One More Way to Publish A Book

Think the new world of publishing is complicated these days? Here’s another option in the mix:  Espresso. That is the name of the new book printing device just purchased by the Sacramento Library.  Espresso is a $150,000 machine that works from digital files and can print and bind a softcover book, up to 800 pages in length, in about five minutes.  Only a few of the machines exist in California, and this is the only new model west of the Mississippi.  It comes to us through a grant from the California Library Association.

Printing costs are TBD.  Setup costs for original books are likely to run to $100, while ordering one of millions of books in available databases – titles no longer in print, or not to be found in bookstores or library shelves, are likely to be around $9.  Here are a few more things the downtown library plans to do with Espresso:

In connection with the original books, the library has started what it is calling the I Street Community Writing and Publishing Center.  The library will start holding writing classes in branches to try to replace the recently ended UC Davis Extension Creative Writing program.  “It’s really about working that connection between reading and writing and community,” said [Library Director] Rivkah Sass.  There are also discussions of using the machine to support 916 INK, a new program that includes publishing student authors as a key part of literacy education.

I’ve never researched costs, procedures, and shipping options for print-on-demand, so I don’t know if this will be competitive for writers looking to self-publish quantities of books, but one exciting use comes to mind:  family memoirs, histories, and diaries.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to have the recorded thoughts of the ancestors who lived a few generations back?

In the first days of personal computers – of TRS-80’s, Commodore64’s, and Apple-IIe’s, there was a distinct, “Power to the People” ethic among the early adapters of gear that had once belonged only to corporate elites.  “Be careful what you wish for,” comes to mind when I confront my own elitist ideas on writing.  Everyone who has ever downloaded a really terrible, $0.99 ebook knows what I mean, and I did that a lot when I first got my Kindle.

Yet when I read of the library’s plans to offer and guide this advance in the democratization of publishing, I am filled with a lot of hope.  This Pandora’s Box is now fully open; there’s no going back, and up to us to apply creativity to the new tools.

I think it’s analogous to blogging.  There are hundreds of thousands out there, but given limited time, you have to be choosy.  Thanks for choosing The First Gates today!

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