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Instant Books from the Library

Posted by: Stephen Wildstrom on September 17, 2008

I spent a good part of my college years in what was then called the Undergraduate Library at the University of Michigan. Getting your hands on a book that was assigned reading for a course was often matter of luck—there never seemed to be enough copies.

Starting in October, the library, now renamed the Shapiro Library, will have infinite copies available, at least of certain books. Using a technology called the Espresso Book Machine from On Demand Books will offer books bound and printed in five to seven minutes. Most titles will cost $10, some shorter books will go for as little as $6.

There a catch, of course. Only books out of copyright are available. So the instant printing will be limited to books published prior to 1923 and books made freely available through other sources, such as the Open Content Alliance.

The Michigan library system has digitized about 2 million titles, both through its own efforts and through work with the Google Book Search project.

UPDATE: The University of Michigan has put up a video of the Espresso Book Machine in action.

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Reader Comments

John van Heeswijk

October 14, 2008 04:54 AM

I am investigating the viability of the EBM in South Africa; please could you give me some feedback as to its success at the University of Michigan.
Thanks, John

Edmond Seymore

October 7, 2009 11:10 AM

Education System

The current education system is outdated and fails to use current technology to full advantage.


Today, the laptop computer provides the power and capabilities required to support an individual student's informational needs.


In a sense of fairness, human knowledge should be available to all under a consistent set of rules, which apply uniformly. We would argue that today, a computer is becoming a requirement to remain competitive. Each student should have their own computer and a minimum set of software to support the storing, organizing and accessing of information. This computer should support connection to the school system for the exchange of information with teachers and the common school system as well as the world wide web. Each student would maintain their own view of the information and knowledge made available by the school system and the universal human knowledge on the web.


Since, each member of society benefits from a well educated and productive workforce, society should provide the fundamental tools of knowledge, basic education and the means to keep the knowledge gained current in an ever increasingly complex world. Therefore, we propose that the school systems develop a plan to provide a reasonably configured personal laptop computer to each student as part of the student activity fee at the lowest grade level which that school system is capable of supporting the necessary technical and informational infrastructure. We further propose each tax payer cheerfully agree to fund this effort as part of their investment in their individual retirement system. For the students of today will be expected to provide the bounty of tomorrow which will make our retirement possible.

Certification Process:

Education consist of learning many facts and many processes. Both are important; but the processes are the key to success.

In the Internet age, facts can be collected and organized by using the computer. Processes need to be remembered and used at the right time.

If we document everything which an educated person needs to know and put that information on a computer, we can let each student go at their own pace.

If we switch to a task completion and knowledge certification system, we can get away from the current grading system.

For any given student all assignments must be completed to an acceptable level; but not at the same time. Each student goes at their own pace and retries any given assignment as many times as necessary until they have mastered the material.

After a group of certifications of completions have been accrued, a certification test for the material included in that group can be given to achieve a certification of completion for the entire group. Once they have completed all groups, the student would advance to the next grade level.

This way all students cover the basic material for each grade level; but at their own pace. The advanced students may cover advance material and earn certificates in the area of their interest.

Each student gets the education required to match their interest and abilities without slowing down anyone else.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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