Local authors who are looking for a publisher do not have to look any further. They can publish their own books at the Rust Library in Leesburg.
The library has launched the Symington Press, a print-on-demand machine that can print, collate, cover and bind a single paperback book in a few minutes. Library patrons may use the machine to publish their books or print from a database of downloadable books by other authors.
“We are the only public library in Virginia and the D.C. metropolitan area to offer this service,” said Chang Liu, Loudoun County Public Library director, who calls the machine a “cutting-edge library service.”
Liu said the book machine allows patrons and staff members to print out books from the On Demand Books database, which contains millions of titles. Many of the books are out of print, she said.
To print a book, the user supplies the finished cover art and the book’s contents in digital files that have been saved onto a disk. The machine prints four-color covers onto cover stock and interior pages in black and white. After the pages are collected and aligned, they are milled to roughen the edges so that a spine can be created and glued. The machine then binds the cover to the book, and a shearing mechanism trims the pages to size. Within a few minutes, a completed book slides down the chute.
On Demand Books, manufacturer of the machine, markets it as the Espresso Book Machine. The name Symington Press is a tribute to A. V. Symington, whose $2.5 million bequest to the Loudoun library system in 2004 has funded equipment for the teen center at Rust Library, and writing and poetry programs such as the Book-in-a-Day project. The library leases the book machine for about $3,500 per month using funds from the Symington Gift Fund, library officials said.
James Bowser, online systems analyst for the county library system, said about 95 percent of the books printed on Espresso Book Machines in other locations have been self-published. Only about 5 percent were downloaded from the database.
Bowser said that the charge for printing a self-published book is $15 for up to 300 pages. Longer books cost more; discounts are offered when 10 or more copies of one book are printed. The machine can print books in variable sizes, as large as 81 / 2 by 11 inches and as small as 41 / 2 by 41 / 2 inches.
Library employee Ronald Worrell was the first local author to publish a book using the Symington Press. Worrell published his political novel, “The Blue Marble Group,” in May, to help library staff members test the system. He said that he had previously published the novel as an e-book and that he sold a few copies online.
“But it’s so much nicer to see it in print form,” he said, adding that the book machine offers an “excellent opportunity” for people who would like to see their work in print. He said that he was surprised at how good his book looked and that the machine was able to print a book the size of his 768-page novel.
Worrell said that he hopes his novel will be placed on the local authors’ shelf at the library and that he might publish more copies of it, depending on how many patrons check it out.
Liu said the library is introducing the book machine in a “soft launch,” meaning that the machine is available for public use but that the service is not yet being heavily publicized, as library staff members are being trained to assist patrons with the machine. She said a ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for the evening of Sept. 21, when author Melanie Benjamin is scheduled to speak about the library system’s short-story writing contest, Write On!
“We are very excited about this new service. It fits perfectly with [the library system’s] vision statement,” Liu said. “It promotes the joy of reading and learning.”