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Home > By DEPARTMENTS > Sales and Marketing > Marketing Management > Green Marketing Trends

Googlizing Books with Distributed Book Publishing

Book publishing has been the vehicle for sharing ideas. The physical printing of books has been a heavy load borne by trees and trucks. Digital distribution has joined forces with paper-based presses...for the next phase of the printing revolution that has rocked the world...for centuries!

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I've been around books all my life, as you probably have, too. But as an adult, I've designed books, written books...and helped start an independent publishers trade group.

And I publish a number of websites that utilize Google's search and advertising services. And when I read about this new strategy to print books "on paper"...I was concerned. How green can printing physical books be...?

But I also know that digital isn't a complete solution. Not every student has a computer. Some people prefer reading a physical book over digital screens. Some people can't find an in-depth chunk of knowledge that is the niche of a book. Writers would love to have their book made available to wider audiences.

Are Print On Demand Books ... well, Green?

And book printing and distribution has become an exercise in waste. Printers publish fixed runs of books to launch (Excess inventory...Waste). Books are ordered by stores (Large, excessive building space) and returned to the publisher in order to refresh their inventory (Transportation Waste.)...and many of them are worse for wear and not resellable. ( Transportation and Product Waste.) And the market for second-hand books that weren't quite what the reader wanted is another exercise in excess (More waste.). Waste is the problem here...not the value of the ideas and information content in the documents.

The "Espresso Book Machine" by On Demand Books eliminates supply-chain costs and allows for increased sales of books by producing them on demand at point of sale. In short, this new publishing model reverses publishing’s existing business model from:

produce -> ship -> sell
sell -> produce

Supply is matched with demand at point of sale for the first time in the history of publishing. This radical new model eliminates returns and gives life to innumerable titles. Books stay in print forever.

The challenge is: what is the best method(s) for creating and distributing information?

So matching the method to the need could be a good thing. I'm not sure, yet, to be honest, but I can see the possibilities. The question to ask is whether tangible books are a transitional stage of information transfer...or

But now, Google and On Demand books are taking "book publishing" another step. First they started with public domain books that were digitized and searchable online. Now they're adding a kioske "printing press" that makes it possible to print out digital books.

Google has made a deal that gives On Demand Books access to an additional 2 million public-domain books. On Demand Books, you'll recall, is the company behind the Espresso Book Machine -- an ATM, of sorts, for printing digital books. The machine prints, binds, and trims a single paperback-quality book with full-color cover in just a few minutes.

"Library quality paperbacks at low cost, identical to factory made books, printed direct from digital files for the reader in minutes, serving a radically decentralized world-wide multilingual marketplace," On Demand Books touts on their website.

Google has agreed to provide On Demand Books, LLC (ODB), the maker of the Espresso Book Machine® (EBM), with immediate access to over two million public-domain titles in the Google digital files. This unprecedented number of reading options is in addition to the current 1.6 million titles already available directly to consumers via the Espresso Book Machine®.

The Espresso Book Machine® is a small, patented high-speed automated book-making machine. In a few minutes it can print, bind and trim a single-copy library-quality paperback book complete with a full-color paperback cover.

"ODB, in effect an ATM for books, will radically decentralize direct-to-consumer distribution," says Jason Epstein, Chairman and co-founder of ODB. "With the Google inventory the EBM will make it possible for readers everywhere to have access to millions of digital titles in multiple languages, including rare and out of print public domain titles."

Producing books at point of sale saves tons of CO2 emissions and eliminates returns and the pulping of unwanted books. According to the OECD’s 2008 publication Sustainable Development, “Print-on-demand [the technology used by the EBM and EspressNet] uses an electronic file to produce the book in the country where it is sold, in the exact quantities needed. There is no need to transport the book from one central location, print too many copies ‘just in case,’ or store copies waiting to be sold (or destroyed)."

According to a 2007 survey by the Book Industry Study Group and Green Press Initiative, the book sector emits an average of 8.8 pounds (almost 4 kg) of carbon per book produced.

"This is a revolutionary product," says Dane Neller, CEO and co founder of ODB. "Instead of the traditional Gutenberg model of centrally producing, shipping and selling we sell first, then produce. In a matter of minutes you can get a paperback book identical to one you can get in a store at point of sale. In addition to readers, On Demand Books will bring substantial benefits to authors, retailers and publishers. It has the potential to change the publishing industry."

The Espresso Book Machine® is powered by EspressNet, a proprietary and copyrighted software system that connects EBM to a vast network of permissioned content. Using industry-standard encryption methods EspressNet assures the security of publishers’ titles, tracks all jobs, and provides for payments to publishers. Content owners retain full ownership and control of their digital files.

Key benefits of On Demand Books include:

1. Decentralizing the production and distribution of physical books.

2. The ability to offer bookstores, libraries, universities and other retailers, a virtually limitless digital inventory and a more efficient delivery of printed books.

3. Enabling self-published authors to have instant print distribution.

4. Bringing books to underdeveloped areas to encourage literacy.

5. Reducing the carbon footprint by matching supply with demand, eliminating returns and supply chain costs as well as unnecessary pulping of paper.

Espresso Book Machines® already are up and running in bookstores, libraries and trade and campus bookstores such as the University of Michigan Shapiro Library Building in Ann Arbor, MI, the Blackwell Bookshop in London, UK, the Bibliotheca Alexandria in Alexandria, Egypt, the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, VT, the University of Alberta Bookstore in Edmonton, Canada and Angus & Robertson Bookstore in Melbourne, Australia. The Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, MA and the University of Melbourne Library in Melbourne, Australia soon will carry their own EBM.

On Demand Books was co-founded in 2003 by Jason Epstein, former Editorial Director of Random House and Dane Neller, former CEO of Dean & DeLuca. The first beta machine was installed at the World Bank InfoShop in Washington, D.C. where it printed thousands of World Bank publications.

The Espresso Book Machine® was named to Time Magazine’s "Best Inventions of 2007" list. Made in the USA, Espresso Book Machines® are environmentally friendly green machines. For more information go to

Other Players

How are Lightning Source Inc.™ (LSI) and On Demand Books , working together?

Lightning Source is a subsidiary of the Ingram Book Group (the world’s largest wholesale distributor of books) and the industry’s premier POD distributor of books. In April 2008, ODB announced a strategic partnership with LSI to share expertise and create a future collaborative digital platform for books. Under the agreement, ODB has the use of LSI’s digital conversion facilities and the right to print LSI’s vast library of titles, pending publisher approval. LSI also provides sales and marketing support for the EBM with publishers and retailers.

The Future...

What works for public domain books will be a precursor to many other marketing options: corporate histories, instruction manuals, any document that is now mailed...

Distributed energy generation is being hailed as a major democratization of energy access. Distributed book publishing could be an equally important "hub" of idea generation and distribution.


Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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