Once hailed as the future of the book industry, print on demand has a solid niche in said industry but lately it seems to be treading water. Whenever we read of potential steps forward like Books-a-Million or B&N installing Espresso Book Machines in their stores, the great news is cancelled out by similar pilots falling through.
I am happy to report today that Barnes & Noble is starting a pilot program in three of its stores, but the good news is tempered by by the news that Kodak's partnership with OnDemandBooks has collapsed.
PW reported today that B&N has installed Espresso Book Machines in three of its stores in the northeast, including the flagship store at Union Square plus stores in Paramus, NJ and Willow Grove, PA.
According to a company spokesperson, customers will be able to make a physical print book of a hard-to-find book, a public domain title or self publish a book. “The purpose of the test,” the spokesperson said, “is to gauge consumer interest.”
"[The pilot] is part of our continued program to grow our base of machines. We're delighted to be testing our machines in Barnes & Noble. We've gone from indies to multi-retailers," said Dane Neller, CEO of EBM maker On Demand Books.
Barnes & Noble is following in the footsteps of Books-a-Million, which installed EBMs in two of its stores in November 2013 (in Birmingham, AL and Portland, ME), as well as other booksellers including Powell's Books, which has had EBMs in its main Portland store for several years now. BAM reported in March 2014 that it was pleased with the response, but they have yet to announce plans to install more POD machines.
Alas, while BAM said they were pleased with the success of the two POD machines they installed, Kodak is not.
In late 2012 Kodak and OnDemandBooks, the makers of the Espresso Book Machine, announced a partnership which was going to integrate the EBM into Kodak picture kiosks. That pilot was delayed for over a year but eventually got started in November 2013. Two EBMs were installed in a couple Bartell Drug Stores near Seattle, enabling customers to either order a book printed from OnDemandBooks's catalog, or bring in their own work and have it printed.
Here's one of the EBMs, courtesy of Seattle author Joe Follansbee:
I had high hopes that this pilot would kickstart book POD in retail locations; Kodak's extensive experience with printing photos on demand and their platform's online integration hinted at several ways that OnDemandBook's service could be improved.
Alas, that is probably not going to happen. According to Kodak Alaris spokesperson Audrey Jonckheer, the project has been shelved:
As you know, the launch of the program last November was a trial run. Though the service offering of OnDemandBooks publishing through Kodak Picture Kiosks was an innovative new approach to providing consumers customizable solutions, it's not being further pursued at this time.
That's a shame; Kodak has photo booths in tens of thousands of retail locations in the US, and if this partnership had worked out there was a chance that thousands of EBMs could have been deployed.
At this time OnDemandBooks lists 61 locations around the world with Espresso Book Machines. That does not include the two Bartell Drugs stores, both of which have removed the EBMs they had installed last November.
I see from my past coverage that in March 2014 OnDemandBooks listed 74 locations, and that in July 2013 they listed 70 locations. Clearly their business is not expanding, raising questions as to whether it is the tech, business model, or high capital costs which is keeping the Espresso Book Machine a niche service.