Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Espresso Book Machine Now at Flintridge Bookstore

In a series of lectures a decade ago editor Jason Epstein predicted a future where out-of-print books could be printed on a machine small enough to fit in a retail store. He soon found out that there was a new prototype for such a machine already in existence, and he and partners founded On Demand Books and set about developing the machine. Today there are 21 Espresso Book Machines in the United States and 25 abroad. And one of them is now at Flintridge Bookstore.

Grant and The Espresso Machine's inner workings...

For this month’s Writer2Writer meeting we had a special speaker - Grant Paules, the technical manager for the Flintridge Bookstore. (They moved in February to their own newly-constructed building, just up the block from their former site.) Grant has been with the bookstore since it opened in 2007. He’s a computer expert and consultant as well as manager of the coffee house part of the book store and general all round tech person.

....and the control panel

Grant treated us to a talk and demonstration of the bookstore’s new Espresso Book Machine. It’s an amazing machine, printing and binding a finished book in approximately five minutes from loading paper to finished book, complete with shiny color cover—virtually identical to a paperback book from Random House or HarperCollins. Grant had to learn the ins and outs of the book machine with only eight hours of instruction, and now is able to both operate and repair it. There is very little room for error, but he now feels comfortable with its intricate and precise workings. His talk was very interesting and informative.

The book machine can print books from the bookstore database, offering millions of in-copyright and public-domain titles.  For self published books, the bookstore offers a range of development prices and options, from formatting content to obtaining an ISBN and copyright. Pricing per book (beyond the initial printed proof) depends on the page count and choice of paper—cream is heavier, and more expensive. Book dimensions (which range from minimum 4.5” x 5” to 8.125” x 11”) are dependent on page count also, as more pages make a thicker spine which takes up more of the cover. And they’ll print one book, or hundreds.

The finished product!

For a self published book you can supply your own cover art, blurbs and your choice of font by sending all the information in a Word file. Grant will supply formatting guidelines. The cover can be in color but the bookstore’s machine at present cannot print the interior in color, though hopefully that will be an added feature next year. Grant can work locally or even long distance to complete custom projects. My fellow blogger Lupe, on Pen and Ink, has also written about Grant’s presentation and more information is available from the bookstore. Grant can be reached there at

Watching the book machine at work was fascinating, and I’m happy that one is located in the Flintridge area of Los Angeles. And even though I have no plans to self-publish at present, I’ve found myself toying with the idea of other personal printed projects—family genealogy, my European diaries, the text blocks for my sister’s hand bound books. There are lots of fun ideas floating around!

Ideally, now (according to On Demand Books’ Dane Neller) ‘no book need ever go out of print and books in any language can be available anywhere in the world.’


  1. I wanted to to this but couldn't make it. Thanks for the overview, Diane!

  2. Diane, I'm so glad you're spreading the word. I fell in love with the technology when I saw Paige Gutenberg--the Espresso Book Machine at the Harvard bookstore--a year ago. For anyone who's ever tried to find out of print books, this machine is a terrific resource. And, as you said, even for authors who prefer to publish in the traditional manner, there are times when you might want to create a book for a smaller, more personal audience and you don't have to pay a fortune to do it. Book lovers should all come see this machine in operation.

  3. The EBM could use from flashing red lights for sex appeal.
    Dull Appeal

  4. I was sorry to miss the event too. What a great idea to use this accessible technology for personal projects, like diaries. Thanks so much for the great information, Diane.