What Is the Quality & Cost of Digital Book Printing Today?
Editor’s Note: The below video is excerpted from the webinar “Trends for 2016: The Future of Books in the New Year.”
Although digital printing continues to gain traction in book publishing, with over 80 billion pages printed digitally within the industry in 2014, book publishers still have their doubts as to whether digital printing can meet their needs. Book publishers voiced two major concerns about the technology during a recent webinar, “Trends for 2016: The Future of Books in the New Year.” They questioned the quality of digitally printed books and the cost.
Kent Larson, president at the Book Manufacturing Institute, attempted to dispel these concerns during the Q&A portion of the webinar. Larson said that concerns over quality should be minimal at this stage in digital printing’s evolution. Particularly with the improvement of inkjet technology, which allows for faster print speeds and a wider variety of substrates, the quality gap between offset and digitally printed books has shrunk considerably, explained Larson. In many cases, he said, publishers could not tell the difference between a book printed on offset versus digital.
Still, not all titles are meant for digital print production, said Larson. Books requiring long runs -- the anticipated bestsellers -- or art books dependent on high-quality images, may not be suited for digital printing.
In regards to price, Larson challenged publishers to reassess their traditional measure of printing costs, which have long been viewed through the lens of price per unit: What does it cost to print X amount of books? But that thinking ignores the many costs associated with warehousing and distributing titles, said Larson. Digitally printed books, though they have a higher price per unit cost, can be less expensive overall. Books printed digitally are printed in shorter runs, speeding up delivery time, reducing distribution costs, and essentially eliminating the need for warehousing. Plus, shorter runs mitigate publisher risk and the waste of pulping unsold books.
“Look at the complete life of how long that book is sitting in a warehouse versus the ROI. You’re going to make more money [printing digitally] because you're not holding all of that inventory and not knowing what to do with it,” said Larson.
Larson added that publishers can optimize savings from inkjet printing by printing runs ranging from 300 to 1,000 units. Digital toner can print slightly larger runs up to about 2,500 units, according to some book printing experts.
Watch the full webinar “Trends for 2016: The Future of Books in the New Year” to learn more about the cost-savings associated with digital book printing as well as strategies publishers are implementing to improve book discoverability and UX.