Mark Lefebvre loves books. From his vantage point as Book Operations Manager, Titles Bookstore McMaster University in Ontario Canada, he has seen major upheavals in book publishing and retailing. Titles Bookstore, like many college bookstores, experienced a steady decline in general book sales from 1998 to 2008. These are the books they carry that are not required reading for any particular course.

Then in 2008, they experienced their first decline in textbook sales. Special orders however were booming.

What is a bookseller to do?
These business realities and the emergence of new digital book production and distribution capabilities drove Lefebvre to look at new and innovative ways to satisfy students, professors, publishers and content owners. That search led him to the On Demand Books’ Espresso Book Machine® (EBM).

This breakthrough in trade quality book production can produce a paperback book, ready for retail in about five minutes. The hands-off production goes from digital file to an integrated color cover and book-block print, trim, glue and finish system that takes up less than 12 square feet.

Lefebvre knew that the EBM was the right solution at the right time. He put together a two-year business plan and sold it to his University management. He hasn’t looked back.

From 40,000 titles on hand to 1,000,000 titles on file.
With the EBM, Lefebvre had an immediate answer to Titles Bookstore’s growing “special orders” business. With cost-effective print production and no shipping required, they could satisfy run-length-one requests with while-you-wait convenience and pass savings on to the students.

He also had new services that he could offer and new opportunities to capitalize on, such as custom textbooks, out-of-print books, self-published books, public domain books, etc.

For example, if a professor wants to assign a book that is out of print or hard to get, Titles Bookstore can negotiate with the publisher to produce small quantities (for a class of 80 students say).

Or a professor can select content from multiple sources and create a custom textbook. “We did a custom textbook last year and achieved a sell-through rate of about 50%. The first year we did this with the EBM, our sell-through rate was 110%,” according to Lefebvre.

One time, a guest author was scheduled to lecture at McMaster but no one had checked to see if the author’s latest book was in stock. It wasn’t. A quick call to the publisher enabled Lefebvre to get permission to produce a Titles Bookstore special edition of the book in time for the lecture.

Lefebvre is also excited about the opportunities for self-publishing, a category that is experiencing phenomenal growth. “We had a McMaster graduate publish a new book. The announcement occurred on June 16, 2009 at about 10 am. We had a lot of customers asking about the book. So I called the publisher and negotiated an agreement and by 3 p.m., five hours later, we were printing the book in our store.”

The gawk factor.
One of the benefits of the Espresso Book Machine® is that it is a traffic builder as well as a book printer. Lefebvre calls it the gawk factor. People come in to see the amazing new book on demand printer, and they inevitably end up buying something. “We’ve seen increased sales of bookstore merchandise as well as all of these new revenue streams,” Lefebvre noted.

New models. New revenue streams.
The EBM is breaking down traditional barriers and redefining roles in the book publishing and retailing value chain. For Lefebvre, it’s an opportunity to explore new models and he encourages publishers, authors, content owners and retailers to work together. We’re limited only by our imaginations,” he concluded.

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