Monday, October 19, 2009

Espresso Book Machines & Piracy

I present to you the Espresso Book Machine: the latest gadget that readers will love/loathe.

It’s the book-equivalent of those DVD-producing kiosks that are supposed to replace video rental stores. The EBM can print, bind and trim a 300-page book in four minutes.

The EBM was created by On Demand Books and can create any of the 2,000,000 books in the ODB library. Apparently, it’s being sent to libraries and bookstores. (I haven’t seen one in action yet.)

Upon learning of the EBM, I thought of two immediate uses for it. One, this thing is perfect for out-of-print books. Remember Google’s plan to collect orphan books? The EBM would make hard-to-access info even easier to read. Some people would rather not peruse 300-page technical manuals on a computer monitor. The EBM offers a way to turn these texts into books.

Naturally, Google and ODB are three steps ahead of me and have already formed a partnership.

Secondly, schools could benefit from the EBM, as well. High schools need to replenish their supplies of Jane Eyre and The Odyssey after age deteriorates them. The EBM would allow them to print their own copies. Granted, EBMs are too expensive (they cost about $100,000) to be cost-effective now; but this may be an option in a decade.

Schools could use EBMs specifically because many of the books read in English class are public domain, so no one will need to wrangle with a publisher for rights.

Meanwhile, on an unrelated subject:

BBC News asks if we are due for a wave of book piracy. The question is will bootlegging affect publishing as much as the music industry.

I used to think it wouldn’t, but I’m reconsidering that stance.

My initial thought was this: It’s easy to bootleg and disseminate a song. It takes about 30 minutes. However, a bootlegger would need days to scan in all the pages of a book.

Because of the workload required in literary publishing, the only books that would be heavily bootlegged are best sellers. That creates a big difference between book and music piracy. An experienced music pirate can find the unreleased demo tapes of an obscure garage band in about two or three minutes.

The same pirate would not be able to find books as easily.

I decided to test my theory by searching for illegal downloads of specific e-books. It took me 45 seconds to find How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life. It took about two minutes to find The Life of Pi. I was not able to find The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. (I can’t confirm that any of these files were valid, because I didn’t download them. They might have been fraudulently labeled, but I doubt it.)

I guess I underestimated the tenacity of pirates.

-Jason Lea,

P.S. Speaking of the “ODB Library,” the Rza has released his second book, The Tao of Wu. I haven’t read it yet but highly recommend it to anyone who owes me a birthday gift.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post.

October 19, 2009 at 4:42 PM 

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