Frequently Asked Questions

Who or what is Opus?
Opus is Politics & Prose’s new book making machine, formally called the Espresso Book Machine (EBM). Developed by On Demand Books and distributed in a partnership with Xerox, the machine uses digital files to produce a high-quality paperback book in five to ten minutes depending on the length. With it, customers can access millions of out-of-print books or publish their own manuscripts. Opus has produced thousands of books for local authors, schools and universities, researchers looking for an out-of-print title, and book lovers looking for a unique gift. Please see the On Demand Books website ( for more information.

Where is it? Can I see it?
Opus is located in the fiction room of Politics & Prose, near the front window. You can see Opus at any time during our regular business hours. If you’d like to watch a book being produced, it’s most likely to happen Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Appointments to discuss your printing project can be scheduled everyday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


What size books can Opus produce?
Opus makes paperback books - the size is up to you! The length of your book can range from 40 pages to about 800 pages.  The width can be anywhere between 4.5 inches and 8.25 inches, and the height can be anywhere between 6.5 and 10.5 inches, with the stipulation that the height must exceed the width (no books printed in landscape form).

How durable are the books?
The paperback books printed on Opus meet the same publishing industry standards as the paperback books on the shelves of Politics & Prose - and will last just as long.

How long does it take to print a book?
From five to ten minutes for most books.

Can it print in color?
We can print the cover in color, but the interior pages, including illustrations, are only in black and white.

Can it print books in other languages?
Yes! We are printing from PDFs, so we have no problems with foreign characters.


Does Opus only print novels?
What other projects can Opus print?
How can I browse for or order a book from Opus?
How much do the books cost?
Can I sell my book through Politics & Prose?
How long does the process take?
How can I format my book myself?
Can you choose the cover you want on previously-printed books?
Can you change the size of the text on previously-printed books?
How do I know what my book will look like when it prints?
Are books printed on Opus returnable?
Why choose Politics & Prose for my self-publishing project?

Does Opus only print novels?
Opus can print anything that has binding. Whether it’s poetry, a staff or church directory, an instruction manual, a family or personal memoir, a special occasion book - the options are limitless!

Curious about whether your project and Opus might make the perfect match? Email or call (202) 364-1919. We can answer your questions by phone or e-mail.

What other projects can Opus at Politics & Prose print?
In addition to printing your self-created project, Opus can print:

  • Public domain (out-of-copyright) books: Many books have been digitized for archival purposes, and we can use the files to print facsimile paperbacks. Public domain books print with a generic cover that varies depending on the source of the book.The book we’ll print will contain everything that was in the original scan (library markings, notes, etc.). Examples of authors whose books are in the public domain include Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Lewis Carroll, Arthur Conan Doyle, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Herman Melville, Edgar Allen Poe, Bram Stoker, Mark Twain, and many more.
  • Non-public domain (still under copyright) books: Many books go out-of-print after a few years and are unavailable for purchase at a bookstore, but they remain under copyright. Often these books are academic, industry or trade publications, as well as fiction books that have dropped off publisher’s radars. Opus has a vast database of many out-of-print titles and can print them in a matter of minutes. These books will look and cost the same as if you’d pulled a copy off the shelf.

How can I browse for or order a book from Opus?

  • For public-domain (out-of-copyright) books: You have a few options for searching the public domain:
    Google Books (
    Internet Archive (
    On Demand Books (
  • For non-public domain (still under copyright) books made available by publishers:Orders for books in this database can be placed through the website. You can also call us at (202) 349-1182 or visit us in-person. The database of in-print books made available by publishers is compiled and managed by On Demand Books, the makers behind Opus.
  • Click here to see the Opus Bookshelf, a list of the author who have printed on Opus and have chosen to sell their book through us.

How much do the books cost?
The short answer is: it depends. When self-publishing your book through Opus, the cost will depend on which publishing package you choose. Packages vary based on the complexity, style, and length of intended product, as well as whether you plan to sell it. It also depends on the per-page cost of printing your book, which is separate from the cost of publishing packages. For more information on pricing, please see our publishing packages or contact one of our publishing professionals at or (202) 349-1182.

Can I sell my book through Politics & Prose?
Yes! If you’d like to test the retail market through P&P’s brick-and-mortar and online stores, you’ll need to select the Congressional publishing package, both of which cover all the costs involved with making sure your book is sales-ready, including the purchasing of an ISBN and barcode, as well as all the time and labor that will go into displaying, stocking, and selling your book. 

How long does the process take?
If you’re self-publishing your book you should allow for an ample amount of time between finishing your manuscript and the arrival of your first printed book, probably a month or more. For more information on time-lines, please contact one of our publishing professionals at or (202) 349-1182

How can I format my book myself?
If you’d prefer to format your book without the assistance of our Opus team, please review our formatting guidelines.

Can you choose the cover you want on previously-printed books?
No, you must use the covers that download with the book files. If you are printing your own book, you are free to design any cover you wish.

Can you change the size of the text on previously-printed books?
No, you cannot modify the text size as part of the printing process.

How do I know what my book will look like when it prints?

  • For public domain (out-of-copyright) books: Your book will have a generic cover. You can preview the inside of the book by looking at the PDF we’ll use to print it. Please note: the quality of public domain books vary depending on the source material.
  • For non-public domain (still under copyright) books: Your book will look like any paperback off the shelf. However, there is no way to preview the inside contents of an in-copyright book.
  • Self-publishing projects: Opus can print, bind, and trim a paperback book that looks and feels like your favorite paperback in five to ten minutes depending on its length. We cannot print color interiors, but are able to print any trim size smaller than 8.25 X 10.5. Typical sizes include 5.5 X 8.5, 5.25 X 8, 6 X 9 and others. Measure any one of your favorite paperbacks and we can probably print your book that size. A la Carte editing and design services are available upon request. If you’d like someone to do an in-depth edit of your book or design custom features for your cover or interior, please contact one of our publishing professionals for a quote:, (202) 349-1182. Please note that these services are per hour and are separate from our publishing packages.

Are books printed on Opus returnable?
Unfortunately, Opus books are non-returnable. However, we make every effort to ensure you are fully aware of the quality of the Opus book you purchase.

As a disclaimer, note that when working from print-on-demand books (as opposed to self-published works that we have personally overseen), whatever file we are given access to is what will print on the machine. We cannot alter these files on our end, so any imperfections in the original file will appear in the book as printed. For public domain books available through Google, PDF copies are available to peruse from Google's servers. We advise customers to take a glance through these files before asking us to print them in case the scanning job is not acceptable.

Why choose Politics & Prose for my self-Publishing project?
Authors have options when it comes to self-publishing their work. The advantage of Opus is that it allows an author to retain complete control over the process. You can print exactly as many books as you need now, with the option of ordering more in the future. As author, you retain all rights to your book, including non-exclusive distribution rights, and modifications to your book are possible for a small fee. You set the sales price of your book, and have the option to offer it for sale on consignment in the store and on our website via our Print-on-demand Consignment Program.

Further, by choosing Politics & Prose, you are supporting a local business that enriches the community, pays city taxes and provides donations and support to local organizations. You will also be dealing with us personally, not a faceless website or corporation, and we will make every effort to provide the help you need to see your project through to a successful conclusion.

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Is the machine environmentally friendly?
Yes! Traditionally, publishers print an author’s newest book without any idea of how many copies the book will sell. Opus allows us to produce and sell books specifically requested by customers and with a minimum of waste. Because Opus is located inside our store, there’s no fuel consumption or packaging involved in transporting a single copy of a book from the publisher to the bookstore.

For millions of public domain titles, Opus provides an efficient way to bring a book back to life without requiring a large initial print-run, storage of extra copies, or shipping for distribution. We can simply print a copy when and where the customer requests it. The only by-product of our book printing is the excess paper that remains after the books are trimmed down to size, which we reuse and recycle.


Contact Us

What if I still have questions?
Email or call (202) 364-1919. We can answer your questions by phone or e-mail.

We do our best to respond to your inquiries within 24 hours; however, due to the large number of queries we receive, and to give your project the time and attention it deserves, responses may take up to 2 business days.

You can also scheduled an appointment with Opus’ managers. Appointments are available 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. everyday. Appointments are scheduled in half hour blocks.