What’s an Espresso Book Machine?

Flintridge Bookstore offers an opportunity to publish your own books

PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | SouthPasadenan.com | The Espresso Book Machine in action with owner Peter Wannier and school coordinator & book buyer Jenny Wannier overseeing the process

Been writing poetry in your spare time? Perhaps you’ve got a great story you’ve always wanted to write about, a memoire, children’s book or a cookbook of all your family recipes. Flintridge Bookstore has something very special among their rows and rows of glorious books and it’s called the Espresso Book Machine! Named Time magazine’s invention of the year, the Espresso Book Machine allows you to print and publish your own book in the time it takes to sit in their darling coffeeshop and have a croissant and café au lait.

PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | SouthPasadenan.com | The clocktower building of Flintridge Bookstore

Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeeshop is located in the beautiful clocktower building on the corner of Foothill and Chevy Chase. It boasts a very large, open and airy space full of hundreds of books as far as the eye can see, a charming coffeeshop flooded with natural lightabout and in the middle of all of this one might catch the whirring and buzzing of a book actually being created before your eyes!

The brainchild of American publisher Jason Epstein, the Espresso Book Machine has been hailed as the biggest change to the literary world since Gutenberg invented the printing press more than 500 years ago and made the mass production of books possible. There is no end to what one can do with this machine and it has the potential to fundamentally change bookselling, especially for smaller bookstores. Could it signal the revitalization of the local bookshop industry? If you can walk into a local bookstore, publish your own book, get out of print or hard to find books and have access to over 3 million titles, that’s pretty compelling.

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PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | SouthPasadenan.com | The Espresso Book Machine gives new meaning to hot off the presses

What is it exactly? The Espresso is a book-making machine that automatically prints, binds and trims books on demand. You can literally watch the inner workings of the machine as it creates your book, going from computer screen, to printing over 100 pages a minute, clamping them into place, binding them as the aroma of hot glue fills the air, then dramatically ‘guillotining’ down to size and popping out a brand new, warm(!) finished book. Hot off the presses! The quality is indisputable: clean, clear, justified text, thick paper and a gorgeous, matte color jacket. Imagine the thrill of holding your own work, a precious facsimile of Lewis Carroll’s original manuscript, or an out of print treasured childhood book in your hands. From computer screen to an entire book printed and bound in less than 10 minutes. Even more impressive than the technology is the print-on-demand aspect itself: Books are made to order, which means no print overruns, which means no waste!  For those who still love to hold a book in their hands, these books are economical and recyclable. Once you’ve done the initial set-up, you can come back and order more at any time and the books run from about $7-$18.

PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | SouthPasadenan.com

Peter Wannier, owner of Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse, says that what drew him to the machine was the idea that “despite what people may or may not think about a Mom and Pop bookstore, we can deliver books in people’s hands faster than you can possibly get online”.  In fact, you can watch this extraordinary machine print out a library-quality, paperback book with a beautiful four-color cover that is indistinguishable from their factory made versions, in about the time it takes to have a cappuccino! With access to Lightening Source books, google books, Harper Collins and many more publishers who are releasing more and more of their titles, one has access to over 3.3 million titles and counting. To put it in perspective, Flintridge Bookstore averages about 30,000 titles in stock, so to have 3 million titles they would have to have about a hundred story building….”that’s what 3 million means”, says Wannier. And the list of titles is growing by the month.

PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | SouthPasadenan.com

Flintridge has been operating their Espresso Book Machine for about 6 years now and we spoke with Jenny Wannier, the shop’s School Coordinator and Book Buyer, about the evolution they’ve seen in that time. “We’ve definitely learned about catering to different types of authors and publishing requests,” says Jenny, “Some authors need a lot of help finalizing their books for printing, and others just need a place that can do the printing. We have organized several different set-up packages to accommodate everyone who comes through the doors including formatting assistance, cover design, and getting ISBN’s and Copyrights!”

The whole process clearly excites Jenny and the staff and she tells us another surprising recent addition is working with publishers to print advance copies of books, for publicity reasons. Generally they see a lot of memoirs, though lately they have seen more self-published fiction come through; it seems to go in cycles and they even get scientific texts!

“Our self-publishing services have definitely grown slowly over the years,” says Jenny, We have grown to have two operators who between the two of them can manage the machine for most of the business hours of the store.  We have also seen a more dramatic growth in the number of individual google book orders that come through on a weekly basis.  Many more people it seems, are using the on demand publishing services to print up esoteric or out of print books that they otherwise would not be able to obtain.  We send them all around the country.

It’s a wonderful opportunity for self-publishers and the kind of personal customization that Peter Wannier is excited to offer to his customers. As the only one of its kind in this part of Southern California, it is truly a unique gift to the community.

PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | SouthPasadenan.com | Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse

For information on how to get your project started contact Jenny at espresso@flintridgebooks.com or just stop by for a cup of joe and a good read. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.



  1. I have only a couple of questions about the Espresso printing process. I’ll call you later today, Jenny, to ask them. I’ve written a book — all done now and in pdf format. It needs to be printed and perfect bound, It seems this can accomplished at your location. (I’m in Torrance.) Will call you later with questions, including a pricing query and a question re: payment methods.

    Thanks very much for your time, Jenny.

    Regards, Joe Gennaro 310–787-8441