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Feb. 4, 2010 Volume 31, No. 18

University Bookstore begins on-demand printing

Rush of Espresso

New machine is one of 14 in the United States

University Bookstore took a shot of publishing caffeine with the purchase of an Espresso Book Machine. Delivered in September 2009, the machine — named one of Time magazine’s best inventions of the year — allows the bookstore to print paperback books in full color on demand. It’s one of only 14 in the United States, five of which are on university campuses.

The Espresso Book Machine represents a shift in the publishing industry that has increased printing accessibility for everyone, from aspiring creative writers who want to self-publish their work to universities interested in launching their own series of public domain classics.

And that’s exactly what’s happening at University Bookstore.

The bookstore is introducing a new line of books called University Classics that offer student-designed cover art and faculty forwards for public domain literature. These versions are often considerably cheaper than those offered by national publishing companies.

“If I needed one of these books from Penguin, it would cost me $17,” says Heather Tearney, coordinator of Mizzou Media.  “I can print the same book for $7.”

The $10 price difference is attributed to savings from transportation costs and eliminating the hard return on investment publishers require after running thousands of copies of an edition.

“My first customer for this machine came to me with a book she really only wanted one copy of. She approached a publishing company that said it needed $14,000 to run a first edition. I could print her exactly what she wanted for less than $8,” Tearney said.

The benefits of the book machine extend further than cost. Because this machine can print a digitized book on demand, waiting for out-of-stock textbooks may soon be a thing of the past. Libraries now have the capability to print custom anthologies — including rare and fragile historical documents — for patrons. The library doesn’t have the book you want to check out? You won’t have to wait for an inter-library loan anymore; chances are they can print you a copy on the book machine from Google Books.

The $75,000 acquisition ran consistently through its first book rush of 2010, printing about 915 copies of about 86 titles.

Users can bring in PDF files of what they want to print, or use basic design templates and color schemes found on Mizzou Media’s Web site to create their published work from scratch.  Granted no copyright laws are violated, Mizzou Media will use the book machine to print a cover and inside pages, merge the two together, align and trim the pages to size and glue the book together.  The entire process is completely automated and takes five minutes per book for those with digital content.  If a book is scanned from Google Books or other image-based systems, it could take up to 20 minutes for a finished product.

“The EBM improves processes through shared resources, saves students money and provides another service to our customers — three things we are trying to accomplish every day,” says Michelle Froese, public relations manager for Student Auxiliary Services.

Froese says it’s a way to elevate MU students and faculty by providing an outlet for publishing their work. “And am I thrilled that we started using the EBM before Harvard? You bet.”

While the book machine is hard at work in the Lower Level of the new University Bookstore, it’s also working for the economy of Missouri. The machine is assembled by hand at a manufacturing plant in Lebanon, Mo.

Just like an ATM, the EBM capitalizes on immediacy. Though the Internet may be revolutionizing the way individuals consume print products, this new machine could be the technology that ensures the survival of physical books in the next generation.

For more information on how to put the Espresso Book Machine to work for you, visit the Mizzou Media section of