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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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The Printing Industry Exchange (PIE) staff are experienced individuals within the printing industry that are dedicated to helping and maintaining a high standard of ethics in this business. We are a privately owned company with principals in the business having a combined total of 103 years experience in the printing industry.

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Book Printing: Self-Publishing in Print Is Still Alive

I read a PrintWeek article today that bears out my experience as a commercial printing broker selling book printing (and other custom printing services). The article is called “From Blog to Book: the Art of Self-Publishing,” and it was written by Jenny Roper (

Over the last several months I have helped five new clients who are publishing print books of poetry, fiction, and photography. I had thought these clients would prefer the lower prices of online vendors such as Lulu and CreateSapce, but I was mistaken.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe online self-publishing venues serve an important purpose. In fact, I love the idea that people of modest means who write can distribute their work in this way. We don’t all have to be John Grisham to get our work out there.

That said, I had expected most people to choose the lower prices and limited hand-holding of the online self-publishers.

But in the case of my five new clients, I am seeing a desire in certain clients for the personalized service of a printer, or custom printing broker. An organization with only an online presence may give you a good deal, but they will not send a representative to your house to show you paper samples, discuss various binding options, or show you how spot gloss varnish on a book cover can contrast with spot dull varnish in subtle and artistic ways.

The Print Week Magazine Article

Back to the article. Jenny Roper notes that “we are now in an age of feverish self-publishing.” People want to make their voices heard.

The article goes on to say that some book subjects lend themselves more than others to physical print books. She includes poetry, novels, and photo books, and says that computer books lend themselves more to the ebook format. (I would think that technology and business tomes don’t require a tactile—or emotional—component but do require the immediate upgradeability of content for which ebooks are ideal.)

Reasons to Self-Publish a Print Book

Jenny Roper notes that people self-publish for a number of reasons:

  1. Some people start with ebooks to gauge the interest in a piece of fiction or nonfiction (it’s cheaper than print) and then roll out a print version if the interest is high (because people still seem to want print books, interestingly enough).
  2. Others write blog posts and eventually either collect them into a print book format or someone else collects their posts and publishes them in print.
  3. Still others want control over the distribution, pricing, proceeds, and rights for their book. Roper notes that this “inevitably involves a print element as well as an online one.”
  4. As noted above, self-published books focusing on art, photography, and cooking lend themselves to print books in large part due to the higher resolution of print images when compared to 72dpi on-screen images.
  5. Self-publishers often choose print books for volumes of local or personal history. According to the article, books of memoirs seem to be printed first rather than published first as ebooks. This is counter-intuitive, since ebooks cost less to produce, store, and distribute (and self-publishers are bearing the cost themselves). However, for a product that focuses on “a culmination of a lifetime’s expectation and many years’ work,” people often choose to produce a print book first. To them, there’s something about having a permanent item they can hold in their hands, even if the book will be read by only their friends and family members. It’s more “personal,” as Roper notes.

Back to My Print Brokering, and to Print Sales in General

My experience bears this out in spades. I have five clients who have paid slightly (or a lot) more to publish their life’s work in print, and they have been a delight to work with. Furthermore, most of them know each other.

Printers should keep alert. A little hand-holding in the arena of self-publishing goes a long way. In fact, printers who can offer such ancillary services as editing, design, marketing, storage, distribution, and procurement of ISBN numbers, in addition to custom printing, will have an edge in this niche market.

What Can We Learn from This?

Print books are not dead. At worst, they are becoming more specialized. Certain people still prefer print on paper for certain items. Most of their reasons focus on its personal, tangible, tactile, and unchangeable nature.

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