(GOOG) recently made an interesting move regarding its online books. The company has decided to make 2 million previously scanned books in the public domain available to On Demand Books, the maker of the recently publicized Espresso Book Machine.

This would enable the owner of an Espresso Book Machine to identify the digital content, print on standard paper, bind and deliver over the counter to a customer in less than five minutes. The store/library/university would not need to maintain an inventory of books, although it would need to maintain an inventory of printing materials.

The concept is of great benefit to consumers as even rare books produced under this model will be available with minimum hassle. Currently, digital books can be read online on Amazon’s (AMZN) Kindle or Sony’s (SNE) Reader. The option to convert to paperbacks extends the choice further.

However, Amazon and Sony readers offer wider access since Google’s current list only includes out-of-print and out-of-copyright books. Further, under the present US laws, copyright extends through the life of the author plus 70 years. It is thus unlikely that the list will grow at a fast pace.

The new deal more than doubles books currently available to On Demand through other agreements. The company has around 16 machines installed at various stores, libraries, universities, etc. and plans to make another 64 available next year. The machines are priced at $75,000-$100,000 each and have the capacity to generate around 60,000 300-page books a year.

If Google comes out a winner in the pending lawsuit, there could be a sea change in the book distribution and consumption space with significant benefit to the consumer and new-model book publishing businesses.

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