< back to full list of articles
Book Printing Just Got Cheaper

or Article Tags

Book publishing is changing-for the better. There is a New Model for book writing, producing, selling, and promoting. Now you can break into print faster, easier, and cheaper. One part of this revolutionary change is in printing.PQN (Print Quantity Needed) printing machines produce 8 to 12 books at a time from a PDF file on a disk. This short run printing uses a higher speed direct-to-image (disk to drum) electrostatic process with a toner blend that reproduces photographs well. There is no film or plate. The process is cost effective for quantities from 100 to 1,500 copies. It is no longer necessary to print 3,000+ books; 100 or 500 can be produced at a reasonable per-unit cost. Color covers are usually done with the same digital process.Putting a lot of ink on paper is now just an option; a good one if there is large prepublication demand such as advanced sales to bookstores and/or a sale to a bookclub. There is no longer any reason to print 3,000 or more copies of your book on spec. In the future, most books will not be manufactured until after they are sold.Costs. Let’s compare prices for traditional ink-press printing, PQN, and POD (print-on-demand, one book at a time such as DocuTech). We will compare a softcover (perfect bound) 144-page 5.5 x 8.5 book with black text and a four-color cover.

  • Press (ink on paper):
      $1.55 each but you have to print 3,000 to get a price this low. So your print bill will be $4,650.
  • PQN printer (short run):
      500 copies for $2.20 each or a print bill of $1,100, or 100 copies for $5.17 each for a print bill of $517.
  • POD (single copies):
    May run $6 to $10 each and are often bundled with other services. Print-On-Demand is a good option when a book has run its course, your inventory is exhausted, and you still receive orders for a couple of copies a month. Rather than invest in inventory, you can have books made as needed.

Hardcover. Most books are manufactured with soft covers, called “perfect binding.” In traditional printing, hard or “case” binding runs about $1.00 extra per book. For PQN production, the cost is $1.65 to $3.25 each, depending on the page count (thickness) of the book. Those prices include the hard covers and the dust jackets.Quality. The quality of the toner-based PQN and POD printing is actually better. The softcover or hardcover books look just like traditional books. There are no light and dark pages as in ink-on-paper printing. The density is maintained electronically, unlike offset printing where a variation of 5% to 10% is a regular occurrence.Time. Delivery for PQN books is normally five days from proofs, and reprints take two to three days. With your disk on file, reprints can be initiated with a telephone call, and the books may be shipped directly to your buyer.Signatures. The signatures of PQN short-run printing are just two pages because the print engines print two pages (both sides) at a time instead of 32 or 48. Now you don’t have to design your book’s page count in large signature increments.Mass customization. Because your books can be printed in short runs and since the new print engines print two pages at a time, you may customize your book for your customer. If you make a premium sale to a company, it will cost just pennies to bind in a letter from the CEO or to add the company logo to the cover.Multipurposing. Once your manuscript is written and converted to a PDF file, it may be re-purposed: put on your Website for download, uploaded to ebooksellers such as Fatbrain and 1stBooks, read on ebook readers, put on a CD, and you can send the disk to any of the three types of book manufacturers. Now you can provide your book in any version your customer wants and wring maximum value out of your work. Today we are no longer sure what a “book” is.Coming soon. Color PQN printing is nearly here. Soon four-color children’s and coffee table books will be manufactured in quantities as low as 100 copies. PQN technology eliminates the color separations and long print runs.For more information on PQN book production, see http://www.ddaplus.com or call Ken Hoffmann at Delta Direct Access, 661/294-2200.Now you may have just 100 to 500 books produced and used for promotional purposes. Authors may send copies to agents and publishers. Publishers may send copies to major reviewers, distributors, catalogs, specialty stores, associations, book clubs, premium prospects, foreign publishers suggesting translations, and various opinion molders.PQN production offers lower investment costs, reduction in inventory, custom publishing, quicker reprints, and elimination of obsolescent inventory. Now you can get into print cheaper and produce books only after they are sold.Historically a book had to be published in hard cover to be taken seriously by the media. In a few years, a book will have to be in paper form, as well as digital, to be considered a commercial success. A printed-paper edition will signify that the book is selling well enough to justify the ink printing.
Dan Poynter has written 81 books since 1969 including “The Self-Publishing Manual.” PQN printing is just part of the New Publishing Model he describes in the new 12th edition published by Para Publishing. Poynter is a past vice-president of PMA. For more information, see http://ParaPub.com.

This article is from thePMA Newsletterfor March, 2000, and is reprinted with permission of Publishers Marketing Association.

Connect With Us

1020 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Suite 204 Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
P: 310-546-1818 F: 310-546-3939 E: info@IBPA-online.org
© Independent Book Publishers Association