An On-demand Book Boom?
I was listening to the radio the other morning when a short piece about on-demand book publishing caught my ear. The reporter mentioned a company called On Demand Books that was promoting its all-in-one printing/binding device, which can reportedly produce 20 bound books an hour.
The device—called the Espresso Book Machine—wasn’t exactly news to me; the company’s been talking about it for a while, and the World Bank installed one back in April. But this news report was the latest in a series of references to on-demand book publishing that have come to my attention.
Apparently, demand for printed-while-you-wait books is on the rise, and on-demand book publishers are beefing up their digital printing capabilities accordingly. One has even created a new in-plant. I met its manager not long ago when we both attended the xpedx-sponsored “MBA of In-plant Finance” workshop. His company, Xlibris Corp., is an “on-demand publishing services provider” created nearly 10 years ago to help authors publish their own books.
Xlibris is establishing an in-house print operation to produce those books, and has already installed a Kodak NexPress (with a NexGlosser), three Kodak Digimasters, a Standard Horizon BQ 270 perfect binder and other bindery gear.
Amazon.com is also expanding its books-on-demand business. A recent article in USA Today noted the company just installed several HP Indigo presses at its fulfillment centers and hopes to increase the number of available titles. And last fall, Lightning Source, an on-demand book provider, acquired 15 Océ VarioStream 9210 black and color-ready digital printers. Then in January it added an HP Indigo w3250 digital color press with a Lasermax Roll Systems LX Stack feeding and finishing system.
Clearly these companies expect interest in instant books to soar. In-plants should keep an eye on this trend. Some may see an opportunity here. At the very least, this activity could indicate an evolution in how customers view on-demand printing and hint at their future expectations. Their increasing comfort levels with online book ordering/payment is itself a worthwhile observation.