The Toronto Reference Library has long been a popular destination for those looking to enjoy the magic of books.
As of Monday, June 9, it became a place where people can print their own.
The Reference Library is now home to an Espresso Book Machine, which allows people to print bound, professional-looking, out-of-print public domain materials or books of their own.
Dubbed Asquith Press, the service is yet another in a growing list of services the library offers, along with other new innovations such as 3D printing, 3D scanning and audio production.
Dawn Connolly of the Toronto Reference Library’s Digital Innovation Hub said the press boasts a number of uses.
“We offer a lot of (digital files) in our online archive, but we’re often asked if we have it in book form and if it hasn’t been reprinted, we usually don’t,” she said. “This will allow people to print their own copies of works that are in the public domain, but the primary use for this kind of machine is self-publishing.”
While it will obviously benefit budding authors, there are few limits to the press’ capabilities. Connolly said it could be used for anything from novels to cookbooks to memoirs to genealogies. It can be used to print books from 40 to 800 pages with full-colour covers and high-resolution black-and-white pages.
“We have people on hand to make sure (users’) files will work with the machine, and the server can adjust files and realign them for printing,” she said.
Individual copies of books can be printed in as little as five minutes, and users can watch it print, cut and bind the book.
The Toronto Reference Library also offers a variety of services to help people publish their own books.
“We’ll be holding classes to help people format their books and teach them some basics of self-publishing and we already have Photoshop classes to help people with cover art,” Connolly said. “Because the machine’s right next to our Digital Innovation Hub, there are a lot of tools people can access for free with a Toronto Public Library card.”
The library even has an online formatting guide and links to editors, writers and designers through professional associations.
The library charges a $25 set-up fee, plus $6 per book and four cents per page, including blank pages, for use of the press. At those rates, 10 copies of a 150-page book would cost a very reasonable $145 plus tax.
Writers looking to print multiple copies can print off one copy to proofread before completing a full run.
Asquith Press joins a similar press at the University of Toronto as the only two presses of their kind in Toronto.
Author Nina Munteanu, a University of Toronto writing professor who will teach classes at the Toronto Public Library, was one of Asquith Press’ first customers. While she has a publisher, she printed copies of her latest book, Metaverse, using the Espresso Book Machine when she needed copies in a hurry.
“The fact that something like this is here in the library is so awesome, and they offer ancillary guides and workshops, all free,” she said. “It’s opening up all kinds of creativity. It’s a huge deal in terms of artistic license.”
The press marks a step back in time in an era of increasing digitization. While a growing number of people are reading e-books, the demand for actual printed material has not dropped off.
“The word in the publishing business is ‘hybrid,’” Munteanu said. “Publishers are telling writers to keep an eye on all formats – print, e-books and audiobooks.”
While Asquith Press just opened on Tuesday, it was already creating a buzz, with several library patrons expressing an interest in seeing their own work published. Connolly said she hopes the press gives people yet another reason to visit the Reference Library.
For more information on Asquith Press, including links to classes and workshops being held at the Toronto Reference Library, visit www.tpl.ca/asquithpress