for book afficionados

My reservations about e-books relegating printed books to archival history were temporarily sidelined, when I read a Wall Street Journal article touting that “Fast Digital Printers Can Provide Out-of-stock Volumes to Customers in Minutes.”  While more and more readers are turning to Kindles, small bookstores are offering digitally printed books to its customers. “Oscar’s Art Books in Vancouver says it has sold about 1,500 digitally printed books since it bought a special printer in March. The machine, which cost about $118,000, accesses an online library of titles and then prints, trims and binds paperbacks on demand.” Prices depend upon the number of pages printed. Oscar’s recently printed a copy of “Dr. Art Hister’s Guide to Living a Long & Healthy Life” for $19.95. Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge, Massachusetts (not affiliated with the University), has printed approximately 1,000 books a month on an Espresso machine with Xerox’s printer. “For the most part, books printed on the Espresso Book Machine look like regular paperbacks, although it can only print color covers, not inside pages. It costs the bookstore under a penny a page to print, plus a licensing fee.” While Harvard Bookstore sees little profit in printing and licensing books since it’s costlier than purchasing already printed books, print-on-demand manager Bronwen Blaney explains that it’s worth it because the store is getting a sale it otherwise wouldn’t.” A UK bookstore chain, Blackwell, has an Espresso machine in its London flagship store and plans to install 6 more in some of its other 40 stores. Barnes & Noble partners with “Lightning Source to custom print books it doesn’t have in stock online or in stores. …does about $20 million in annual sales for on demand printing, a figure that has been rising each year, says a spokeswoman.” Meanwhile Borders Group Inc. is still contemplating a move in that direction.

Why my interest in digitally printed books on demand? A year or so ago, I had read an article in an issue of Vanity Fair Magazine about author William Manchester, written by him or another journalist, I don’t remember which. It was intriguing in that he had been asked by Jackie Kennedy to write the definitive story about her husband’s assassination from her perspective. She would offer facts, historical and personal, never before reported. Manchester agonized over the request feeling it would be grueling and time-consuming, uncertain he would want to commit a couple of years of his life to the project. He succumbed under pressure from Jackie and Robert Kennedy, whose help she enlisted in convincing the author to do as she asked.  With their blessing, Manchester proceeded “leaving no stone unturned.” As time passed and insiders became aware of what was being revealed, several warned Jackie that she was mistaken in having such a book printed. While she and her brother-in-law may not have paid heed at first, upon reading its final version they insisted Manchester edit out certain things. He refused to whitewash his work and so it was published without the Kennedy’s blessing. It was said, however, that when she finished reading The Death of a President, copyrighted in 1967, she commented that it was  “Interesting.” Reprinting of the book was disallowed some time thereafter. Of course, I went in search of a copy and found one on Amazon.com for $89. I’ve yet to read the somber book, but am excited at the prospect.

Another book which is out of print is Dr. Wright’s Guide to Healing with Nutrition by Jonathan Wright, copyrighted in 1984. This book was a God-send when my daughter was a fledgling, student ballerina. At 12 or 13 years of age she suffered what was diagnosed as possible Osgood-Schlatter disease, knee pain associated with growth spurts. Because this was deleterious to continuing with dance, I went in search of whatever information might be helpful in resolving the problem. I can’t remember how I found Dr. Wright’s book, but his recommendation based upon anecdotal findings, convinced me to have my daughter follow his regimen of selenium and vitamin E. Lo and behold, it worked! Her knee pain ended, never to return again. I shared the doctor’s prescription with anyone who would listen. I was later thanked by a mother who’d overheard me and had her son, also a dancer, take the vitamin supplements. He too found permanent relief from Osgood-Schlatter symptoms.

If these books can be digitally reprinted so that they’re not lost to readers forever, then I’m already a fan of the technology. I may be putting it to the test sometime. Hopefully I’ll be successful in retrieving another “gem” from oblivion.

hugs for technology, at least in this case…hugmamma.

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