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Becoming the next Walt Whitman has never been easier • Brooklyn Paper

Becoming the next Walt Whitman has never been easier

The new printing press: Linda Johnson, president of the Brooklyn Public Library, and Dane Neller, CEO of On Demand Books, show the marvelous book machine to children from Flatbush’s PS 399.
Photo by Philip Greenberg

The publishing industry has just been replaced by a glorified copy machine.

The Brooklyn Public Library is embracing a new technology that would make Johannes Gutenberg proud — a device that can create a book in less time than it takes to find one on a store shelf and allows budding writers to see their work in print.

Stick a thumb drive with a copy of your novel into the Brooklyn Public Library’s new Espresso Book Machine and you can go from no-luck author to published novelist — at least technically — in minutes by printing out a bound copy of your book as well as more than 8-million titles from more established wordsmiths.

Brooklyn Public Library President Linda Johnson said the new machine would be a boon to both writers and book lovers.

“We’ve been thinking about how to reflect and support the community we serve,” said Johnson, who unveiled the Espresso Book Machine at the Brooklyn Public Library’s main branch at Grand Army Plaza earlier this month. “This gives all the emerging writers in Brooklyn an opportunity to publish.”

It’ll cost you around $150 — spare change compared to the cost of an agent — to have your work published, but you may be able to get some of your investment back — the machine will actually help you sell your tome, Johnson explained, adding that if one wants to print out an extra copy of their work, the library will stock it on its shelves.

Printing out pre-published novels — some of which may be out of print — will cost about the same as ordering a book on Amazon, she said.

The machine, which takes about five minutes to work its literary magic, is a regression of sorts in the relationship between technology and book publishing.

The iPad, Kindle, and other digital readers are pushing the once robust publishing industry toward e-books, but this machine wants to bring back the printed word.

“We truly are a digital to analog product,” said Dane Neller, the CEO of On Demand books that makes the machine, in a video shot by the Daily News. “We bridge the gap between the hard product and the digital product.”

If the Espresso Book Machine looks a bit like a giant copier from the 1960s, it may not be a coincidence: Johnson said that the means to self-publish may be new, but the practice is quite old.

“Walt Whitman self-published ‘Leaves of Grass’ 150 years ago,” said Johnson, who noted that new copies of the Brooklyn bard’s treasured poetry collection have been flying out of the new machine. “I think he would be pleased to see that what he started long ago has become more commonplace.”

The Espresso Book Machine at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Branch [Flatbush Avenue at Eastern Parkway in Grand Army Plaza in Park Slope, (718) 230-2100], For info, visit www.brooklynpubliclibrary.com.
Got a catchy name for the Brooklyn’s only book machine? Fill out this form or call (718) 230-2100 before March 15 for your chance to win some Brooklyn Public Library-inspired gifts!

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.

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