Readorama: Kansas City’s Woodneath Library Center can produce bound books in minutes

The Kansas City Star

November 21, 2014 6:00 AM

Local historian Ed Matheny Jr. hosted a reception this month celebrating his new book on the history of the West Bottoms.

He sold out of copies. But no problem.

He made more.

More accurately, he asked the staff at the Woodneath Library Center of the Mid-Continent Public Library to power up its new Espresso Book Machine, which can print, bind and trim a paperback book in minutes.

The machine is unique to the Kansas City area, according to library officials. And it makes sense for authors looking to work efficiently, said Matheny.

“You don’t have an investment in a lot of books gathering dust,” said Matheny, who has written several volumes of area history.

The machine, installed in the Woodneath branch earlier this year, serves Mid-Continent’s core mission of literacy, said Steve Potter, library system director.

“We believe that literacy is about more than just reading,” Potter said.

“It’s also about the articulation of ideas and being able to have a civil civic discourse, and that’s not people communicating at 140 characters through tweets and texts. We kept thinking how we make that tangible, and this is what we came up with.”

Matheny’s book, “Cowtown: Cattle Trails and West Bottom Tales,” is the first book to be produced by the Espresso machine. But the technology is available to anyone, such as those who may want to publish perhaps 10 or 25 copies of a memoir or recipe book to distribute to family members and friends.

Staff members at the Woodneath branch at 8900 N.E. Flintlock Road in Kansas City, North, host a monthly class for book formatting. Assistance with other options such as copyrighting is available. Patrons pay a flat fee of $15, plus 5 cents a page and local sales tax.

While the Espresso machine is an attraction in itself — it is encased in clear plastic, allowing visitors to watch it at work — future programming will be about more than just the hardware. An upcoming class will feature an intellectual property attorney discussing copyright and fair use.

Matheny, meanwhile, said the book published by the Espresso machine passes his eye test.

“There are a lot of historical photos in the book, and they all reproduced nicely,” he said.

Copies of Matheny’s book can be ordered through the Jackson County Historical Society at or purchased at Rainy Day Books in Fairway.

To learn more about the Espresso Book Machine, go to

To reach Brian Burnes, call 816-234-4120 or send email to

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