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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Printing Companies Save You Money on Digital Printing Jobs When You Accurately Estimate How Many Copies You Will Need

  • Here is a case study meant to encourage you to buy the number of brochures or books or any other custom printing job that you actually need, rather than underestimating the press run. I always tell clients that it’s cheaper to throw away some copies from a brochure printing run, or a book printing run, than to have the printing company produce too few copies and go back on press.

A printing services client of mine recently requested an estimate for a 56-page-plus-cover book printing run. They wanted to see print pricing estimates for 200 copies of the book, 300 copies of the book, and a split run (200 now and 100 later).

The cost for 200 copies was $2,186.00 ($10.93 per copy.) For 300 copies the cost was $3,123.00 ($10.41 per copy.) And for a separate run of 100 copies, the cost was $1,245.00 ($12.45 per copy.)

Digital Printing Is More Cost-Effective for Shorter Press Runs

Keep in mind that for a short press run, the job would be printed digitally. Usually one can assume a relatively constant per-unit price for a digital job. This is borne out by the cost for 200 vs. 300 copies ($10.93 per copy vs. $10.41 per copy).

In contrast, you would start to see more of a dramatic drop in the unit cost of printed products from traditional offset printing companies as the press runs increase. The more you print, the less each brochure or book costs to print. Most of your money in offset printing goes toward makeready (set-up charges) and paper. It costs relatively little for your business printing provider to keep the offset press running for a few more (10, 50, 100) copies. A digital press, on the other hand, is often priced on a stable, “per-click” print rate.

Keep to One Press Run, Not Multiple Press Runs, Even for Digital Printing

To return to the 56-page-plus-cover book my client wanted to print, it is clear that producing 200 copies and then an additional 100 copies later would not be as cost effective as doing one press run, whatever the number. Assuming $65.00 or $90.00 in freight charges respectively for shipping 200 vs. 300 books from the custom printing vendor to my client, and assuming an additional $40.00 to ship the extra 100 books at a later date, this is what the approximate costs would be:

  • For 300 all at once, the total cost would be $3,213.00;
  • For a split run of 200 and 100 books, the total cost would be $3,536.00.

The split run would cost approximately 10 percent more. Of course it’s up to you to decide whether the extra cost is justified. Sometimes you’re not sure whether you will need as many books as you think. If the job is digital rather than offset, it does cost less for your business’s printing service to produce a second press-run. After all, they’re not putting as much into setting up the digital press and running the job. Set up costs for digital printing are much less than for offset. But as you can see, it’s still worth thinking through your actual needs and not making a hasty decision.

Preprinting Sample Books Is Expensive

To complicate matters, my client wanted 10 books up front. Her boss was attending a seminar and had requested sample copies. My client had found some errors in the proof, and since there was not enough time to correct the job and print the entire run, her boss wanted to print 10 copies “as is” and then correct the book and print the 200- or 300-copy press run later. The cost for 10 copies including overnight freight from the custom printing vendor would have been $275.00. That is, it would cost $27.50 per book rather than $10.93 per copy for 200 books, $10.41 per copy for 300 books, or even $12.85 per book for the extra 100-copy press run.

This was a huge amount of money to pay for 10 books to be printed. Granted, some of it would go to overnight freight. Regardless, this is a good object lesson. When you break up the press run, you incur extra costs, even in digital printing. Printing companies still need to stop what they’re doing, open your files on the computer, and print the extra copies. In addition, paying for a number of separate FedEx or UPS deliveries rather than grouping the entire job into one freight charge will also incur a premium.

Needless to say, my client’s boss decided not to print the 10 books and chose instead to make all text corrections and then print 300 copies of the book.

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