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Beneath the foothills of the Angeles Crest Forest is the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse, where PCC students and locals come for course suggested literature, art books, readings, a relaxing atmosphere and a “cuppa joe”.

The Espresso Book publishing machine at the Flintridge Bookstore, Wednesday, April 16, 2015. (Monique LeBleu/Courier)
The Espresso Book publishing machine at the Flintridge Bookstore, Wednesday, April 16, 2015. (Monique LeBleu/Courier)

The rare brick and mortar boutique bookstore is not only a survivor of online competitors such as Amazon.com, but it also survived a fatal tractor trailer crash in 2009 that resulted in ultimate property relocation.

“The bookstore opened [in 2007] during a time when bookstores were closing,” said Gail Mishkin, marketing, events and author’s manager. “But ever since the store opened, there have been events here. It’s always been a part of what we do.”

This endurance stems from in its existence as a community hub, providing local author readings, a healthy collection of popular books, gifts, games, and a place to relax or study.

But the most unique feature of this particular bookstore is that the independently owned store is one of just two businesses in the Southern California area that features the Espresso Book Machine, a self-publishing, printing and binding machine, created by retired Doubleday publisher Jason Epstein, called an “Best Inventions of 2007” by Time Magazine

The Espresso can publish books in paperback form, printing out-of-print books on demand where they may not be otherwise available or out of print as well as new books by fledgling and yet unpublished authors.

But the machine is not self-service in the sense that someone can come off the street to operate it. Per Mishkin, those who wish to publish a book pay an initial set up fee and a question and answer time is set. Then the information is submitted digitally.

“We print for them,” said Mishkin. “[Authors] submit as PDFs and other specifications and we have people who run the machine. It’s not like going in and Xeroxing,” she laughs.

Authors published through the Espresso include John Wakefield, a career litigator, whose crime thriller Blood Drops was printed at the store and sold well, and local artist Patricia Krebs, who wrote a bilingual children’s book “Wings and Roots/Alas y Raices.”

Book readings come from authors as local as the space, science and research center NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratories (JPL). Eric M. Conway, a JPL science and technology historian for 10 years, read from and signed his recently published book “Exploration and Engineering: The Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Quest for Mars” at one the store’s events.

Although on staff at the local JPL, he also writes for scientific publications and has at least two books in the works at one time. He recently spoke at the store on the changes affecting the science of space exploration, funding, the cold war race for space and projects like the Mars Curiosity rovers exploration of the red planet.

“I’m expected to publish as the JPL historian,” said Conway. “Some of us only publish what the NASA history office in Washington runs [which is the] Monographs in Aerospace History, but are limited to about 100 pages in length. And I guess I was more ambitious. In a hundred pages I couldn’t do what I did here.”

Bookstore employee Amanda Thorp transferred from PCC to Cal State Northridge in 2013, majoring in speech pathology and has worked at the bookstore since 2012 while studying.

Aside from the frequent guest author forums such as Conway’s, Thorp enjoys other perks in her job.

“I like how it’s low-key and I can study if it is really slow. The people are really nice here,” she said. “And I like making coffee.”

Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse is located in La Cañada Flintridge at the Angeles Crest Highway. For more information on the Espresso Publishing Machine visit www.flintridgebooks.com.

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