Precious Cargo

Refreshingly Bitter And Twisted Observations On Life's Passing Parade.

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Location: Valley Village, California, United States

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Magical Book Machine

"The current model of the machine can print the text for a 300-page book, with a color paperback cover—and bind it—in just three minutes and for only a penny per page. It will retail for less than $100,000. If publishers digitize their catalogs and booksellers get onboard (big ifs), the machine could revolutionize the current warehouse-distribution model. 'I think that this may, indeed, someday come to fruition," says Jane Friedman, CEO of HarperCollins. "But there's a lot that still has to be worked out.' "

"Yet they were so effective in getting that pre-buzz going, in getting Kostova's name out there not only to bookstores but to readers themselves they they were prepping for a 350,000 copy first printing. I can't say for sure, but that has to be one of the largest first printings ever for a debut novel."

I dunno. Maybe print on demand technology can help publishers keep backlist titles available, but the tiny trickle of sales on those books won't recoup the costs of putting these book printing kiosks in enough stores to make instant printing a realistic alternative to printing and wharehousing even a modest print run.

How will the in store printing model work for a book like Kostova's unless there's one or even two machines in hundreds of stores. Who's going to foot the bill for all those machines?

What happens if there's a run on a popular book and even ten people at one bookstore all order the book? Will the tenth person in line be willing to wait half an hour till his book is printed? What will happen at those celebrity author signings where you've got people waiting in a line stretching around the block? Won't publishers have to have a modest first printing that is stored just for these contingencies?

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