Sunday, June 17, 2012
The Antidote to e-Books
WASHINGTON — Clare Dickens only wanted to share her story to help others. But in the process, she became a successful independent author — with the help of a local bookstore and its instant publishing machine.
Ms. Dickens wrote “A Dangerous Gift” with her son Titus, a memoir of their life dealing with his bipolar disorder. She completed the novel after he took his own life at the age of 25 in 2006.
Though Ms. Dickens found a publisher in Iceland to release the book in 2007, she still wanted a broader reach. The Espresso Book Machine at Politics and Prose in Washington enabled her to bring the memoir to local bookshelves and beyond.
Her book has since become the best-selling self-published title at the local bookstore and its Web site. “I didn’t expect to sell any at all,” Ms. Dickens said. “I didn’t want to be a best-seller. It’s really about getting my son’s story out there and helping other people.”
Self-publishing has been made easier since the Espresso Book Machine by On Demand Books made its debut in 2006. The machine also can make copies of out-of-print editions.
The first machine was installed briefly at the World Bank’s bookstore. Through a partnership with Xerox, the company now has machines in about 70 bookstores and libraries around the world, including London; Tokyo; Amsterdam; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Melbourne, Australia; and Alexandria, Egypt.
Thor Sigvaldason, the chief technology officer at On Demand Books, based in New York, said the system could help book retailers in two ways. “It can, potentially, give them a huge virtual inventory so they can have as many books as Amazon, all in a little bookstore,” he said. “It turns independent bookstores into places to get books published. It’s a new thing for the bookstore to do: not just sell books, but actually create books.”
Ms. Dickens’s book costs $10.38, or €8.23, to print and sells for $16. Bill Leggett, a bookseller who co-manages the machine, said about a dozen copies were sold a month. “That’s better than a lot of authors who have major publishers,” he said.