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Thread: Book Printing Revisited

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Apr 2002

    Book Printing Revisited

    It's been a while since this topic was last raised so I thought I'd see what new insights there are to be had out there. I would like to self publish a small (9x9in, about 60 pages of photos, a page or two of print), softbound, short run (1000 books), b&w book of about the quality usually seen in books published by Aperture, i.e., not the high end 600-line work of Salto used by Michael A. Smith, but not the weak-toned, uncoated-stock end of the scale either. I am assuming (without any real experience) that print-on-demand will not give me the quality and consistency that I want although I would love to be wrong on this because of the convenience of the process for short runs and obviated storage problems. Anyone have suggestions for a printer, preferably on the east coast, that has experience with this type of book? I assume that I would need at least a duotone to match the typical Aperture book quality. In fact, I would like to know how to characterize the Aperture-quality book in terms of screen size, paper, ink gloss, varnish, etc. Also, any estimates of how much it would cost?

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jun 2002

    Re: Book Printing Revisited

    Most cities have printers capable of printing at the Aperture level. It has more to do with working with a good designer who will take the book through the process and proof and inspect the work. A photographer who has never published anything before may actually "get in the way" and either blow the budget by obsessively over-proofing, or they may miss something (like consistency being off) because they focus on the photos instead of looking at the project holistically.

    A really good experience to have before doing your book is to help someone mess up their book ;-) Non-profits and community organizations often have book projects going on. It might be a good idea to volunteer to help produce one. And maybe print a small poster or brochure to further understand the process.

    But as far as getting ink on paper, there are thousands of very good printers all over the First and Second World.

    Print on Demand is getting very good and for the right subject matter, the right combination of paper, press, and inksets could be very promising. It looks different but not necessarialy worse than trad offset. (Can you sense another silver versus inkjet debate brewing?)

    Experience - yours, not theirs - counts far more than anything else in this equation.
    Last edited by Frank Petronio; 22-May-2006 at 21:29.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2001

    Re: Book Printing Revisited

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Petronio
    Print on Demand is getting very good and for the right subject matter, the right combination of paper, press, and inksets could be very promising.
    Can you be more specific about a scenario that you think might work well and why? I should say that I don't have any particular axe to grind here, I'm just very much interested in understanding better the potential and limitations of the new PoD technologies in this application.

  4. #4

    Re: Book Printing Revisited

    i have designed and produced many many high quality artists books, regular clients are the thyssen-bornemisza musum and the prado museum and i have also worked producing books for the metropolitan and the moma. i've authored 2 book of my photographs too, but i am tellng you all of this because my advice would be not to go the traditioanl route.

    firstly 1000 book are very difficult to get rid of unless you have a distributor, so 200-300 may be better, in which case it would be worthwhile considering d-i-g-i-t-a-l printing system, you'll save a lot of money and the quality is great too, uses traditional papers and although designed for 4 colour work, my local place here in madrid make great tritones too.

    another thought may be to do a really limited run say 50-100 on nice cotton rag and print yourself on an inkjet, you could get that hand bound by an artistic bookbinder.

    good luck either way...

  5. #5

    Re: Book Printing Revisited

    Adrian, would you be kind enough to let me know who your printers in Madrid are? -I live on Gran Canaria.

  6. #6
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    brooklyn, nyc

    Re: Book Printing Revisited

    Friends who have done this report that the best bargains in traditional printers were in Italy a few years ago, and then in Hong Kong ... and possibly somewhere else by now. This is for standard printing in press runs of over a thousand.

    My friend Anne McDonald has now sold over half of her 1500 book edition, acting as her own distributor, but if I were in her shoes I'd never have been able to do that. For one thing she has cultivated a mailing list of several thousand. For another she's indefatiguable, and spent close to a year doing nothing but distributing her books. No thank you!

    The shorter run digital press Adrian mentions sounds like a more reasonable idea.

    Printing inkjet and having them handbound is a whole other ballgame. I'm doing this for a small artists book project now, but my run is probably going to be closer to a dozen, and I'm planning to pre-sell them. Binding alone is a few hundred dollars per book. That's after shopping around and finding someone who is just starting out and doing it semi-professionally--the established shops charge even more!
    Last edited by paulr; 23-May-2006 at 05:31.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Jun 2002

    Re: Book Printing Revisited

    The nice thing about Print On Demand is that once you have the book designed and all the images in place, you can print it on a variety of printers and/or presses to suit your budget and quality requirements. The same files that you can print one-off from your home printer will work with an Indigo or some other POD press. They'll also work on a sheetfed press in Iowa or Hong Kong.

    (This is a great simplification on my part, but the concept here is the hard work is in content/designing/editing of the book itself. The technical aspects should be secondary (not that quality should suffer in the least, only that if the book isn't a good project to begin with, the best printing won't save it...)

  8. #8

    Re: Book Printing Revisited

    Just a quick note about print on demand and new digital presses. Some people might think a digital press is just a laser printer, though most actually use a toner and oil based system, often with some heating phase to set everything to the paper. Such systems work surprisingly well for B/W images, though are limiting for colour images.

    Anyone more curious can get a guide book called The Art & Science of Digital Printing. This was assembled by Parsons (New School) School of Design and Xerox. It is available from Xerox directly, or from their website. I don't have any affiliation with Xerox, and I don't run an iGen3 digital press, but I do think this is one of the very few good guides on this new technology. Just the printed samples in the book would be very helpful to anyone considering using this for publication printing.

    My own preference is sheetfed offset, but newer print on demand systems could be more economical. They (digital presses) are not good solutions for all books, and some types of images will not turn out well using these systems. There is also an issue of consistency, since the digital presses require more frequent calibration than more traditional offset presses.


    Gordon Moat

  9. #9

    Re: Book Printing Revisited

    i think that quality problems that gordon mentions occur in all forms of printing, offset or digital, are due to the philosophies and experience of the company and people who work there. the proofs that i have seen on new high end digital printing machines will produce work, given the operator skill and experience, on any paper stock, that 99 out of 100 people will not be able to diferentiate from traditional offset.

    martin, this is lucam, i do not work for them nor am i affiliated to them, but i've worked with them for over 15 years, they are old school and great people to boot, you'll learn a lot, tell carlos i sent you, ojo, no hablan inglés:

    good luck


  10. #10

    Re: Book Printing Revisited

    Thank you Adrian. Spanish is no problem -soy canario!

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