From an article in The Independent I learnt that there are 21 Espresso Book Machines in the world. These are capable of printing and binding a paperback book in less than four minutes. One of them is in a bookshop in Charing Cross Rd, London. The others, I believe, are in University libraries and other non-commercial locations.
They can print any book with a download from the internet.
I have speculated about these ever since I first heard of them. To me it seems obvious that any bookshop would do well to replace their shelves of multiple copies of in-stock books with displays of just a 'cover' image and a blurb, perhaps one copy only in stock for people who just have to handle a book before buying.
In my concept anyone could pay for a coded card which would enable them to either get a hardcopy immediately from the EBM or get an ebook copy downloaded onto their ereader or a thumb drive storage device. Those same cards could also be used in the same way as gift cards currently.
Combining the coded card concept with an Espresso machine in a display area would eliminate many of the costs borne by suffering publishers and retailers. No returns, no need to guesstimate the size of a needed print run, no shipping and storage costs (or much reduced) and much less retail floorspace required.
Drawbacks? For a start these machines are expensive. Secondly, so far they don't do hardcovers.
But this has to be the future of book retailing offline. Online is another story, as we know.