Yesterday we spent the morning in the Melbourne city, had some breakfast at George’s Cafe, bought some jeans, a new audio cable for the car and plodded around the city for a while. Also checked out the rare (turning out to be not-so-rare) 4GB iPod Nano 4th Gen.
I knew once I was in the city I wanted to have a book made by the Storymaker. The new machine that has been brought into the country that prints books on demand. So we wandered down to the the Angus and Robertson store at the end of the Bourke Street Mall and took a look at the beast of a a machine.
The Storymaker prints, covers, binds and trims a book in under 10 minutes. It was awesome to watch, even if David did get a little bored, I loved it. I guess I am a book geek.
At the moment it is only printing out-of-print, public domain works. I chose to have “Ozma of Oz” printed and may end up going back to have all of the Oz titles done, they seemed to have everything but “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” as it is still in print.
Some people will tell you this machine is just a glorified printer/photo copier and it part that is true. But the precision at which it works is amazing, trimming the book, with cover on, and getting nice clean edges. They could do away with the theatrical lights that flash and make the poor machine look like it is creating Frankenstein’s Monster.
Essentially the process is as follows:
- The pages are printed in the giant printer (B&W) and fed directly into the machine while the cover is printed in a second printer (colour) and loaded into place in the machine.
- Human intervention is then required as the machine operator pushes a button and turns a knob sending the book on its way through the rest of the machine.
- Sandpaper roughs up the edge of the pages on which the books is bound.
- Passes over some brushes to remove the paper shavings from the sandpaper.
- Moves over the roller which is covered in resin-based glue. The resin dries to a tacky substance almost instantly.
- The books pages are then placed on the cover and lowered into a clamp.
- The clamp holds the pages for 30 seconds so the glue can adhere.
- The almost-complete book is moved to the trimmer where the edges of the book are cut off one side at a time.
- Finally a chute pops and and the book slides down the chute into the hands of the happy new owner.
You do get to inspect the book and I was under the impression that if I wasn’t happy with it, they would reprint. But I wanted to take it as it is, even if one part of it probably wasn’t clamped as well as it probably should have been.
The other thing about the books are their source. As they are public domain the bookstore can get them from anywhere they desire. It appears in the case of the Oz books the all come from Microsoft’s book digitizing program. Each page has the words “Digitized by Microsoft” on the bottom of them.
It really is a good way to get your hands on some classic books that just don’t exist any more.
My book, Ozma of Oz, cost me $19.95 which is around the same cost if it was a bound book on the shelf. I suppose they have to make their money back on the machine, and pay for the operator, and get people used to paying for the books, but as they don’t have to pay royalties for the book, it might have been nicer to sell them a little cheaper.
Overall I’m impressed with the job it does. Even if I think it has maybe come too late to market, what with the rise of ebook readers and their ability to show pages at close to 300dpi. Print isn’t really required any more. It is kind of like the music stores that let you make mixed CDs, what’s the point when everything is downloadable these days.