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Horizons

The next frontier for Google? Books on demand.

By Matthew Shaer / September 18, 2009



So let's say you've just flown to a city halfway across the country. And you've arrived without a book. A few options: You could buy a paperback. You could walk to the nearest library. Or you could print out a novel from an Espresso Book Machine – a device dubbed the "ATM for books." (See video below.)

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Starting today, On Demand Books, the creators of the Espresso Book Machine, will hitch their business onto the back-end of Google's vast repository of public domain books. (That's approximately two million titles in all, if you're keeping track at home.) Already, On Demand has Espresso machines in a handful of locations, from Australia to Egypt and the US.

But by the beginning of next year, On Demand says it could have as many as 40 printers in cities around the world. The implications of the On Demand/Google partnership are many: Readers could get their mitts on more books, many of which are out of print. The bookstore is sold out of the title you're looking for? No matter – the Espresso will pull together a new edition for you.

According to figures provided by On Demand, a 300-page book could be printed and bound in under five minutes.

"We believe in an open ecosystem where people can access and read books, whether at a computer, on their phone or electronic reader, or from their local library or bookshop," Google Product Manager Brandon Badger wrote in a blog post. "This announcement is yet one more step towards fulfilling that mission: it helps people find and read these books in more ways."

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Could lawsuit mean the end of Skype as we know it?

Earlier this month, eBay announced that it would sell web phone service Skype, which it bought in 2005 for $3.1 billion. The recipients: Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen and a group of private investors. The price tag: $2.75 billion. Now, that deal appears to be in danger.

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