Library Now Printing Books

Can we please watch?

After Wednesday, Oct. 1, visitors to the University of Michigan Shapiro Library will be able to leave with a book and never have to return it – because it was just printed off with a perfect binding on an Espresso Book Machine from On Demand Books and paid for right on the spot. The option to have a book printed is restricted for now to out-of-copyright books from the university’s digitized collections, which currently includes over 2 million volumes.

At a cost of about only $10 per book, the entire digitized collection (as it currently stands) could be recreated in physical form by an Espresso Book Machine for $20 million. Put a different way, for the $700 billion price tag of the currently proposed bailout of our core financial institutions, we could instead reprint the digitized collection of the UM library 35,000 times. At 5-7 minutes per book, that project would, on a low estimate, take one Espresso Book Machine [70 billion]*[5 minutes], or 665,905 years.

Here at The Chronicle, we’ve got nothing but time, but we have a less ambitious project in mind: We’d like to find somebody in the next few weeks who wants a specific book printed off on the Espresso Machine, who would let us tag along and document the event. That is to say, we’d like to come as close as we can to spotting a “reprinting in the wild” of a book in the digital collection. Hanging out in the Shapiro Library and setting upon patrons who have a digital gleam in their eye, pestering them to “Let us see, c’mon pretty please, let us see the book, let us touch the book,” seems like a horribly inefficient approach, not to mention one that might cause library staff and patrons undue stress. So we’d like to ask in advance if you’re planning to get a book printed on the Espresso Machine: Can we please watch? We promise not to get in the way.

Or if you find yourself in the library and spontaneously decide to print off a book, we’re nothing if not agile here at The Chronicle, and could probably be on site in under half an hour.

Contact information is elsewhere on this website.

Section: Education

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  1. By Leah Gunn
    September 30, 2008 at 9:20 am | permalink

    And they said the book was dead! This librarian hails the new technology, because you can actually have your own book, in your hands, and read it when you want to. It may stimulate you to go out and actually buy some books (I hope).

  2. October 3, 2008 at 2:16 am | permalink

    I’m planning a trip next week.

  3. October 20, 2008 at 7:12 am | permalink

    Barbara and I stopped by the “Espresso desk” (aka the right half of the standard info desk) at Shapiro library the other day, thinking about some 19th-century folklore books and periodicals we’ve seen scanned in the Mirlyn catalog.

    Big disappointment (but not really shocking, in hindsight): The choice is not limited to all public domain books, but rather scant list of maybe 300 works they’ve selected. All these are pretty common, and generally uninteresting for walk-in like us. Clearly aimed at the novelty and online reprint markets.

  4. October 20, 2008 at 7:13 am | permalink

    It is, in other words, a bookstore with very limited inventory, where you can buy cheap paperback copies of the few things they’ve got.