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Learn about the Espresso Book Machine

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"What is this thing?"

It's a question we hear a lot near the front of our Winnipeg store. People come in, see the big machine making all sorts of mechanical noises, and they wonder what it is. The short answer is that it's our Espresso Book Machine hard at work publishing books in-store! The long answer has a bit more depth to it...


So what is the Espresso Book Machine?

The Espresso Book Machine (or, as we often refer to it, the EBM) is a bundle of technology designed and built by On Demand Books. Comprised of two printers (one to print the outer cover and a second to produce the interior pages), a computer terminal, and unique machinery made by On Demand Books, the EBM can print, bind, and trim paperback books with full colour covers and black and white interiors, all by itself in about 32 square feet. And it works fast, able to start and finish a book in about eight minutes. That's why it's called the Espresso Book Machine - it works like it's on a caffeine rush!


The binding platform and page clamp.

How does it work?

The process is simple: Once a book's files have been uploaded to the EBM's network (or once we've downloaded one from On Demand Book's expansive network), we can begin printing. At the click of a button, both the block printer (which produces the interior pages of the book) and the cover printer come to life and start producing. The pages and the cover gather inside the Espresso Book Machine, and once all the pages and the cover are in place the binding process begins. Glue is applied to the pages, and then the book block is clamped down onto the cover page. The glue is allowed a few moments to settle, then the entire bundle is lowered into the trimming section at the bottom of the EBM. Because we only use one size of paper for all of the differently sized books we create, the EBM must trim all books to the appropriate dimensions. It does this with an exceptionally powerful and remarkably sharp blade, which can cut through several hundred sheets of paper at once! After the book has been trimmed on three sides, it is dropped out of a chute on the side of the EBM, and that's it - the book is finished!

The length of the entire printing, binding, and trimming process varies. Shorter books obviously take less time to print, so they can be produced more quickly. A 100-page book takes approximately 8 minutes to print, glue together, and then trim to the proper size. Meanwhile an 800-page book (which is the largest the EBM can produce) takes about 12 minutes to produce. So while the time varies from book to book, that difference is small, only a matter of a few minutes. This means that all books are created quickly with the Espresso Book Machine - some are just printed, glued, and cut faster than others!

Next time you're in McNally Robinson Grant Park, come see the EBM in action and watch the process from start to finish. It doesn't take long - surely you have 8 minutes to watch an entire book get made.


Want to learn more?

For more information on the hardware included in the Espresso Book Machine, visit On Demand Books' The EBM Technology page. Check out their EBM Brochure for plenty of details and diagrams.

Or you can watch these videos to learn all about the EBM:

The EBM Animated Short: learn the basics with simple visuals.


The EBM Overview: see the Book Machine in action.