One of the most important choices a self-publishing author has to make is who should print her book. To decide, she needs to know a little bit about the types of print processes she may choose from.
Joel Friedlander in his blog, The Book Designer, presents a good, brief overview of the options in his Self-Publisher’s 5-Minute Guide to Book Printing Processes.
He begins with a summary of the three most common processes available today.
Letterpress-used “from Gutenberg’s day until the middle of the twentieth century.” In this process metal plates are “inked and then paper is rolled over them, transferring the image to the paper, one sheet at a time.”
Offset Printing – a technology developed at beginning of the 20th Century which creates an image transferred to paper by a rubber covered cylinder.
Digital – which is the fastest growing print technology today , marries a computer-driven high-speed copying machine to computer-driven bindery equipment.
”The major difference between letterpress and offset printing, on one hand, and digital, on the other,” says Friedlander, “is that digital printing is designed to create one copy of a book at a time. The other, earlier methods of printing produce books in stages, and only work efficiently when producing many copies at once.”
In choosing the printing method which is best for you, you need to consider the intended audience, the purpose of the book and the number of copies to be printed. Friedlander offers the following rules of thumb to consider for each print process:
“Letterpress printing is used almost exclusively for fine, limited edition books …These books are usually made with lavish materials and can cost hundreds of dollars each.”
“Offset printing is used for the majority of books produced today. Web offset is used to make mass market paperbacks, like the ones sold in racks at supermarkets and at airports, and for very large printings of other books. Sheet-fed offset book printing offers the best quality reproduction of artwork and photography, and is the most flexible when it comes to the number of sizes offered for books and the different kinds of paper available for printing…Use web offset for mass market and very high volume books that don’t need to be high quality. Use sheet-fed offset for print runs over 500 copies or where high quality reproductions are needed.”
“Digital printing is increasingly being used in the print-on-demand distribution model that’s becoming so popular…The self-publishing phenomenon has created a huge demand for digital printing through print-on-demand distribution, since it has eliminated almost all of the cost of putting a book into print…Use digital printing where print runs are very short or where you have no need of an inventory of books.”
Click here to read the full Self-Publisher’s 5 Minute Guide to Book Printing Processes