Blackwell bookshop announced yesterday that it is to install an "Espresso Book Machine" that will allow customers to print out a novel in just seven minutes.
The self-service machine, which will eventually be installed in 50 stores across the country, offers a choice of around one million titles. The fully-bound books are printed to library quality, including a front cover.
A more sophisticated version of the machine is smaller and prints books in just three minutes. The older version has already been installed in 11 sites worldwide and Blackwell hopes to eventually have the faster machine in its stores.
Britain's book industry has hailed the machine's arrival as potentially revolutionary. It means high street bookshops can offer a range of books that will compete for the first time with online stores such as Amazon.
Blackwell is leasing the book-making machine from its American owner, On Demand Books, according to The Bookseller. Vince Gunn, chief executive of Blackwell, described the technology as "trailblazing". "From a retailer's point of view, this is a fantastic opportunity," he said. "When I first read about the Espresso Book Machine, I was very keen to see it in action. I was really pleased with its performance when I saw it last year."
He said the machine was meant to enhance the choice in a book store, but that they would still retain a vast amount of titles on their shelves. "I'm a real advocate of books and I think they are here to stay. I don't think the book is dead but this is a great invention that will give more choice to readers," he said.
Alison Flood, news editor of The Bookseller, said: "Imagine going into a book store and getting an obscure title while you wait. It could be a way for street chains to compete with the range that is offered online. The novelty for readers will also be exciting and it could be a great thing for the high street."
On Demand has been in talks with other British retailers about stocking the Espresso. Blackwell is the first chain in Europe to place an order for the machine and the largest commercial retailer in the world to do so.