Don’t Believe Everything you Read: Paperback Books are Alive & Well

John Conley, vice president publishing, Xerox

Books aren’t going away anytime soon, evident by the Associated Press article on how the Espresso Book Machine makes it possible for self publishers to actually print the book of their dreams while providing independent book stores a new revenue stream.

The Espresso Book Machine, or EBM, for short, debuted in 2006 – and can now be found in book stores around the world. Check out this video that shows how easily a book can be produced – in a matter of minutes.

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So, even in this electronic-centric world it is refreshing to know that the compelling nature of books – and people’s desire to be published – still prevails.

That’s pretty clear in this quote from Debbi Wraga at Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vt.: “Besides the novelty of (the EBM), to have customers come and strike up a conversation, it’s a way for us to really engage our public and move forward and find a creative way to still sell the books. It’s a wonderful feeling when you take it off the press and hand it to the author. You can smell the glue and the book is still warm. It’s almost like handing a newborn baby to a mom.”

For independent book stores, the EBM represents a breath of fresh air. Chief Technology Officer Thor Sigvaldason with On Demand Books was quoted in the AP article saying: “It can, potentially, give them a huge virtual inventory so they can have as many books as Amazon, all in a little bookstore. It turns independent bookstores into places to get books published. It’s a new thing for the bookstore to do: not just sell books, but actually create books.”

Full non-disclosure: I am a book man through and through. So, it’s a good day when mainstream media covers the topic of books and how the EBM is keeping this important industry alive and relevant.  

That’s a story worth reading.

A lover of the printed word, John uses all forms of book media from e-books on his iPad to Audio books on his iPhone, to mass market paperbacks at the airport to hard cover books for the night stand.

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  1. Joseph Williams June 12, 2012 - Reply

    Excellent post following an interesting article. (I was going to post about it myself.) It’s always interesting when an incremental step in technology represents a big leap forward–think of using a DVR versus a VCR. Similarly, writers have been able to take their stories to the local copy shop for decades, but stacks of paper would be pretty much all they could get for their money. EBM looks like the DVR-esque game changer. Question: Can EBM connect with other self-publishing entities, such as Amazon’s?

  2. John Conley June 13, 2012 - Reply

    The On Demand Data Base of titles can incorporate any material but must do so through a negotiated agreement with the content owners. Amazon could post all of its titles in the EBM database if they licensed them to On Demand Books. In this agreement all the rights and permissions would be automaticlly calculated and reimbursement to Amazon for its authors taken care of with each transaction.

  3. Faleel June 13, 2012 - Reply

    Playing a devils advocate here — yes, paperbacks are alive for now but for how long is the big question ..and thats what Kodak thought with their photo business model ..there are many an example in history that speaks to this exact scenario … the cost of publishing paperbacks are always going to be more than digital ..and the distribution reach of digital is just enormous ..electronic gadges are getting more affordable and with everyone carrying an electronic gadget, and the constantly improving features on these gadgets to turn pages, bookmark, context reading, lightweight and combined with the reading trends of the young generation, I am not too certain of the life of the paperbacks/hardbooks. The generation that grew up with books in their hands will always feel that holding a book in their hand to read is enjoyable ..but unfortunately thats not echoed in the new generation ..just look at the newspaper industry and it should speak volumes. This definetly is a longer discussion, but wanted to share my thoughts on this.

  4. John Conley June 14, 2012 - Reply

    Great comments and I am in complete agreement on the direction of printed books. The mix between physical print and alternative formats will continue to change in every segment but at dramatically different rates based on subject, segment, funding, platforms, and publishing tools/costs. EBooks would appear to be the uncontested winner of this mix change today but you really need to take a look at the change to the whole delivery system to understand where the new profit dollars are going to be. While physical print done on offset presses is in decline for Trade Books the sub segment of Digitally Printed Books continues to grow at CARG of 20% and is forecasted to continue on a double digit rise for the next 5 years. That is good news for companies like Xerox who produce solutions for digitally printed books. Mass Market Paper backs in fiction are on a steep curve of decline and may disappear but we have seen the sale of hard cover books actually go up the first quarter of 2012. We know that Higher Education Students still prefer printed books over EBooks for their text books. (See BISG survey on Reading habits and trends in Higher Education part one and two.) End users are looking for value, functionality, ease of access, and mission in making a decision on any product. These criteria will change with every segment and sub segment of publishing. Some areas like Adult Trade Fiction are enhanced by the eBook platform and we see that in the sales results. Others like Non Fiction History or K-12 text books are just not there and may not be for a very long time. As mix changes in each segment of the publishing business opportunities will be created for the new delivery platforms and digital print will be a part of each and every change which is why it has such a great growth trajectory even in the face of overall print decline.

  5. Robert R. Larch February 13, 2018 - Reply

    Can you provide me with current pricing, and what is included. A ROI sheet would be appreciated as well, and availability and delivery time.


    • Gregory Pings February 15, 2018 - Reply

      Hi Robert: The Espresso Book Machine is no longer a sold Xerox product. But you may contact On Demand Books (, who is the equipment manufacturer. This page is their contact form, but you will see links that will help you navigate their site and learn more about the solution.
      All the best,

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