Angus and Robertson introduces “ATM for books”

The machine prints, trims and binds a paperback book on demand in around ten minutes, with the service geared towards delivering rare or out-of-print titles to consumers.

The book retailer launched the EBM in its Bourke Street store in Melbourne this week, with plans to introduce another 50 of the machines in its chain of stores in the next year.

With Time last year naming the EBM “one of the best inventions of the year”, the $150,000 machine is expected to be more cost-effective than doing a short print run of a rare title, as well being more environmentally friendly by reducing the number of unsold copies that are eventually pulped.

The machine – which is manufactured by On-Demand Publishers, with Central Book Services helping to bring the technology to Australia – also allows Angus and Robertson to offer more than just the books on its shelves.

“In most stores we can stock about 20,000 titles,” said company spokesperson Lauren Thompson. “Retailers like Borders can stock up to 100,000, but then the space you need for that is superstore-sized. You’re competing with the likes of Rebel Sport for that size space, and it’s not easy to find.”

It is also expected to be both cost- and time-effective for customers, with Angus and Robertson saying the service will cost the same as or less than buying a regular book, as well as reducing waiting times.

“A customer who walks into a store and orders a rare book can often wait a week to get it couriered from another store or from a warehouse,” said Thompson. “And when you’re ordering from overseas there are postage costs.

“It is revolutionary in that you can now just walk into a store and walk out with the book you want.”

The end product is described as looking “pretty close to a standard paperback”, though the key difference is that it’s printed with a laser printer. Embossing and matt finishes aren’t available yet, with quality varying slightly depending on the title.

“It’s got a nice colour cover on it and it’s got that glossy, laminated feel that most books have,” said Thompson. “It’s perfectly bound, and on the inside it looks just like a normal book.”

Whilst machines of this variety can already be found in some libraries and short-run printers worldwide, this marks the first time one has been deployed in a retail store for direct customer use.

Shoppers will initially have a range of several hundred rare titles to choose from, though that is set to expand, with Angus and Robertson promising that up to 10,000 titles will be available on demand within 18 months.

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