A Bookstore with No Books; A New Business Model?

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"It just has to have a printer and customers who are willing to wait for a book in the time it takes to sip a cup of coffee"

Have you heard about the new book printing device that calls itself the “Gutenberg press of the 21st century?” It's the Espresso Book Machine and it may be the beginning of the end for book printing as we know it. It may also provide a new business model for endangered bookstores.

As we are all too aware, local bookstores have been getting the crap beat out of them for years due to the onslaught from Kindle and other digital readers. I know because I love to visit bookstores and I love ink on paper books and yet I long ago ceased buying them. They are too heavy and take up too much room. That is tough on travelers like me so, as a result, I have owned a number of digital devices since their inception. I also own a load of guilt because I still visit bookstores.

I love bookstores yet feel somehow culpable in their demise. That was on my mind as I spent a few, peaceful moments in the Lexington Avenue and 68th street Shakespeare & Company book store in Manhattan.  I was feeling a bit sheepish as I scanning the store for books I would want to download when I got home when I noticed that, along with a new coffee area, the store had added something called an "Espresso Book Machine." 

What was this? Its a printer that allows the store to print your own book out at a rate of 100 pages per minute. All you need is a flash drive and the store will not just print the book but create a cover for it as well. Not only that, the store will stock the book and track sales. What a boon to an aspiring writer. In addition, the Espresso Book Machine can print out, on demand, books that are out of print or in the public domain.



Now it appears that a Paris bookstore has taken it a step further. I learned that when I read an article by New York Times writer, Ciara Nugent, entitled "New Chapter for Classic Paris Bookstore: Books Printed on Demand." The new bookstore is named Librarie des Puf , is owned by the University Press of France (hence the acronym PUF) and contains no books. What it does have is some stools, tables and tablets. Here is how the article describes the environment: "Customers use tablets to select the titles for print — adding, if they want to, their own handwritten inscriptions — while sipping coffee in the light and airy storefront in the Latin Quarter of Paris."

The store has the rites to 5,000 books and the list is growing. Think about it, a store that no longer has to carry inventory and demands only a fraction of the rental space of a typical bookstore. It just has to have a printer and customers who are willing to wait for a book in the time it takes to sip a cup of coffee.  Not bad for the customer and potentially great for bookstores everywhere.

This could be a deal breaker for the publishing industry. Keep you eyes on this one.

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