Is this the future of publishing? You order a double non-fat vanilla latte and a copy of New York Times bestseller “The Girl on the Train” and about seven minutes later, you are turning the pages of Paula Hawkins’ debut thriller while sipping the warm, milky coffee.
Printing-on-demand and personalization are big trends in the printing industry and thus, it is not surprising that publishers, libraries and bookstores are adopting this technology. The Espresso Book Machine, developed in the U.S. with the support of Xerox, prints full-color paperbacks within minutes in stores, libraries or coffee shops from a vast digital network of millions of titles from renowned publishers as well as from self-publishing databases filled with PDFs.
Espresso book machines have been installed in several libraries and bookstores throughout the U.S. and in many locations in Canada, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. About two years ago, Kodak Picture Kiosks have been integrated into Espresso Book Machines so that picture books can be printed on demand as well.
Even though the technology has been tried and tested, books on demand were seen as experimental projects at best in the past but this could change. Presses Universitaires de France (PUF) has recently embraced print-on-demand technology and is working on new business models and applications to make Espresso Book Machines more attractive and profitable for booksellers.
Ricoh, the Japanese technology company, has also developed a line of print-on-demand solutions for color and black-and-white runs. The Italian provider of digital print and distribution services Re.Be.L used Ricoh’s print-on-demand machines to venture into a new business segment. When research showed that 70 % of textbooks in Italy remained unsold, Re.Be.L saw an opportunity. Since warehousing and inventory are big cost drivers in the textbook publishing industry, Re.Be.L developed a new business model to address the needs of the publishing market.
The company now prints and delivers customized textbooks on demand within five hours of ordering. The service covers more than 150 cities in northern Italy. The individually crafted books sell at a lower price than mass-produced books. For Re.Be.L, the foray into publishing has been a success: The company now generates revenues of 2 million Euros annually from its new publishing business and can print runs ranging from one to thousands of copies profitably.
To produce the color and black and white content, Re.Be.L uses Ricoh’s InfoPrint 5000 General Production continuous feed printer with piezo drop-on-demand inkjet technology. It can print 862 double-sided A4 pages per minute.
High quality covers are produced using a digital cut-sheet press. Running at a speed of 90 A4 pages a minute, Ricoh’s Pro C901 Graphic Arts Edition production printer employs wax-based toner and oil-less fusing technology to print on heavyweight coated substrates, producing covers with a similar look and feel to offset. To manage the process, Ricoh’s InfoPrint ProcessDirector software converts Adobe PDF, PostScript and Metacode files into native AFP files for flexible, multi-threaded output management.
Print-on-demand could have a great future if the recent studies indicating young people’s preference for print products prove to be correct. A 2014 survey by Scholastic Press showed that, among ages 6 to 17, 77 % of respondents said the majority of books they read are in print form, and 65 % of the same group of respondent said they prefer print to electronic books. A recent article in the Washington Post showed a similar trend: According to their data, 87 percent of college students used printed textbooks rather than electronic books. If the book will be conveniently delivered with your coffee at a coffee shop, these numbers could even increase.