Friday, July 15, 2011


Everywhere these days you are seeing Redbox kiosks appearing in grocery stores and fast food restaurants that allow you to rent and return DVD movies. So far, this has been an innovative way to pick out your movies, sort of like a combination of Amazon book browsing and a physical store combined into one...sans the clerks of course. Along with this has also been the demise of more than a few area chain movie stores, which is causing a shift in how movies are rented and returned.

What if such an idea was transferred over to an industry such as bookselling?

For example, let's create a hypothetical device. Let's call it the Print-On-Demand Box or PODBox for short. Inside this kiosk, there would contain several ink tanks, a great deal of paper stock and a few different kinds of cover material. The machine would be approximately the same size as a Redbox kiosk, and could be placed in many places, although putting it in a restaurant may not be most ideal situation.

The machine would be able to create books on demand, after the user browses titles with the touch screen interface, much like a Redbox kiosk operates today. Theoretically, the user could be allowed to choose books from some type of website (Amazon?) and the machine would generate a perfect-bound paperback in a matter of a few minutes. Yes, I know, e-books and Kindles are all the rage right now, but many people do still like to hold paperbacks in their hands.

The only drawback to this setup that I can see, though, is that if demand is heavy, the ink tanks would have to be quite large and refilled periodically. Paper stock would also have to be refilled along with glue for the book binding. Redbox machines tend to be more or less self-maintaining, appearing to depend on users returning movies to the same or even a different location (although I'm sure when new movies come out, somebody has to load them into the machine).

Once the machines are built, they could be put in many locations. Grocery stories, tourist locations, rest stops, and even bookstores themselves could get into the act. For example, you could have books related to a particular tourist location available in a kiosk. After all, if you can get a penny smashed and stamped with a logo from your tourist destination, why not get a book there, too? Why not go a step further and allow for some customizable elements of the book?

What do you think? Would such a machine be a feasible device? Would you purchase a paperback book out of a PODbox if it offered a decent selection of titles?


  1. Hmm. My purchase plans would depend upon a number of factors. I'd assume the POD books from this machine would be a lot more expensive than the mass-produced books from commmercial publishers? For me, it would all depend upon the price. With the surge of e-books, I'd probably end up getting a Kindle or Nook and getting most of my books that way if these machines started popping up in stores and such.

  2. It's hard to say what the price point would be, but I would think that it might actually be cheaper than it current POD books because there would be no third parties or shipping involved.

    I learned yesterday that there is already a machine like this out there...although it is rather large (sort of like a copier put together with another machine). It is called the Expresso Book Machine. They are found in several locations around the world...but for whatever reason, they don't seem to be showing up all over the place. I think part of the issue is that the machines don't look all that approachable...despite what the ad copy for the product says.