Offset vs Short Run Digital

The number of books and cost per book

Here I would like to step back and take a look at printing for a second.

There are two main types of book printing: short run digital printing and offset printing. They both have their advantages but the main thing that concerned me was the number of books. Generally, the minimum number of books made when offset printing is around 750 books. For short run you could do 1, 10, 50, 200, etc. smaller numbers. However, the number of books you print heavily affects the cost per book. If you want to print just a few books, you have to pay a lot for each one.

For example, here are some numbers I got back from the company that printed my book:

  • 10 books @$50 per book = $500 + tax (CAD)
  • 50 books @$22 per book = $1100 + tax (CAD)
  • 100 books @$17 per book = $1700 + tax (CAD)

Whereas for offset printing (from Print Ninja):

  • 250 books @ $8.82 per book = $ 2,200+ shipping (USD)
  • 750 books @ $3.87 per book = $ 2,900 + shipping (USD)

The cost per book affects how well the book sells, but so does the content of book itself. I had no idea who would even buy my book, let alone if I could sell 1000 of them. Even if the cost per book was low, if I had no way of selling enough to break even, it was no help.

Deciding what type of printing to use

Short run digital printing is expensive. After doing this project I realize why digital printing is marketed for things people expect to pay a lot for, yearbooks, internal company books, promotional material. The cost per book is high, and if you have to get them shipped to you, it goes up even more. Offset printing is really the way to go for printing a book to sell, but only if you think you can sell a lot of them. Short run seemed like the best option for my first step into book publishing/printing.

So I contacted one of the local printers with approximate book information, 8” x 8” square, perfect binding (softcover), black and white, 100 pages. My quote came back at $50 per book (for 10 books). Nobody except my Mom was going to pay that kind of money for my self-published work of art.

Contacting local printers

I sent requests to a couple other local printers for comparison and got mixed replies. One stood above the rest, the price was the same, but the information was much more forthcoming. He had worked out a price for 10 and 50 books, told me what paper they were going to use and offered to meet and talk about my project. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to go ahead with it and he was willing to meet me. Let me tell you, excellent email communication and the willingness to take on little, unknown projects and take them seriously is worth its weight in gold. This guy was great and I followed through and got 100 books printed with them for $2000 (tax in).

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