Half-Naked Day in Charleston?

Apparently it’s “Half-Naked Day” here in Charleston.  The park below is teeming with half-naked college students, some in bikinis, some in just shorts.  Do you know how hard it is to sit in a conference when every time you look out the window, you see half-naked people enjoying the beautiful weather?

Charleston, is it too much to ask that you provide some fake rain so that I can at least pretend like my time wouldn’t be better served rolling in the grass?  Which, I might add, smells fantastic!

Um, yes, so, in library news–AHAHAHAHAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!  The library is going to die!  No, it’s not.  Yes it is.  Ahhhhhhhh.

So, same as yesterday.  But, like I said yesterday, it appears as if the book is no longer dying, but is instead transforming–what we thought was a coffin was just a chyrsalis.  And the book will break free of paper, break into thousands of useful parts so it can be configured and reconfigured and reconfigured some more and then–and this tickled me–reconfigured into books and printed out using Ingram’s Espresso Machine.

I am so excited and intrigued by this I can’t even tell you.  Of course, we’ve heard something like this has been coming for a long time, but this is a machine that will have access to all the participating books in Lightning’s database (and let me be clear, that’s all the books that are in Lightning’s database and also choosing to participate in Espresso, not all the books that are in Lightning’s database) and, so, say you go to the library and you’re wanting a copy of A Tale of Two Cities and you go to the shelf and you see it is not there and you go to an electronic edition and you read a little and you’re like “Yes, oh, I so want to read this but it hurts my eyes to stare at the screen that long,” you may see an option that says “Print book?” You hit it and five minutes later you have a perfect-bound, four-color cover, real book.

Now, I’m unclear who will pay for this copy of the book you’ve printed–you would in bookstores obviously, but I don’t know if you or the library would in a library situation and, if so, if you’d have to return it like a library book.  I guess I should have thought to ask those questions but I’m sure my sources at Ingram can enlighten me at some point.

But then, the Espresso machine will, in under five minutes, print and bind a book for you, when you want it, but not before.

Here’s the thing I wonder?  Why wouldn’t small presses, who usually have tremendous warehouse costs and then tremendous stock costs, chuck the warehouse, ask their designers to keep in mind the medium the book will be printed in, and then get a little office space to use as a virtual warehouse, stick an Espresso Machine in it, hire a person to run and maintain it and ship books out to customers, and NEVER, EVER AGAIN PRINT A REGULAR BOOK UNTIL YOU NEED IT?

Yes, you’d have to have stock of some books–books with pictures, books with color, books larger than 8×11–but the amount of space those books would take up is immensely less than the amount of space you use in a whole warehouse.  We’re talking about a couple of rooms in a regular office building as opposed to, well, an actual warehouse.

Mark my words, we’re about to see the return of small publishers actually printing most of their own books.  But not until we know for sure we have a customer for them.

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15 thoughts on “Half-Naked Day in Charleston?

  1. My favorite dorm location when I was in college was the year my room overlook the large grassy area at the school. durring spring it became a sea of half-naked bodies playing Frisbee, tossing around one kind of ball or another, or even just laying out sunbathing a reading a book.

  2. What if you wanted to read, say, War and Peace? How long would it take to print that out in a legible font? I mean, this five minutes deal sounds too good to be true.

  3. There are some limits. I think the less than 5 minutes thing is for books that are 300 pages or less, so you might be waiting a while for War & Peace and if it exceeds the 800 page limit, you might not be able to print it at all (or maybe they’ll do multiple volumes).

  4. And what if I want it in paperback size, so I can carry it around in my handbag? I’m not trying to be contrarian, here, I’m just thinking about the way I physically interact with books. What about binding? Pictures?

  5. Oh, and one time I was taking a morning class at a rabbinical seminary. The classroom had windows on one side of an inner quadrangle, across from a row of windows to dorm rooms. And there was one young man who evidently got up fairly latish most mornings, and before he put his shirt on would put on his tefillin and daven. In front of his window. It was … um … distracting. And not in a good way.

  6. The Espresso really isn’t Ingram’s machine. It’s On Demand Books’ machine. Ingram owns a small part of the company. And publishers do have to grant the rights to allow the machines to access their copyrighted information. There is, of course a large amount of material out there that is no longer under copyright.
    If you really want to know the answers to these questions, of course I can point you in the right direction. I could also provide some opinion. But I like my job and I want to keep it. My opinion is not free. My employer pays for exclusive access to it. :)

  7. You’ve pretty much described people my husband works through when he needs books published for the think tank he runs. They have a supply of ISBN numbers, he provides the pre-edited digital content, and they all the print and bind. It’s a ton cheaper than working through a university publisher because I do the editing for free (sorry, I know I’m undercutting the editors who do this for a living) and he handles both the recruitment of the authors and the marketing of the subsequent books.

    I hate to say it but all the wah-wah about the collapse of the university press a couple of years back makes more and more sense to me.

  8. I am starting to suspect a level of Chicken Little to much of the academy lately. Things are changing; change is stressful; but we’re not all going to lose our jobs and have to go work in the mines or something. But, yeah, there are good reasons why people are disgruntled and people are worried.

    NM, the publisher still controls the format, so you’ll have to take what the publisher dictates the Espresso machine spit out at you, I believe.

    Lesley, as you know, to be oblique about it, a lot depends on whether the rectal cranial extraction works.

  9. I’ve used lulu.com to make a few books. They can print one just for you, or they can host your book and let people order it, with a markup above manufacturing cost that you specify. So they are pretty much the on-demand publisher that you described, except that they don’t maintain a catalog; everybody maintains their catalog. Actually, they should probably be called a “printer” rather than a publisher? So a publisher could start-up, doing all of the things that a publisher does, using lulu as their printer.

    I don’t know what the cost is for Espresso printing, but here are some sample costs via lulu:
    * Letter-size (8.5″ x 11″), “publisher-grade” paper (inferior to copier paper?), black/white, 300 pages, “perfect bound”: $8.90
    * Hardcover (6″ x 9″), black/white, 300 pages: $23.00

    They have a fixed-cost floor per printed item, so the above paperback scaled-down from 300 pages to 100 pages costs $5.30 (plus S/H and whatever markup the author specifies). Their upper limit for “perfect bound” seems to be 700 pages.

  10. Publishers already have a service like this (or a few). That’s what Lightning is–a division of Ingram (which is an enormous book wholesaler) that has a bunch of huge printers that can print very, very short runs of titles. So, if you need one copy of a book, they can just print it out for you and bind it up.

    That’s nice and I know plenty of presses use them. But what I’m talking about is having a smaller version of those printers that is devoted only to your books sitting in an office among or near the rest of your staff. If you need three copies of a book, you’re not calling down to Ingram and then paying them the $10 a copy, you’re walking down the hall and picking it up from your own machine.

    That will be pretty cool.

  11. How much would leasing such a machine or being a franchisee in such a program cost? This is giving me all sorts of ideas to suggest to my sister the printer on how to boost her income.

  12. NM, I don’t know. They didn’t mention anything about it and I wasn’t listening for a price, since that’s not the end of the chain I sit on, and there doesn’t yet seem to be any talk of leasing/selling them to publishers.

  13. B., I don’t really have a comment, but I’m loving reading your reports from this conference — fascinating stuff!

  14. So I was reading in a magazine this morning about the Amazon Kindle… With this it doesn’t seem that you would need to print any book that doesn’t have pictures…..

  15. Oh here it is! For whatever reason, I couldn’t find this post for a while. Hrm.

    They’re still working on the price and to the best of my knowledge, it won’t be available to the mass market. I think it is targeted at libraries and bookstores, but not for the purpose of people setting up their own in-house presses.

    Lulu.com is a publisher, not a printer. They don’t actually print the books; they act as a publisher for self-published authors. They offer a variety of services (that traditional publishers offer) for a fee to publish the books.

    The Kindle and other e-readers certainly have their implications, but the bottom line is that publishers and copyright owners still control the content. Amazon has to play nice with them to get it.

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