Northshire Bookstore Prepares to Launch Print-on-Demand Publishing Service

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In about one week, Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont, expects to officially launch its in-store Print-on-Demand publishing service. The focal point of the new service is the Espresso Book Machine (EBM), an on-site fully integrated book-making machine that can produce a high-quality, trade-size paperback book in minutes. The Northshire website notes that it is the first independent bookstore in the U.S., and one of only five locations in the world, to have an EBM right on the premises.

Northshire General Manager Chris Morrow told BTW via e-mail that he has wanted to offer POD for quite some time but was waiting for the technology to catch up. Short-term goals for the service are to "provide more choice for our customers," Morrow said. "We are bringing back into print local histories, and we will be publishing local authors. We will also have access to all public domain titles."

EBM will allow Northshire to publish its own premium paperback Northshire Press editions of public-domain works -- including rare and out-of-print titles, and books of local and regional interest. In addition, the bookstore will serve self-publishing authors of fiction, poetry, cookbooks, family genealogies, local histories, corporate reports, custom textbooks, and much more, under its Shires Press imprint.

Shires Press will offer a complete publishing package, as well as an extensive menu of optional quality upgrades and a la carte services, such as expanded paper and cover choices; professional editing, cover and/or text design; technical support; and even marketing and distribution consultation, explained Lucy Gardner Carson, Northshire's Print-on-Demand Coordinator, who was hired in October 2007 to help launch the publishing service. At present, Northshire is advertising for freelance editors, graphic artists, tech support, marketing and promotion, and distribution professionals.

"This is a revolutionary new technology," Carson said. "POD makes it possible to disseminate knowledge and culture -- we can get [public-domain] books from anywhere."

The EBM is a large but manageable size, approximately eight feet by four feet, Carson said. Northshire has placed it at the front of the store, encased in "smoky Plexiglas." The machine prints black-and-white interior pages and a four-color book cover. A manuscript must be submitted in PDF format in two separate files: one for the book jacket and another for the text. A 300-page book that is printer-ready will be completed in about five minutes, Carson explained. There is a one-time set-up fee of $75 to $100, then a per page price of $0.05 to $0.08. There are additional fees for each a la carte service.

Morrow expects Northshire's POD service to break even this year and to contribute to the bookstore's bottom line next year. "I think it will be a very robust business within a few short years," he said. And it just might lead to a point where Northshire starts its own publishing house. "We have set up an imprint (Shires Press) to work with potential authors," Morrow said. "Most of this will be locally orientated, but you never know where it will all end up in a few years. I just feel that standing still is sure death." --David Grogan