Educational book publisher Saddleback has announced that they've partnered with On Demand Books to make their catalog titles available via On Demand's Expresso Book Machine, currently the only digital-to-print service with which customers can push a button and print, bind and trim a paperback book in under four minutes (a .pdf of the press release can be read by clicking here.)
When I read this I had one of those glimpse-of-the-future moments and imagined EBMs or something like them in every book store in the country. If all publishers made their catalogs available to print on demand in this fashion, customers could walk up, pick a title, press a button and have a new copy of any book they want in a couple minutes. It would redefine the brick and mortar store; reducing the number of physical copies they'd have to carry while making every book available (no more waiting a week for the store to get a copy from a distributor or their warehouse.)
I'd like to see the same kind of partnership evolve between On Demand and independent authors who want to sell print copies of their digitally-published works. Having these titles made available via EBMs would relieve the author of having to invest in printing and storing physical copies plus dealing with the ordering/payment/shipping headaches. It would also eliminate the portion of the profits the author currently has to pay online booksellers for selling print copies; the EBM would be a soup-to-nuts solution. We just need more EBMs now.