Most of the time, the U-M Library’s Espresso Book Machine (EBM)—which can print, bind, and trim a high-quality paperback book with a four-color cover in about seven minutes—is used to reprint digitized public domain books from our own collection or from other open access sources.
But recently, Terri Geitgey, who runs the EBM in her role as Manager of MPublishing’s Library Print Services, received an unusual request from Natalie Price, a teacher at the Maumee Valley Country Day School in Toledo, Ohio. A few weeks later Price brought her novel writing class of 16 students, mostly high school freshman, to the U-M Library for a look at the EBM, which would soon be used to print their novels, and bind them in covers of their own design. (Afterward, they made their way to the U-M Museum of Art to attend an MFA-program sponsored reading by another young writer, Wells Tower, who in 2010 was named to The New Yorker’s “20 under 40” list.)
Price explains that the course is part of the school’s Winterim curriculum, which enables students in the upper school to study one subject for a month. Price got the idea to cap her novel writing course, in which students each completed a 50,000-word novel, by printing the books on the EBM after seeing the machine in action while visiting the Library to grade student papers (she lives in nearby Milan). The students’ bound novels were presented to the community at the school’s annual Winterim Fair in November.
Geitgey says this isn’t the first time the EBM has printed student work, though it’s her first encounter with an entire class of (very) young novelists. “It was a little crazy, because we were on a tight deadline, but it was also a lot of fun. Natalie and her students were a pleasure to work with, and I think we were almost as excited as the students to see their novels in final, printed book form. Projects like this really showcase the ways that technology like the EBM can be used to encourage and facilitate creativity.”
The Library recently installed a brand new EBM with enhanced production capabilities, which Geitgey says will better equip the Library to take on larger print-on-demand projects. “More on that soon,” she promises.
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