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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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Book Printing: More Ways to Cut Costs

In a few recent postings, I have been describing an ongoing book printing job. My client wants to reduce the cost, and she has therefore been considering various formats, bindings, and color schemes.

The way I have approached this challenge has been to identify the two lowest-cost book printers in whom I have developed a deep level of trust. I had bid the job out to four vendors initially and had chosen two printing companies with quality samples, knowledgeable account representatives who are proactive in offering suggestions and options, and low prices relative to the other commercial printers.

I requested bids for the following three options and disclosed the budget target: $4,500.00:

Option #1:

Qty: 5,000
Paper: 65# Cover, 50# Matte Text
Text: 56 pages: black and white
Binding: Saddle-stitch
Covers: 4C/4C, with bleeds
Trim size: 8 1/8″ x 10 7/8″

Option #2:

Qty: 5,000
Paper: 65# Cover, 50# Matte Text
Text: 72 pages: 16 pages 4C + 56 pages black and white
Binding: Perfect-bind
Covers: 4C/4C, with bleeds
Trim size: 5.375″ x 10.875″

Option #3:

Qty: 5,000
Paper: 65# Cover, 50# Matte Text
Text: 100 pages: black and white
Binding: Saddle-stitch
Covers: 4C/4C, with bleeds
Trim size: 5.5″ x 8.5″

Analysis of the Options

  1. As you can see from the specifications, the press run had to stay the same: 5,000 copies.
  2. I had also reduced the cover paper weight from 100# to 65#, and the text weight from 60# to 50#.
  3. I offered three size options (from close to a standard 8.5” x 11” letter size down to a digest size of 5.5” x 8.5”). Obviously this affected the overall page count, from 56 pages to 100 pages. (The smaller format would require more pages to contain the same amount of information, although I also suggested to the client—respectfully–that reducing the amount of text or moving some information to their website would reduce custom printing costs as well.)
  4. I suggested two different binding methods: saddle stitching and perfect binding. I knew that if the book were over 64 or so pages, perfect binding might be necessary to avoid having a bulky binding job that might not lie flat.
  5. I suggested black-only text and an option for a sixteen-page color signature and the balance in black ink.
  6. In all cases I opted for a cover printed in full color on both sides of the press sheet.

This was the pricing from one book printing vendor:

Option #1:
56 pages: black and white
Binding: Saddle-stitch
Trim size: 8 1/8″ x 10 7/8″

Option #2:
72 pages: 16 pages 4C + 56 pages black and white
Binding: Perfect-bind
Trim size: 5.375″ x 10.875″

Option #3:
100 pages: black and white
Binding: Saddle-stitch
Trim size: 5.5″ x 8.5″

Clearly, none of the prices even came close to the $4,500.00 target. However, they still provided insight, specifically:

  1. On this vendor’s equipment, the length of the book seemed to make more of a difference than the color usage. (Note the difference between Option #3 pricing and the pricing for the other options.)
  2. From this I surmised that on their 28” press (which I learned about from their equipment list), more pages require more press signatures and therefore more press runs. Printing four-color or one-color text on a single press run seems to matter less in the overall pricing structure than the number of separate times the commercial printer must wash up and prepare the press for additional press runs.

This was the pricing from the other book printing vendor:

Size: 8.125” x 10.875”
Pages: 4-page cover + 56 pages of text
Cover: 4/4 (4-color process)
Text: 1/1 (black only)
Binding: saddle stitch

Size: 5.5” x 8.5”
Pages: 4-page cover + 72 pages of text
Cover: 4/4 (4-color process)
Text: 16 pages print 4/4 (4-color process); 56 pages print 1/1 (black only)
Binding: perfect bind

This book printer didn’t keep to the exact specifications but rather made suggestions that came closer to the target price of $4,500.00. This custom printing vendor has a 40” press and a press slightly larger than 50”. (Again, I learned this from their equipment list.)

From them we learn:

  1. It’s cheaper to print black text only in the larger format (closer to the standard 8.5” x 11” letter-sized sheet).
  2. But it’s more economical—i.e., a better value—to go with the smaller, digest size product, since you can print a longer book with both black text and a 16-page color signature rather than a shorter book with black text only (for only about $400.00 more).

Here are some considerations:

  1. All of this depends on the commercial printer’s specific equipment (check their equipment list). Not all printing companies have the same equipment.
  2. Remember to account for shipping costs. Some local printing companies will deliver your job to you at no extra cost, but commercial printers located several states away will usually charge freight, and this can add up (books, in particular, are heavy). In addition, shipping takes time, an important consideration if your material is dated.

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