Offset printing—when does it make more sense than print on demand?

Posted By on April 17, 2013

Digital printing (also known as print on demand, or POD) has enjoyed increasing popularity over the past few years; its quality has improved as well. It offers advantages over traditional offset lithography, including lower set-up costs, faster turnaround times, and little up-front investment. But sometimes it makes more sense to print the old-fashioned way and have your books done with an offset printing book manufacturer.

You need a large quantity of books. With offset printing, the higher your print quantity, the lower your unit cost. This can be very cost-effective if you need 500 copies of your book or more. (Incidentally, you can run both an offset run and sign up with a POD outfit such as Lightning Source that also offers distribution to the trade.)

You plan to sell books yourself directly from your website or in the back of the room. If those are your only two sales outlets, you’ll definitely want to go offset. (See above, however, where I mention printing both offset and POD.) If you want to sell via Amazon as well, you can easily create your own account and deal with them directly (or you can become an Amazon affiliate).

You have a lot of photographs or halftones in your book and print quality is of the utmost importance. Although digital quality has come a long way since its inception, it still is not quite as crisp as offset printing.

Your cover has used PMS (Pantone Matching System) colors and you are looking for a close match. This is one area I’ve run into quite a bit of trouble with in terms of offset versus POD. We created two versions of one client’s books (well, actually three when you add in the ebook version), a hardcover version with a dust jacket and a perfect bound version with a coated softcover. The colors on the dust jacket varied widely with the colors on the softcover version. The printer blamed my cover designer and we blamed the printer. It turns out, the printer sent out its dust jacket printing to another source, which actually printed the dust jacket accurately. The softcover version, on the other hand, wasn’t. We were finally able to resolve the situation well enough to make our client happy, but it was a hassle all the way around.

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