From today's "Publishers Lunch":
"Lightning Source announced a pilot program with the Espresso Book Machine allowing publishers to make their titles available for in-store printing through the POD [print on demand] machine. They says approximately 85,000 titles from publishers including Wiley, Hachette, McGraw-Hill, S&S, Macmillan and Norton will be available this way as of May (though there are very few machines in place in stores). 'Upon the completion of a successful pilot, publishers that print and distribute books with Lightning Source will have the option to participate.'"
Here is my book dream: aside from the guaranteed bestsellers and the fancy-paper-and-binding books (with which I have experience, via Godine), when you want a book you can get it printed in-store. At that point you can also choose whether or not you want to pay a bit extra for a digital product - either internet access to the book (i.e. stored in the cloud) or a digital download, which can be loaded onto the device(s) of your choosing.
The result: publishers no longer have to stress about how many books to print in each run - and because they're not laying out a ton of money for the print run, they don't have to worry about a digital product cannibalizing their print sales and losing them money on the printed product. As a reader, you get to buy any book you'd like, not just what the bookstore is stocking at that moment. And you get the good old printed book, while still getting the full text searchability (and other features) of the digital version. Win-win!
What does this mean for bookstores? I need to think about that one a bit more.