McNally Jackson’s Espresso Book Machine: An Industry Trend?

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In January, McNally Jackson, in New York City, added an Espresso Book Machine, whose Print-on-Demand option increases the store’s inventory by more than four million titles. In addition, it gives community members the opportunity to publish their own books at an affordable price. In a recent conversation with BTW, owner Sarah McNally had nothing but positive things to say about the store’s newest feature.

“It’s doing very well,” she said. “It’s been happening so fast, and it seems like word of mouth has been spreading extremely quickly.”

Though McNally Jackson did not publicly announce or visibly advertise the Espresso Book Machine’s arrival until last month, the community has been well aware of its presence at the store.

Customers seem to be more interested in publishing their own books rather than printing from the store’s inventory, which, according to McNally, is indicative of an industry shift.

“People are really interested in self-publishing,” she said. “I’ve heard that this is what has been happening in other stores, and now I’ve seen it here, and it surprised me. I think that’s where the industry is going.” As the community becomes more familiar with the POD process, McNally believes demand will grow.

The introduction of the machine led to some additional changes at McNally Jackson. “It requires a lot of staffing,” said McNally, adding that the store was understaffed at the time of the machine’s arrival. However, a full-time position has since been created for staff member Dustin Kurtz, who has been unofficially titled “Self Publishing Coordinator.” The store is getting ready to hire a second “book machine person” within the month.

Although there are many self-publishing avenues available online, McNally said, customers want to come to the bookstore to publish their book. “They want to be able to talk to a person about how to do it.” Thankfully, Kurtz is also a talented graphic designer, she said, so he is happy to assist customers with design. “He does it all,” McNally added. And if he can’t do it, the bookstore has someone else on staff that can, including several copy editors.

McNally Jackson now features several pages on its website devoted to Print On Demand, including a search bar to peruse the titles available in the public domain, as well as FAQs about self-publishing.

Within the month, McNally Jackson plans to introduce a new consignment section in the store, where self-published works may be featured and sold. Customers will set the price of their own books and will have the option of making them available as Print on Demand only, or they can be printed and placed on a Print-on-Demand shelf. If their copies sell, they will receive the retail price minus a 15 percent consignment fee.

Though it’s early, McNally is confident of the Espresso Book Machine’s success.

“It’s an entirely different business model, from top to bottom,” she said. “But frankly, I can’t imagine a trajectory where it wouldn’t work.”