his colleagues at the Bank. “For the first time, we now have an inexpensive means for a two-way communication by bringing the voices from the developing world to those of us in developed countries,” Al-Ghwell said.The Future of Publishing
Jason Epstein, former Editorial Director of Random House and a main supporter of the Espresso, called the book machine “the future of publishing.”
“By the time all books are digitized over the next few years, we will have replaced the 500-year- old Gutenberg system,” said the publishing industry icon. “Everyone will have access to the machine and will be able to download any book ever printed,” saving thousands of dollars in inventory losses from unsold books.
Jeff Marshall, who invented the machine and is still testing it, had mixed emotions with the debut of his Espresso Book Machine at the Bank. “I’ve been inventing for more than 45 years, and now that it is public, the real work is just beginning. We expect it to break, and we will fix it. And it will break again, and we’ll fix it.”
The Espresso Book Machine
His first concept of the Espresso was in 1998, just four years after he got involved in the publishing industry. He created his first machine in St. Louis after he saw how to do it in 2000. “My vision was any book, any place, any time, and the focus back then was a trailer that was diesel generated and a satellite that you could move anywhere. My focus was in schools and the power of having that available in the third world.”
The Espresso Book Machine is in the InfoShop for beta-testing for three months. EXTOP hopes it can also arrange for the machine to be available at the Annual Meetings in Singapore. A second machine will become available to the public at the New York Public Library later this month. Staff should contact Hafed Al-Ghwell at the InfoShop for more information.
This article was contributed by Dahlia Khalifa.
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