A recent broadcast on US radio (National Public Radio – NPR) looks at a revolutionary approach to just-in-time publishing. British publishing house Blackwell has created a machine that can create a bound paperback book in around five minutes, from a database that currently holds over 500,000 titles and will soon be expanded to one million plus. It’s known as the “Espresso” machine – which is more about it’s ability to quickly print and bind books than any presumed talent for making a decaf Mocha.
Blackwell calls the publishing system On Demand Books, which kind of says it all. NPR’s Rob Gifford quotes ODB’s CEO, Dane Neller – in full hyperbolic mode – saying that this is “the biggest revolution in publishing since Gutenberg started printing more than 500 years ago”.
The concept of just-in-time publishing is not particularly new – we do it every time we send a PDF document to the printer, but what’s a little different here is that the end product is a bound book identical to one we would find on a bookstore shelf. Blackwell believes that books offered in this way can still give e-Readers such as Amazon’s Kindle reader a good run for their money, and I agree, given that the visual quality of printed text is still around seven times higher than the best commercial computer screens available.
Here’s a BBC broadcast about On Demand Books.