The book retail industry could look entirely different a decade from now if the new Book Machine gains marketplace acceptance.
The BookMachine is an automated device that can produce a soft-cover, perfect bound, standard-format book on customer demand within three to five minutes.
The information and material to produce frequently requested books is contained within the (305 x 120 x 90cm) BookMachine enclosure with plans for broadband connection of all machines to a central database which will contain hundreds of thousands of book titles.
Upon customer selection, the local BookMachine will request a specific title from the master database, which will then be transmitted back to the local machine for reproduction.
In operation, the book purchaser sits at the customer console and selects books by title, by author, or by subject from menus presented on the touch screen. The BookMachine, from its local memory, will present a full-colour, high-resolution image of the finished book. The customer can then browse images of the first five or six introductory pages, credits, table of contents and so on.
The customer can request information on any book in the catalogue via touch screen, and BookMachine stores a synopsis of the book, a biography of the author and recent reviews of the title.
When the customer decides to purchase, the BookMachine can handle the entire transaction process for credit cards but will require a human for a cash purchase. It can even give the exact time until delivery (manufacturing time) for each book down to the minute.
While the benefits of the system are obvious, (immediate availability of the entire catalogue) at the retail end, the machine offers a glimpse of a very different book distribution industry a decade from now, with instaneous reporting of sales to the publishers, enabling feedback on promotional efforts amongst other benefits.