Everyman a publisher nowadays. We don’t only have to look out for authors publishing their own stuff, and libraries and agents too, but bookstores can easily get in on the act, especially those with Espresso Book Machines.


Shelf Awareness brings us the news. “Just before Inauguration Day, January 20, Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, Mass., printed a book containing the farewell speeches delivered by President Obama and Michelle Obama just before his term ended, the Boston Globe reported.

Called Barack Obama & Michelle Obama: Farewell Speeches, the 72-page book was printed on Paige M. Gutenborg, the store’s Espresso Book Machine. The material is in the public domain.

Marketing manager Alex Meriwether told the paper that the book was produced by the staff, with the cover designed by the bookstore manager. ‘It’s a fulfilling experience reading it as well as listening to it.'”

I dare say the Obamas are making enough on their pair of Crown books not to have any concern about this publication of public domain material, other than to welcome it. All publicity is good publicity.

Much of bookstore “publishing” consists of printing a book written by one of their customers, so more a matter of self-publishing rather than bookstore publishing. But it needn’t be restricted to that and to books which publishers have authorized for printing locally on the Espresso, as the Boston Globe story shows. For people who can’t bear to read an e-book this may be the avenue to pursue. If there’s a suitable file on-line for any public domain work you can potentially get a bookshop to print out a paperback book for you (for a fee of course). This seems to me an extremely liberating situation. It’s also a return to the early days of the book business where there weren’t businesses called publisher: there were printers and booksellers.