Yesterday Books-a-Million announced plans to install an Espresso Book Machine (EBM) in one of their stores.The pilot store will be located in Portland, Maine, and plans are in the works to place a second EBM in another location.
The Espresso Book Machine is a self-contained print ship which enables customers to order books from a catalog and have the books printed while the customer is waiting. It takes just a few minutes to produce a book, and the EBM can print anything from a MMPB to a trade PB sized book.
One EBM model is pictured below, and as you can see it consists of a couple pieces of commercial printing equipment as well as the actual Espresso Book Machine (more details here).
The EBM is supported by On Demand Books. That company has assembled an extensive catalog of titles from a wide variety of publishers, including Harper Collins, Hachette, Penguin, Macmillan, McGraw-Hill, Random House, W.W. Norton, and Simon & Schuster as well as a titles available via Google Books and ones distributed by Ingram/LSI.
Naturally the EBM cannot offer all of the titles published by those publishers, but it does offer an interesting way for customers to immediately buy books in store rather than waiting or going to Amazon (which is the much of the reason why BAM! invested in a POD machine).
There are also 70 other EBM installed in bookstores, libraries, and universities around the world. And in the not too distant future, similar technology will show up in Kodak Picture Kiosks. Kodak and OnDemandBooks announced a partnership last September to bring ODB's tech and catalog to Kodak's kiosks, though I have been told today that the new POD features are still under development.
BAM! is currently the second largest bookstore chain in the US. This retailer also owns a book wholesaler as well as a couple other smaller chains, including the second-hand media store 2nd & Charles. That chain has 15 stores across the US ( with 2 more opening soon), including one in my area. My local 2nd & Charles set up shop in the space vacated by Borders, and is within walking distance of a BAM! store.
I think that says a lot about the viability of brick-and-mortar bookstores, don't you?
Do you know what BAM! doesn't have? An ebook platform.
BAM! does have an ebookstore, but they never made the huge and showy capital investment in their own platform. Instead BAM! decided to sell Nooks and sell ebooks. At one point that seemed like a foolish idea, but in retrospect BAM! made a better choice than its larger competition.
Borders invested in Kobo and then died. Indigo launched Kobo and then somehow found a buyer (thus escaping the need to finance hardware development). And B&N is struggling to avoid the demise caused in part by their mismanagement of the Nook platform.
It's funny how the conservative choice turned out to be the best, isn't it?