A few weeks ago I did a post about Shakespeare & Co. bookstore at 1632 Walnut. On that visit their Espresso Book Machine wasn’t working, so I went back to see it in action.
The machine is a printer and binder connected to a database of over 7 million titles, including public domain, publisher licensed, and independent authors. Books are printed in under 10 minutes, depending on page count.
I decided to order Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles, her first novel and one I never read. Though I do know who the killer is because I’ve read about it. An almost 100 year old spoiler.
A store associate orders from the screen. The publisher has set whether text paper is cream or white and cover stock is gloss or matte.
Paper and cover stock are loaded.
Sheets roll off the printer and are stacked.
Pages are glued, the cover is applied, and the book is trimmed.
A finished book comes out.
While the book is printed, the title is displayed on the flap board above the machine. When not printing, the board keeps a running total. (The board is made by a Philadelphia company.)
This book cost $14.49, so a few dollars less than a traditionally printed title. The quality is impressive, with sharp text. The cover lacks the extra gloss coating paperbacks usually have, but that is something most people won’t notice.
If you’re not into watching your book get printed, there is a cafe while you wait. But for those interested in the mechanics of book production, it’s worth seeing.