Books-A-Million’s 3-Month Experiment With Print-On-Demand Espresso Book Machine Considered a Success

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Books-A-Million’s three-month experiment with the print-on-demand Espresso Book Machine has been a success, but the country’s second largest bookstore chain is not yet ready to take the program beyond the two locations that have been operating EBMs since last November.

“It’s been fabulous,” said Mary Gallagher, senior v-p in the BAM merchandising group, adding that the EBM business has had steady growth over the past three months, since machines were first placed in BAM’s South Portland, Maine, outlet, as well as in its flagship store in Birmingham, Ala. “We’ve been just delighted with the community’s reception in both locations.” Portland is one of the company’s top-volume stores, according to Gallagher, and was also chosen for the pilot because New England has a “strong writing and self-publishing community.” The flagship store was included to keep things “close to home.”

“Where we see the biggest action is in the self-publishing area,” said Gallagher, adding that there has been growing interest in public domain classics. “If you’re a bibliophile, you can find amazing things in there.”

Two employees at each location operate the machines. “What they do spend most of their time doing, besides printing physical books, is assisting people on the self-publishing front. It’s a lot of fun, talking to serious book lovers. It’s always great to hear from customers.” One EBM operator with the company said that most projects have centered around family history and genealogy—the employees manning the machines have worked on everything from helping children bind a book of illustrations for their grandmother, to printing a fully researched family biography. In the public domain space, the operators have come across fascinating and esoteric works, like a copy of Alice in Wonderland written in Lewis Carroll’s handwriting.

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SOURCE: Publishers Weekly
Clare Swanson