Espresso Book Machine

I’d just come up to Vermont from Texas for a distant cousin’s wedding in Burlington. After unknowingly driving halfway across the (tiny) state in search of the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream factory, we decided to drive to New Hampshire the next day and back.

We ended up stopping in the city of St. Johnsbury, VT, near the New Hampshire border, where we took some pictures and walked around for a bit. There are two major, parallel streets in town; Main Street and Railroad Street. Hopping into a nearby bookstore to use their bathroom I noticed a large, plexiglass device by the front desk. After browsing through a couple of asiles I walked past the machine a second time and asked the guy behind the desk about the device.

Turns out not only is he printing off books to sell (and fill) on his bookshelves in the store, but he is running a publishing company from his bookstore as well, providing a full range of services from copy editing to book design and cover art, ISBN numbers and more. I was running late and didn’t get to see what kinds of authors he had there but he had at least two local authors whose books he was publishing in the store. Interestingly they claim that the books are published with 93% carbon neutral electricity. There’s a hydro-electric dam not too far from the city.

The device itself is pretty simple. There are three main pieces, two printers (making it partially modular); a B&W laser printer on the left, which prints the bulk of the book on standard size, double-sided 8.5×11″, a color printer which prints the cover of the book on single sided, heavy (vellum?  88lb? not sure) paper with I think some sort of smudge-resistant color ink. In the middle is a large, plexiglass enclosure that the two printers sit on, and appears to have three distinct lobes; the collating unit, which collects the pages and applies the “perfect bind” glue, combining the cover with the pages. Next it drops down into the lower lobe where it is pressed and cools, before shifting left where the book is trimmed to size.

It’s interesting; the press is capable of printing up to full size (think hardcover) books, but if your book is sort of short, you can choose to go with a smaller size (think paperback) to get more pages without having to include two stories in one book. I noticed they had several out-of-copyright(?) books on the shelves; they had been scanned in by the google books project, and included the original font type and any dust marks or library stamps from the original out of copyright volumes.

I’m working on notes for a book I’d like to write. Printing copies of my book on something like this sounds like a very good option. Being in a fairly rural community Scott is able to print books on demand for customers, rather than having to order them from a warehouse in New York.

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