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Seattle Sketcher

An illustrated journal of life in the Puget Sound region by Times artist Gabriel Campanario.

January 14, 2010 at 5:01 PM

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Espresso paperbacks at Third Place Books

Posted by Gabriel Campanario

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Jan. 13, 10:49 a.m. [Click sketches to view larger]

tpbookschess011310m.jpgI was hoping to meet a member of the Seattle Pen Club at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park this week. They have a scheduled meet-up there this Saturday that I wanted to preview -- you know, a sketcher can always use some advice about pens.

I never heard back from them, but I decided to go there anyway. Third Place Books is one of my favorite bookstores and a perfect hang out spot on a rainy day. I've been here with my family several times. You can browse the shelves, have a cup of coffee or play on the giant chess board.

This time I also had the chance to meet Vladimir Verano, who holds the title of Lead Publisher of Third Place Press, the bookstore's new publishing label. Verano runs a Espresso Book Machine out of a glass office in the Commons area.

I had heard about these print-on-demand service and was curious to learn a bit more. Is it the future of publishing?

The EBM prints pages, glues them, binds them and produces a high-quality paperback, explained Verano. The technology is not without glitches though. The book he started printing while I sketched didn't go through on the first try because of a problem with the glue. I had to leave soon after that and didn't get to see it come out of the EBM.

But I browsed a few titles he had on his desk and they looked great. It's hard to notice any difference. Inside pages with black and white photos and graphics looked crisp -- color is only available for the cover. He said there are only 18 EBM's in the world and 5 of them are in our region.

"We feel we're been threatened by the likes of Amazon," Verano said. "Now we have the option of being a bookstore, a publisher or a printer."

But what books do they print? "We are getting a lot of orders for Google Books," he said. Those are titles whose copyright has expired and are now in the public domain. Google has scanned 2.5 million and made them available online in pdf format.

Verano said a lot of people still want the option of being able to pick a book and flip through it. You can browse Third Place Press' catalogue online and order a copy of the book you want by phone, then come pick it up at the bookstore. You pay the cover price that appears on the online database. "They are going to be able to discover long lost editions that they never knew existed," he said. Like "Pioneer Days on the Puget Sound," by Arthur E. Denny, the title they chose to debut Third Place Press.

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On Demand Books, the company that manufactures these machines, has also negotiated rights directly from publishers for another 800,000 titles, Verano explained.

One of those titles in their catalogue is "Darjeeling," by local author Bharti Kirchner. an internationally published novelist accustomed to working with New York City publishers.

"Darjeeling" was published in 2002 and has been selling for a quite a while, said Kirchner, who was surprised when she started seeing print-on-demand copies of it circulating at Bumbershoot last fall. She said her publisher negotiated rights of her book with On Demand Books without her knowledge.

Kirchner said the quality of the paperback copy is good. "It looks almost a little shinier and glossier," she said. But she doesn't know what the implications of this print-on-demand system are going to be for her or other established authors.

She thinks it has benefits for publishers and people who want to self-publish. "The publisher no longer needs a warehouse or keeping control of copies of the book," she said. "There's some time and money saved."

For Verano, print-on-demand opens up the market for unknown authors and smaller presses. For a flat fee of $50, Third Place Press will upload your PDF file to their database, then you can print as many books as you want. At 6 cents a page, you'll pay $6 for a 100-page book.

He also said newspapers would benefit from this print-on-demand service if they went to a smaller format, offering copies of their special reports and investigative journalism for example. "I also thought it would be better if I could order just the sections I want," Verano said.

Perhaps I should start thinking about ordering my own book of sketches too.

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