Dig­i­tal li­brary: This Paris store prints books on de­mand in 5 min

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) - - TRENDS TIMES - Ciara Nu­gent

Paris: Gau­thier Char­rier, a stu­dent, stepped in­side one of Paris’s newest book­stores and won­dered, “Where are all the books?”

“I saw this empty, open space — just a cou­ple of stools — and I won­dered, ‘Did some­one mess up?’” Char­rier said. None messed up. The pro­nounced stock short­age in­side the Li­brairie des Puf, run by the pub­lisher Univer­sity Press of France, or Les Puf for short, is not the re­sult of an or­der­ing mis­take, but the heart of the shop’s busi­ness model.

There are books, but they are not de­liv­ered in ad­vance from whole­salers. They are printed on re­quest, be­fore the cus­tomer’s very eyes, on an Espresso Book Ma­chine. On De­mand Books, the com­pany that man­u­fac­tures the ma­chine, chose the name as a nod to an ac­tiv­ity you can com­plete in the five min­utes it takes to print a book: Have a quick cof­fee.

La­belled, not so mod­estly, the “Guten­berg press of the 21st cen­tury” by its cre­ators, the ma­chine sits in a back cor­ner of the shop, hum­ming as it turns PDFs into pa­per­backs. Cus­tomers use tablets to se­lect the ti­tles for print — adding, if they want to, their own hand­writ­ten in­scrip­tions — while sip­ping cof­fee in the light and airy store­front in the Latin Quar­ter of Paris. “The cus­tomers are all sur­prised,” said the shop’s di­rec­tor, Alexan­dre Gaude­froy. “At first, they’re a lit­tle un­com­fort­able with the tablets. Af­ter all, you come to a book­shop to look at books. But thanks to the ma­chine and the tablets, the cus­tomer holds a dig­i­tal li­brary in their hands.”

Gaude­froy said, “I don’t have to worry about space for the stock and I can of­fer read­ers as many ti­tles as I want.” And that is a lot of ti­tles. All 5,000 books pub­lished by Les Puf are avail­able, as well as an ad­di­tional three mil­lion books com­piled by On De­mand Books, in­clud­ing ti­tles from 10 large Amer­i­can pub­lish­ers and the pub­lic do­main.

Les Puf ’s prestige in the in­dus­try has helped it se­cure even more ti­tles. “What’s re­ally ex­cit­ing is that, thanks to the on-de­mand model, we can re­vive old ti­tles, which we pre­vi­ously hadn’t both­ered with be­cause they’d only sell five or 10 copies in a year,” Mr. Gaude­froy said. “On-de­mand, it’s a new econ­omy for us.”

Getty Images

NO STOR­AGE TEN­SION: Books at the Li­brairie des Puf are printed on re­quest, be­fore the cus­tomer’s very eyes, on an Espresso Book Ma­chine

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