Book Making Machines
If you’ve ever read The Long Tail– and if you haven’t, you should–, he forwards an excellent argument for on-demand publishing being the future of the industry. It eliminates all sorts of issues, including the fact the publishers absorb the cost of bookstores over-purchasing an item by offering refunds for books the store did not sell. Libraries, unfortunately, don’t have this luxury. We have to anticipate demand. Over-purchase and be stuck with too many of a book no one wants to read, under-purchase and people are unhappy that they cannot have their book in a timely manner. What if someone didn’t have to wait for their copy of Harry Potter to come in? We could just spit off a quick copy and hand it to them for a fraction of the cost of buying 30 hardcovers.
I imagine that this model will become the de-facto for libraries in the future. The problem that library customers have now is not necessarily people being able to find the resources they want, lots of sophisticated tools exist for that, but getting those resources in their hands. Imagine if a whole class had to read Moby Dick and the library’s three copies are gone. Just print off more and meet everyone’s demand. No more trying to anticipate volume or making people wait for bestsellers, just pay for each copy you create and everyone is happy.