September 19th, 2008

Digital books: printed and bound?

Many of us love the accessibility of the digital book (or ebook, as we often call them). No hunting the stacks or taking a trip to a far-away library. Just a few keystrokes and there it is.

But then you’ve got to read them. That’s where the digital book starts to break down. They’re just not as pleasant as curling up with the real thing, it’s hard to have 6 digital books spread out on a desk in front of you, and who wants to spend more time in front of a screen?

The University of Michigan has purchased an Espresso Book Machine that lets it quickly turn a digital book into a bound paper version. Now those who prefer a physical copy can have the best of both worlds: a digital copy makes the book available everywhere, and the book machine gets the user the type of book they want.

At $10 and about 7 minutes, that’s a pretty good deal. Right now it’s mostly used for out of print and out of copyright books, but perhaps the publishers of the future will “outsource” the printing to the end user, making most books available this way.


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