Launched in London last Friday, the
Espresso Book Machine can print any
of 500,000 titles while you wait.

It's not elegant and it's not sexy – it looks like
a large photocopier – but this is being billed as
the biggest change for the literary world since
Gutenberg invented the printing press
more than 500 years ago and made the
mass production of books possible.

Housed at Blackwell's Charing Cross Road
branch in London, the machine prints
and binds books on demand
in five minutes.

Signalling the end, says Blackwell, to the
frustration of being told by a bookseller that
a title is out of print, or not in stock.

Blackwell hopes to increase the titles to over
a million by the end of the summer – the
equivalent of 23.6 miles of shelf space,
or 50 bookshops rolled into one.

The majority of these books are currently out-of-
copyright works, but Blackwell is working with
publishers throughout the UK to increase
access to in-copyright writings, and says the
response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Customer usage will be monitored closely over
the next few months as they want to pin down
pricing (likely to be around the level of
traditional books) and demand.

They then hope to roll it out across their 60-store
network, with its flagship Oxford branch
likely to be an early recipient as well as a
host of smaller, campus-based shops.

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