McNally Jackson Will Soon Be Printing Books While You Wait

By the time 2011 rolls around, Nolita’s McNally Jackson Books will have an Espresso Book Machine, the Xerox-like on-demand device that prints a fully bound book in mere minutes.

Of the schedule, store owner Sarah McNally said in an e-mail that “there have been technical issues, but I believe we are on track.”

Currently McNally will order a book for a customer if a desired copy is not on hand. With the EBM, the store would be able to print one out right there. Buyer John Turner sees the machine as a way to expand inventory. It also reduces the hassle and wait time associated with ordering books by request.

“For me the biggest issue is, quite simply, as a medium-sized bookshop we can’t fit every book in the world on our shelves,” Mr. Turner said. “This will let us provide a wider variety to our customers.”

It was rumored that McNally Jackson was getting an EBM last year. You may remember the machine from its New York Public Library cameos in 2007, just before the debut of the Kindle. 

In late July Amazon announced that their e-book sales now top their sales of hardcover books but Dane Neller, CEO of On Demand Books, which makes the machine, told the Observer last week that he plans to expand “heavily” into New York despite the fact that this city in particular — Hello, subway iPad users! — seems to be on its way to writing off print.

Even though Mr. Neller admitted that he thinks that e-readers sales will continue to will grow exponentially, he said he doesn’t believe that everyone will have one anytime soon.

“It’s not an iPod moment,” he said. “For a fairly long time print will predominate.”

But Mr. Neller believes that publishers and retailers will be more attracted to the “print on demand model,” as opposed to overproducing print copies. Though, for now, your chances of getting a hot-off-the-presses bestseller from the Espesso are low.

“The publishers so far have been willing to give their books to e-books and not print on demand,” Mr. Neller said, citing their desire to control book supply.

Mr. Turner said not having the newest title will not be a problem for McNally since they should already have those in-house “if we are doing our job right.”

Right now there are 37 EBMs in operation and 14 planned around the world. EBMs are frequently used for self-publishing purposes — but Mr. Turner doesn’t see that application being the “main focus” at McNally Jackson.

“I just don’t know that we have enough resources to provide that,” Mr. Turner said. “I mean never say never. With the right book the right situation we’ll do whatever works.” McNally Jackson Will Soon Be Printing Books While You Wait