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Candyfreak Steve Almond Jumps into the Self-publishing Fray

posted February 1, 2010

Posted by Mariko Fujinaka in Bookselling books events publishing self-publishing trends

Steve Almond, author of Candyfreak and My Life in Heavy Metal, among others, has taken publishing matters into his own hands. Though Almond is still a hot commodity (his Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life will be availble April 13, 2010), he found that one of his book ideas was not generating much interest with publishers. His idea was a book that could be flipped over and read in two directions. One side would offer short stories, and the other side would contain essays about writing. The title? This Won’t Take But a Minute, Honey.

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Paige M. Gutenborg Makes Her Debut

posted October 7, 2009

Posted by Erin Brown in Bookselling technology trends

The Espresso Book Machine gained some major street cred last week when Harvard Book Store, a bastion of independent bookselling in a singularly high-powered college town, unveiled one of its own.

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Jeff Mayersohn, a veteran of the telecommunications industry who assumed ownership of HBS last year, is committed to keeping the store on the cutting edge of bookselling. As Mayersohn said in a press release, “My vision is to provide our customers with any book ever written, in any format, and have it either in your hands or at your doorstep—the same day.”

Clearly the revolutionary book machine, brainchild of On Demand Books, is a giant step toward this goal. With access to an ever-growing catalog of more than 3.6 million titles (including 2 million in the public domain, thanks to a new partnership between On Demand and Google Books), the machine creates a library-quality, 300-page paperback in about four minutes.

The machine also has the potential to vastly reduce the book industry’s carbon footprint by eliminating the need for shipping and returns between publisher and bookseller—a benefit not lost on HBS, which offers its own bicycle delivery service to Cambridge and the greater Boston area.

Ah but “The Book Machine” seemed awfully sterile for a robot that promises to perform such marvelous feats and endear itself to all. So the staff of HBS launched a community-wide naming contest, avowing their weakness for outrageous puns and obscure literary references. More than 500 entries poured in, ranging, as marketing manager Heather Gain put it, “from absurd to acronym-happy to raunchy to plain hilarious.”

Ultimately it was “Paige M. Gutenborg” who made her debut on 9/29 and proceeded to wow a packed crowd with her capabilities.

Witty runners up included “Moby Click,” “Humpfry Bookart,” “H.A.L.” (for Harvard Automated Library), “The Gutenberger King,” and “Gutenplenty.” “Bartleby” was a strong contender, too, apparently, but who can afford a $75,000 machine that prefers not to?


Keeping up with the E-Joneses

posted September 16, 2009

Posted by Mariko Fujinaka in Bookselling E-books books independent publishing

Village Books
Image by brewbooks via Flickr

Every day it seems another independent bookseller goes out of business. You can blame the economy, Amazon.com, the Internet, or maybe your neighbor, but the facts remain—stores are closing, and people aren’t buying as many books as they used to.

Some booksellers, however, are putting up a fight. Village Books, an independent bookseller in Bellingham, Washington, has embraced technology and plans to offer customers high-tech options in addition to traditional paper books. The store has partnered with Symtio to provide audiobooks and ebooks. Customers will purchase a book in the form of a product card at the store; the card then allows them to download the book wherever they have an Internet connection.

Village Books will also be home to an Espresso Book Machine. The EBM is a print-on-demand book-making machine. Not only can customers purchase, print, and bind out-of-print books but they can also create self-published books. Village Books is banking on the belief that there will be demand for out-of-print local books. There are only a handful of EBMs in retail stores across the nation.


How to Compete with Amazon

posted July 15, 2009

Posted by Thomas Riggs in Bookselling books independent

Amazon, far from an evil behemoth, gives customers what they want: low prices, unlimited choices, and easy shopping from home. Unlike Wal-Mart, which often peddles low-quality products, Amazon sells both the good and the bad, the passing fad and the classic. Try finding a rare book by a Senegalese writer, and you’ll be relieved by Amazon’s deep reach into even the most obscure corners of publishing. So what does that leave to the independents?

Their strong points have always been personal service, informed recommendations, browsing of real books . . . But now, emerging on the fringes of the book world, might be a new weapon for independents, as well as bookstore chains, in their battle with Amazon.

Meet the Espresso Book Machine.

Browse a screen for book titles, read a few pages of a book, and click. The machine will print out a copy of the book in front of your eyes. You think Amazon’s two-day delivery is great? Try instant gratification.

Although not all books are available on it, more will be coming soon. Here is a video about Angus & Robertson of Australia, the first retail chain in the world to adopt the Espresso Book Machine.

In Manchester Center, Vermont, the Northshire Bookstore recently became the first independent bookstore in the United States to have an Espresso Book Machine.

Imagine the independent bookstore of the future. Walk in and browse through shelves of real books. Talk with sellers who know publishing and can suggest titles you would never have found on your own. Still can’t find a physical book to buy? Step up to the Espresso Book Machine, view virtually every book known to humankind, and click.

Amazon, now seemingly unstoppable, is dependent upon an antiquated and environmentally questionable distribution system: trucking books to warehouses, sending packages through the mail. In a world connected by wires and wirelessly, it’s hard to see how that system will survive capitalism’s unforgiving drive toward lower costs.