On Demand Books brought one of its Espresso Book Machines to Google's Mountain View, Calif., campus Wednesday to show off how owners of its machine--which can cost as much as $97,000--can now offer their customers bound and printed books based on scanned files from the Google Books library of public domain titles. The EBM can print a 300-page book in 4 minutes and is intended for use at libraries and book stores.
The process starts when a prospective reader locates the book they'd like by searching the archive. On Demand Books offers around 1.6 million titles through deals with publishers, and will add nearly 2 million books from Google's library.
The books are printed page by page by a high-end printer, which can be purchased separately and hooked up to the machine. The original fonts, images, and diagrams in the books are presented as they were in the print copy.
A color cover is printed out separately and awaits the collated pages. The machine uses the metadata from the digital book listing in order to determine title, author, publisher, and other data specific to the book.
The book is printed out onto regular 8.5 by 11 copy paper, but the same metadata present in the book listing also contains data on the size of the pages, which is transferred to the EBM for precise cutting. One of the criticisms of Google's Book Search product has focused on its tendency to have faulty metadata, but everything printed out nicely Wednesday.
Your book is ready and it's literally hot off the presses. On Demand Books expects to charge $8 for public domain books sold through the EBM, most of which goes to the author, publisher, and the business hosting the machine. Google and On Demand Books will each keep a dollar: Google said it planned to donate its dollar to charity or a nonprofit group.
It's not clear how large a market there will be for books distributed this way: companies have been experimenting with this kind of thing for years. With its participation, Google is hoping to show that one benefit of its Google Books project is that other companies can build businesses off the concept of a book as a digital file.
Google's contribution is limited to the public domain books that it has scanned, which will provoke far less controversy than currently surrounds it's settlement with authors and publishers over the rights to scan out-of-print but copyright protected books. A final hearing to determine whether or not to approve that settlement is scheduled for early October.