Arts Desk

Politics & Prose Will Debut Espresso Book Machine Next Week

Opus debuts November 9.

Following a couple of months of online buzz, Politics & Prose will finally unleash Opus, its new on-demand printer, on November 9. The bookshop compares the printer to a vending machine for books, capable of printing a paperback in four to five minutes. An out-of-print book under 200 pages costs $8 to print. Employee David Maritz says most rates are still being finalized.

Using Opus seems pretty simple: The customer can print a book from a screen, or upload and print original writing from a CD or USB flash drive. Politics & Prose's website breaks down how the process works. Opus can be used to publish out-of-print and in-print books, but of course, there are more out-of-print options due to copyright restrictions. Its book list draws from a catalog of works that includes texts from Google Books and HarperCollins Publishers, who will contribute thousands of titles.

Officially called the Espresso Book Machine and created by On Demand Books, Opus will be the first on-demand publishing machine in a D.C. store. New York independent bookstore McNally Jackson has had the Espresso Book Machine since the beginning of 2011; average book prices range between $10 and $20.

Though Politics & Prose began selling eBooks on its website before the shop was purchased early this year, entering the realm of self-publishing is a sign that the shop's new owners have embraced the changing face of bookselling. Shop employee Andrew Getman says releasing certain titles for self-printing is simply more economical for publishers; the same is probably true for consumers.

Politics & Prose will inaugurate Opus with a test printing and a discussion on November 9. One of the founders of On Demand Books, Thor Sigvaldason, will be in the house to discuss the machine's history.

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