According to an article on the U-Michigan website the university library at the University of Michigan will become the first university library to install an Espresso Book Machine by On Demand Books. The story was also reported in the Chronicle's Wired Campus blog. According to the U-Michigan article:
The book machine prints out-of-copyright books from the University's digitized collections. At a cost of about $10 per book, the service is available to researchers, students and the public. The printing process begins with a reader selecting a digitized book from U-M's pre-1923 collection or from another online source, such as the Open Content Alliance. Most books printed prior to the early 1920s can be reprinted without seeking the permission from whomever holds the copyright. Then the file is downloaded to the Espresso Book Machine, where it is formatted, printed and perfect bound with a four-color cover. A finished printed book takes 5-7 minutes, depending on the number of pages.
This is an interesting development, and continues to blur the lines between the business of the bookstore and that of the institutional library. It suggests opportunities for college stores and libraries to partner together, and perhaps offer new services that either one alone might not be able to afford.
Another story about the Espresso printers comes this week from Australia. This time by a bookseller. There is an interesting quote from this piece, that couples with the above story:
Print-on-demand means that you can extend the range of products in your stores by theoretically millions of books," Dymocks CEO Don Grover said.
"At this point in time the digitisation phase and the digital rights management and copyright issues that face the industry worldwide are preventing that from happening. So that's why there is a very narrow range of product that is available for print-on-demand technology."
Getting access to content that can be printed on demand has two challenges. Both challenges affect the availability of content for print-on-demand. The first challenge is the copyright and reproduction rights issues, which both of the above stories address. The second is a formatting or content format standard that allows the content to print correctly within the POD environment. These are both challenges that are likely to drop away in coming years. In addition, campus stores that have invested in POD have found that there are many other opportunities to generate revenue or save costs by producing campus-generated content. For stores where a faculty member selects an open-source textbook, local POD could ensure some revenue -- allowing stores to continue to be supportive of faculty efforts to reduce textbook costs for students.