University of Pittsburgh
September 27, 2010

Pitt Unveils Espresso Book Machine at Hillman Library

Revolutionary technology prints perfectly bound paperbacks in just minutes; could lower the cost of select student textbooks

Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926

PITTSBURGH—An exciting and revolutionary method of printing books is now in operation at the University of Pittsburgh. 

The Espresso Book Machine (EBM), which can print a library-quality paperback book with a full-color laminated cover in just minutes, was shown to a number of Pitt dignitaries, librarians, and members of the news media who gathered to watch a demonstration today at Pitt’s Hillman Library. 

The machine, the first of its kind to be used in Pennsylvania, was purchased this summer by Pitt’s University Library System (ULS), working in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Press and the University Book Center, to print books as the titles are ordered—a less expensive process than buying a minimum run from a printing company. Pitt is one of only 30 universities worldwide to have the EBM. 

The EBM’s software system, called EspressNet, connects the machine to a vast network of permissioned content, including nearly a million titles in the EspressNet database, thousands of titles in the ULS D-Scribe online collections, and books published by University of Pittsburgh Press. The EBM will print, align, mill, glue, bind and trim anything that a laser printer can print—from textbooks to lab journals. A typical book can be produced in less than seven minutes. 

The first book “off the press” today was the revised paperback edition of Where the Evidence Leads (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003) by the Honorable Dick Thornburgh—former Pennsylvania Governor and U.S. Attorney General, member of the Pitt Board of Trustees, and of counsel to the international law firm of K&L Gates, LLP—who also was in attendance during today’s demonstration. 

“The Espresso machine will give Pitt the capability to produce high-quality print books from electronic books, which could lower the cost of some textbooks and required reading materials for students,” said Rush Miller, Hillman University Librarian and director of ULS. Miller added that the machine provides a way to obtain books in the Pitt Digital Library and a faster way to print books published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. 

“When I first heard about the Espresso Book Machine, I saw a new way to make scholarly books readily available to faculty and students across the country,” said Cynthia Miller, director of the University of Pittsburgh Press. “A bookstore-in-a-box, if you will, the EBM provides immediate access to thousands of books, including those published by the Press.”


The EBM is currently on the ground floor of Hillman Library but eventually will be housed at the University Book Center. 

About the Espresso Book Machine

The Espresso Book Machine (EBM) provides a revolutionary direct-to-consumer distribution model for books. Its proprietary software transmits a digital file to the machine, which automatically prints, aligns, mills, glues and binds a book, complete with a full-color laminated cover. Producing books on demand eliminates the cost of shipping and warehousing books. This major innovation gives life to innumerable titles; books can stay in print forever. A single machine operating 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, can produce more than 60,000 books a year with minimum supervision. The EBM is made by On Demand Books, LLC, and manufactured in the United States. 

About the University of Pittsburgh Library System (ULS)

The ULS has more than 6 million books in its collections and holds more than 250,000 historical photographs, most related to Pittsburgh and the region. More than 10,000 are available online. The Pitt Digital Research Library has digitized more than 1 million images in 106 projects during the past 10 years. ULS initiatives include partnerships with libraries in China, Taiwan, Korea, Mali, and Argentina to provide foreign research materials to scholars in the United States. The oldest item in the Pitt library system’s collections is a leaf printed from the letters of St. Jerome, ca. 1466; the oldest map is of Pittsburgh, dated 1787. 

About the University of Pittsburgh Press

Founded in 1936, the University of Pittsburgh Press has established itself as a scholarly publisher of distinguished books in several academic areas and publishes scholarship that draws upon and reflects many of the strengths of the University’s academic programs. The Press publishes about 50 new titles each year, and with the support of a recent major grant from the A.W. Mellon Foundation, that number will grow to 75 within five years. Its strongest subject areas are history, history and philosophy of science, Latin American studies, Russian and East European studies, and composition and literacy studies. The Press publishes selected titles in conjunction with many of the region’s cultural institutions and publishes important books about our region for general readers, scholars, and students.