According to this press release, Google has signed an agreement with On Demand Books, the maker of the Espresso Book Machine, giving them access to over 2 million public-domain works that have been scanned and converted to digital files as part of the Google Book Search project.
This Wired post about the partnership notes that the $100,000 Espresso Book Machine:
…cranks out a 300 page gray-scale [paperback] book with a color cover in about 4 minutes, at a cost to the bookstore of about $3 for materials. The machine prints the pages, binds them together perfectly, and then cuts the book to size and then dumps a book out, literally hot off the press, with a satisfying clunk. (The company says a machine can print about 60,000 books a year.)…
On Demand Books suggests that book stores price the books at about $8, leaving retailers with a $3 profit after both Google and On Demand Books collect a buck-a-book fee. Google plans to donate its share to a yet-unspecified charity, which might be a reaction to its messy legal and public policy fight over a copyright settlement that covers books that are still in copyright. (All the books that are being added to On Demand Books repertoire in this agreement are out of copyright in the country where it will be printed.)
Paul Constant, the books editor of The Stranger, posted the news today that Third Place Books, a large independent bookstore in the Seattle area, is getting an Espresso Book Machine in November. Here’s a list of all of the places that have them.
I love the idea of being able to produce physical copies of public domain books on demand at a reasonable price, but I suspect this may have a terrible impact on the used and antiquarian book market.
Update: The Inside Google Books blog has posted this video of the Espresso Book Machine in action: