March 21, 2015

A visit to the Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse

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Every independent bookstore in Southern California is unique. But none more so than the Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse in Flintridge La Canada, tucked up against the towering San Gabriel Mountains at the north end of the San Fernando Valley. What makes this bookstore so special is that you can actually see books being made there.

No, the good folks at the Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse don’t have monks sitting around long oaken tables hand-tooling red goatskin and working with gold leaf; what they do have is the astounding Espresso Book Machine. You can stand in front of the EBM—it is only a few sizes bigger than your typical office Xerox machine—and watch in wonder as it prints, collates, slaps on a laminated cover, and binds a single book in a few minutes. Voila!—a professionally bound paperback book, done in the time it takes to enjoy a cup of espresso (hence the machine’s name). Thankfully, the Flintridge Bookstore also has a cozy coffee shop where you can do just that, and have a brownie or a chocolate-chip cookie on the side.

The EBM is used by self-published authors who sell directly to their customers from their own website. All one needs to do is email the store a formatted PDF file of the book and its cover, come by and check out a proof of the book, and if that looks good, order books to be printed. It usually takes a few days to get up to 100 books run off. We here at Asahina & Wallace use the EBM to print advance galleys of our books, which we send out for quotes and reviews, before having our finished books printed by Ingram’s Lightning Source, which can handle much larger runs and distribute our product to all retailers.

What is most surprising after watching the EBM in action is that this is the only machine of its kind in Southern California. They are scattered around the globe: the famous Tattered Cover in Denver has one, ditto Politics and Prose in Washington D.C. and Powell’s Books in Portland—even the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt, has its own EBM.

Admittedly, the technology is new.  Perhaps it is only a matter of time before every screenwriter in Los Angeles will be taking his or her unpublished novel(s) down to the local bookstore or Starbucks to run off a copy or two. But for now, thankfully, we have the Flintridge La Canada Bookstore, founded, owned, and operated by Peter and Lenora Wannier since 2006, to print books in what just may be a glimpse into the future of publishing. (The fact that Peter Wannier is a retired engineer from Jet Propulsion Laboratory may explain the instant fascination for a gizmo like the EBM.)

So, if you are the kind of person who likes field trips, throw the family in the car and take a drive out to the Flintridge La Canada Bookstore. The staff, including Jenny Wannier (Mom and Pop’s whip-smart daughter), Anna Inuzuka, and Gail Mishkin, are nice, friendly, and always willing to take the time to show you their Astounding, Amazing, Magical Espresso Book Machine.

 

For more information about the Flintridge La Canada Bookstore and the Espresso Book Machine contact: The Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse, 1010 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011, phone: (818) 790-0717, email: espresso@flintridgebooks.com.

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