While the book publishing industry is battling to compete in a new digital media era, a unique deal has helped two NYC-based companies turn the page to success.
On Demand Books, Inc created the Espresso Book Machine, a portable printing press that produces individual books. This technology allows bookstores and libraries to provide a selection they do not have to stock, and it provides independent bookstores and self-publishers a mode of distribution. Started in 2003 by founders Jason Epstein and Dane Neller, the company sells machines to both chain and indie bookstores, as well as universities and libraries across the world.
A few blocks away from On Demand’s SoHo headquarters, independent bookstore McNally Jackson purchased an Espresso Book machine. Second-generation business owner Sarah McNally opened shop in December 2004. Having come from a family of booksellers (her parents own several McNally Robinson bookstores in Canada) and working at places like Perseus Books Group when she first moved to New York, McNally has watched the industry evolve. “As an industry, we’re clearly looking for new ideas right now,” McNally says.
Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad have changed the game for publishers, forcing them to approach their inventory differently. To compete, McNally says some booksellers are leaning toward carrying more non-book products or, like her, are creating partnerships with companies offering innovative services, like printing on demand. “We’ve taken hits from Amazon and everyone else, and it is hard to tell how much more there is to lose,” she says. “Everybody’s finding what they can do in their communities to make their businesses work.”
McNally introduced the machine in her bookstore to provide additional resources to her current customers. The machine not only gives them the chance to publish an out-of-stock book, but also publish their own works. Since installing the machine at the start of the year, the machine has printed thousands of books, and she expects the machine to generate revenue by the fall.
“It’s not exactly the business I expected,” she says of the machine’s first months. “There is far more interest in self-publishing and that’s a different business than what I’m in. I’m a book seller, and suddenly we’re putting together this business where people can design, edit, and now print their own books. It’s frankly an entirely new business venture.” But, she thinks it is the business of tomorrow: “There’s a very high likelihood that this machine is part of the business model of a successful bookstore in the future.”
Lindsay Tigar is the Editorial Assistant at The New York Enterprise Report. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.