Crime and Punishment may take the average reader several months to complete, but Britain's first "book vending machine" can print you a copy in just nine minutes.
By Matthew Moore in The Telegraph, 28 Apr 2009
A freshly-bound edition of Fyodor Dostoevsky's classic – ordered by The Daily Telegraph – (not the edition pictured left) - was one of the first tomes to drop out of the Espresso Book Machine when it opened for business for the first time yesterday.
The novel is one of more than 400,000 titles including many rare and out-of-print books that can be printed on demand at Blackwell bookshop on Charing Cross Road in central London.
Seeking to put the machine through its paces, the Telegraph ordered a warm copy of the 540-page book to compare to the published versions available on shelves.
With pages spewed out at the rate of 100 a minute, the printing itself was over in a little over five minutes.
The sheets were then shuttled into the binding section of the machine were they were pressed, covered, glued, and cut to shape in under four minutes.
And the results were impressive. The hefty work that skidded out of the chute, while slightly sticky to the touch, looked and felt like a standard edition, even down to the correct ISBN number on the back.
The paper and ink are the same quality used in larger presses, and the binding appeared flawless.
Phill Jamieson, head of marketing at Blackwell, said that the firm was uncertain how the £68,000 machine – one of only three such printers in the world – would be used during its three-month trial period.
As well as allowing readers to track down rare books, it also offers mainstream works that happen to be out of stock and can be used by unpublished writers wanting to see their words in print.
One such customer is Mary Cade, 58, a former law firm employee from Bloomsbury made redundant during the recession who is struggling to find an agent for her novel The Bermondsey Grail, which she describes as combination of "21st Century office life and druids".
Waiting patiently for her turn on the machine, she said: "I rushed here as soon as I heard. It can takes years to get a book published but now I can get a copy printed straight away."
The printing is not cheap - there is a set fee of £10 a book, plus 2p for every page - and she only wants one copy. "I shall keep it and look at it, and learn from the experience," she said.