karen_w_newton (karen_w_newton) wrote,

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Instant books

My Helpful Friend (see yesterday's post; I'm going to call her MHF from now on) sent me a further article on a print-on-demand (POD) machine at the World Bank. It appears the World Bank has an "InfoShop" (I assume this means it sells books and magazines) and the InfoShop recently got an Espresso POD printer that can produce a 248-page book--printed, bound and trimmed--within eight minutes. For now the only book the article talked about was a Guide to the World Bank! Presumably more of the InfoShop's inventory will be added. It also says the New York Public Library is getting one, which makes me wonder if you have to bring the POD book back if you get it from the library. Maybe a library could have a POD that makes books that self-destruct in four weeks!

Anyway, POD suggests there can still be bookstores, even in an ebook world. Those Luddites who insist on paper copies can just go to the bookstore, request the book and wait eight minutes for it to pop out. Hmm. Sounds like a good way to drum up business for the coffee shop inside the bookstore. It's not like there'll be any books to browse.

Except there have to be books to browse or it won't feel like a bookstore. Here's what MHF envisions: "Imagine the bookstore in, say, 2012: not a single actual physical book on display, but instead a row of 50 computer stations, with an ebook connected to each computer and having access to ... an ebook database ... [after browsing] they could swipe a credit card, plug in their own personal ebooks, and download [a book or] send the appropriate command, and in a few minutes they'd get a message saying `Your purchase is now being printed and bound at Printing Station No. 5 in the rear of the store,' or whatever. And of course, throughout this process, gentle jazz would be playing and patrons could be drinking cappuccino, just to encourage ever longer periods of browsing and purchasing . . . I'm telling you, it's the future. We should all quit our jobs and start the business."

Well, I don't think I'm ready to do that. But still, we live in interesting times. I wonder what Gutenberg's neighbors thought of his invention?
Tags: books

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