Hi, Brudenell !
An excellent article by Gary Michael Smith on "Digital
Photoreproduction for Documents and Books" can be found at:
Himself a writer and small press publisher, Gary is optimistic about
the new production process, and describes his own experiences with
it., and outlines several Print On Demand (POD) models, including the
in-store kiosk model you are interested in. He is particularly
interested in the technique because it allows a book to be published
in extremely small runs (or even singly) without cost penalty, it
allows easy update of material in a book, ideal for technological or
teaching texts, and a book need never go "out of print" as long as the
electronic copy is still stored on the publisher's machine - though
personally I'd want to be sure I had a back-up copy at home, as well.
I would also be cautious about the glue based "perfect binding" which
is currently popular with publishers, but tends to disintegrate if a
book is very thick or is much read. One publisher made the dreadful
mistake a few years ago of using glue based binding for choral music
scores, which of course are subject to heavy and repeated handling;
bulk returns soon led to a reversion to stitched binding.
Basically, the in-store kiosks will give customers direct access to
the machines currently used in-house by on demand publishers.
Obviously their reliability is going to depend on the quality of their
maintenance, just like public access photocopiers.
My search showed that there was a lot of excitement about the concept
in 2000-1, but a lot less has been heard lately. It's unclear whether
the recent focus on handheld electronic books is behind this.
Instabook themselves have a website at:
They have obviously considered the need for reliability, simplicity of
operation and solid construction in their patented machines, for they
"VERSATILE, RUGGED, UNCOMPLICATED.
InstaBook Maker's are extremely versatile. .... When necessary,
adjustments can be made quickly and easily. ...
All InstaBook Makers are fabricated of high strength grade A aluminum
and special composite plastics, and contain only a few moving
components. They are built to operate continuously with only a minimum
of maintenance. ...
All parts of the system are designed to withstand abuse: virtually all
of them are unbreakable. Cleaning of the system is as easy as cleaning
Of course, this is their own advertising. However, sample books can be
ordered from their website (including "Don Quixote" in the original
Spanish) if you wanted to get a look at the quality their machines
A similar product is made by the On Demand Machine Corporation and is
called the BookMachine System. Their website is at:
"The BookMachine's production unit has two high-speed laser printers
that print text and a full-color printer for the paperback covers.
Covers and pages are then bound together, with the entire process
taking five minutes. By eliminating shipping and storage costs the
book can be sold at it's normal price. "
Forrester's have a report of January 2000 at a (substantial) price
which apparently includes an interview with InstaBook and tackles the
reliability issue in its Grapevine section:
I could not gain access to it as a guest to the site.
More recently a Weblog entry for May 6th mentions a CBC interview
aired that day at:
The writer, David C. Petite, comments
"CBC did an interview with the manufacturer of the InstaBook
<http://www.instabook.ca/>. It's a system to be installed in
bookstores, that will DL public-domain books and print them in
trade-paperback format. Of course, the future is to allow us access to
out-of-print books without the need of a publishing run. I like the
idea. It fills the need for books to stay paper, portable and
available. They could be used by university bookstores to provide, on
demand, rare and expensive text books.
I believe I envisioned this long ago during my phase of cyberpunk /
dark-urban-future reading. The concept was that electronic reading was
never going to take off but that all media to be read would be on a
demand-only basis. Newspaper & magazine printers that pop up like ATMs
on street corners and in Deps. The glossy advertizing possibilities of
these kiosks are easily imagined. Bookstores would become like video
stores, with plastic shells providing the browser with something
tangible to peruse. Find the nice cover art that you like, perhaps
something fantastical by Brom, and bring it to the counter. A few
minutes later a nice paperback is warming your hands. And it has that
new-print smell, which of course will be much better than new-car
Finally, FoxAcre Press have an up-dated (Jan. 2003) Books-On-Demand
resource page at:
This includes links to a number of print-on-demand publishers such as
Lightning Source, Iuniverse and POD Wholesale, who print to order
in-house and mail the resulting book out to you.
The most recent information on the self-service kiosk industry in
general can be found at the Kiosks Association website at:
They hold conferences and events and have a current calendar online,
so perhaps you could catch up with one of the exhibitions and go along
and ask questions.
Thank you for an interesting question.
book on demand kiosks