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  • Short Run Book Printing: An Effective Way to Control Costs

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    Books - Perfect Bound, Self-publishing

    Wondering if short run book printing can help you control costs? If you regularly print anything from books to brochures, one of the biggest questions you face is how many copies to print. If you order too many, you may be stuck with some expensive, excess inventory.

    If you don’t print enough, you may run out just when you need them. If you need to control costs, you can develop a headache trying to decide between a large print run or a small one. Fortunately, short run book printing solves the problem by offering a solution that is right in the middle.

    What Is Short Run Book Printing?

    In print terminology, a “run” means the number of copies you get printed at a time.

    When you work with a professional offset printer, you typically order large quantities at a time. This is affordable and convenient for both you and the printer because the unit price of each item is lower in a large-scale run than it is in a smaller run. This can be a problem if you want to print smaller quantities.

    Digital printing has created an alternative to the short run problem. Using this technology, print companies can produce smaller scale runs without charging high rates for your project. Short run book printing is faster than offset printing because it uses digital technology and publishing software instead of offset plates.

    Advantages of Short Run Book Printing

    There are many advantages to short run book printing.

    Control your printing costs

    If you’ve written a book, there’s no way to know how many copies you’re going to sell. Using print-on-demand to print a book each time a customer orders can become slow, expensive, and inefficient. Instead, you can order a short run digital batch of your book so that you always have copies available, but don’t have to spend money printing thousands of copies. If you sell out of your short run digital copies, you can order another batch or switch to standard offset printing for higher volumes.

    Get fast turnaround

    Short run book printing is one of the fastest ways to get the printed copies you need. It can take as little as a week or two to get your books printed and shipped to you. It’s an excellent choice if you discover that you need books on short notice, for instance, if you’ve been invited to a book signing or other event at short notice.

    Short run book printing can also be used when you need catalogs or pamphlets for a convention, job fair, or other event. Short run digital printing is an excellent way to quickly get any printed materials you need, including business cards, posters, catalogs, or signs.

    Requires simple, one-time setup

    The most expensive parts of short run book printing are the initial setup and print run. Once you’ve done that, longer print runs will cost less. Like offset printing, digital printing means lower costs per unit when you do larger print runs.

    Editing is easy

    If you must make changes to your printed design, you can do it easily between runs. Your printer can produce proofs before each run, and it is easy to incorporate those changes. You’ll find it’s a good choice for items where you might need to adjust the layout, prices, addresses, or other pieces of key information, for instance:

    • Catalogs
    • Membership directories
    • Employee policy manuals
    • Training materials
    • Billing and invoice forms
    • Contact lists
    • Textbooks
    • Letterhead paper
    • Journals
    • Calendars

    Produces high-quality materials

    The quality of digitally printed materials is high. Digital presses can create books, catalogs, brochures, and other materials that look top-notch. If you are worried about producing lower-quality units because you’re using digital technology, you can stop worrying. Your book and other printed products will be items you’ll be proud to use.

    Are There Any Disadvantages to Short Run Book Printing?

    The main disadvantage to short run book printing is that it costs more per unit than large-run digital printing. It is more cost-effective than print-on-demand printing, however, and it is a good option if you’re not sure how many units you need.

    Differences Between Short Run Book Printing and Other Print Types

    Offset printing

    Offset printing is the traditional printing form that is used for books, catalogs, newspapers, and magazines. It is the oldest form of book printing.

    Most offset printers use three cylindrical rollers. The first one holds a plate that is etched with the print images. The second roller rolls the ink colors over the etched plate. The roller transfers the images to a rubber layer, which then uses the third roll to transfer the images to paper.

    Offset printing is a time-intensive setup. It involves skill, experience, and knowledge of printing techniques. For these reasons, it is the most expensive print type to set up initially. Once the setup is complete, however, offset printing becomes the most affordable option when large quantities are being printed. Once the plates are set, large-scale runs will cost less per unit once you get over a few thousand copies. For book printing, the break-even point is around 5,000 books.

    With offset printing, you will save money if you run large-scale print orders. There are other advantages to standard offset printing.

    • It produces the highest-quality color resolution and text clarity.
    • You can print with stamps, foil, and other embellishments.
    • It is the preferred choice of bookstores and libraries.

    The disadvantages of offset printing are:

    • It’s a higher cost if you print fewer than 2,000 books.
    • You must pay for shipping and distribution yourself.

    Print-on-Demand (POD)

    Most book authors are familiar with print-on-demand (POD) because it’s included when they publish on platforms like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing or Barnes & Noble. The book is available as either an e-book or a POD book. If the customer wants a printed book, they can order it, and the automated system will print one copy of the book.

    The main advantage to POD is that you don’t have to stock an inventory of books or worry about shipping. The publishing platforms handle the payment and shipping. It’s immediately gratifying for both the reader and the writer—you get an instant sale, and you never have to worry about inventory, payment, or distribution. The buyer can buy a book without going to a bookstore.

    These are clear advantages to POD printing, but there are some disadvantages.

    POD printing is expensive. While it’s convenient that the platform handles shipping, this also comes at a cost because the price of shipping is subtracted from your profit margin. It’s convenient, but it’s also inefficient.

    There are some other disadvantages:

    • The self-publishing platforms limit the trim size and customization of your book.
    • You get less money because it’s expensive to print a single copy of a book.

    Digital short run book printing

    Digital short run book printing is a middle ground between the other two methods. It uses high-powered digital printers to produce copies that are high in quality. Don’t confuse these printers with the standard ones you see in an office or at your home. They require experienced technicians to oversee the printing and ensure quality. Professional digital printers can handle complex digital files with ease, and the color resolution and print clarity are outstanding.

    Digital short run book printing is more expensive to set up than POD and less expensive than offset printing. It is best for authors who want to print from 25 to 5,000 books. If you go above 5,000 units, you’re better off just using an offset printer. If you only sell a handful of books, you’re better off using POD.

    What’s the Right Choice for You?

    Before you decide which print method to use, consider how many books you realistically think you can sell. If you’re just starting out and don’t think you’ll sell more than a handful, you may want to start with POD printing. Use digital short run book printing once your sales start to pick up, so you can save money and keep some inventory. If you want the highest quality and a solid inventory of books, choose offset printing.

    Digital Printing Is a Good Option for Some Projects

    Digital short run printing is not the right choice for every author. If it fits your budget and your plans, it is a good compromise between offset printing and POD sales. If you have questions about book printing, contact the experts at Dazzle Printing.


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