University of Melbourne deploys Espresso Book Machine

The university purchased the EBM (pictured), which prints, trims and binds a paperback book on demand, from local distributor Central Book Services, and unveiled the machine at the opening of the CBC last week.

CBC executive director Simon Strong told ProPrint that while the machine was originally intended to merely “serve the needs of the university”, access to the machine is in the process of being opened to the general public.

Strong said that an online submission system will be set up for manuscripts, and is aiming by the end of the year to have a system in place that allows printed manuscripts to be completed within 48 hours.

The university was first attracted to the on-demand capabilities of the EBM as a means of producing printed copies of some of its more obscure material.

“An awful lot of publications come out of the university,” Strong said. “Some of them come out through commercial academic presses, some through trade presses, and some through Melbourne University Publishing.

“But even so, there was a class of publications that were difficult to bring to market, but that would have a lot of educational value.”

Strong said the university library then became interested in using the machine to produce printed copies of material from its digital repository of theses, which are mandatorily lodged with the library for display on its website.

“The library has been getting a lot of requests for these to be printed, and they can be printed very easily as books on the Espresso machine,” he said.

“Each one will only generate minimal sales, you’d probably only sell a couple of hundred copies of a thesis because of its specialised content. But the Espresso lends itself to these kinds of applications.”

Strong added that “next cab off the rank” for printing would be special collections texts, which Strong said are “prohibitively expensive for libraries to obtain”.

“The advantages are that it makes unobtainable books obtainable again,” he said. “Also, the books it produces are of comparable quality to other books.”

The much-vaunted ‘ATM for books’ has had an inauspicious start in Australia. Book retailer Angus & Robertson was the first company in the world to deploy the press in one of its stores, announcing at the time that it had plans to deploy another 50 of the machines across its chain of stores.

However, the rollout never occurred, and the EBM on show in its Melbourne CBD store was later removed by the company.

Strong, though, appears to have no qualms about being an early adopter.

“We’re very happy with the machine, it’s a very compact unit, very reliable,” he said.

“We want to be way ahead of the game before the penny drops anywhere else.”

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