Printing is the critical step of the process. The quality of paper and printing machines are essential for the final ‘feel’, the colors must vibrant and reproducible. To achieve this, we partnered with experienced offset and digital printing houses that can provide top printing quality and short delivery times. Please fill in this form to receive an estimate.
Offset or digital?
There are many factors the can influence the choice of printing method. Clearly, the most important argument for most PhD students is the price. Digital printing offers unbeatable price/quality ratio up to ≈250 books. This ratio is influenced by the number of color pages, so if your thesis contains a lot of those, offset printing might win the price battle. If you want uncompromised quality (for a price usually 30-40% higher), offset printing should again be your pick. Apart from all the above, the best way to form an opinion is to request a quotation here. Only comparing offers for offset and digital printing will allow you to make an informed decision.
What is digital printing?
Digital printing is much less complicated than offset. It is done using machines that work on the same principle as your desktop printer. Of course they are bigger, (much) more expensive and faster, but the idea is the same. Similarily to offset, multiple pages (up to 8, depending on the book size) are printed on sheets of paper which are subsequently cut to size and assembled together in the right order. After this, the separately printed cover is glued together with the inside pages using strong, flexible glue that gives the book the necessary stiffness and, at the same time, enables it to be easily opened without breaking (we use the ‘perfect-bind’ technique). Digitally printed books with soft cover can be stitched-bound. For cover we use 300 g cardboard paper (but we can also offer hard-cover solutions).
Probably the biggest advantage of digital printing is the low setup cost. This means that the price of your order will (almost) linearly depend on the number of ordered books. Therefore, digital printing is a great (and cheap) solution if you only need 100 or even 20 books.
One disadvantage of digital printing is the slightly lower print quality, as compared to the offset technology. This is mostly visible on large light-gray surfaces. These appear more grainy and rough, whereas offset printing produces smooth and uniform color. The quality of other elements like black text or color images is almost on par with offset, at least to an untrained eye.
What is offset printing? (modified from Wikipedia)
Offset printing is a commonly used printing technique where the inked image is transferred (or “offset”) from a plate to a rubber blanket, then to paper. This implies that to obtain an image, first offset plates have to be produced. These were once made using photolitographic process, but nowadays CTP (computer-to-plate) machines produce plates faster and cheaper using lasers. Ready-to-use offset plates attract ink where text or other elements must be printed and repulse the ink (and attract water) elsewhere. After submerging in an ink tank, plates (wrapped around cylinders) transfer the ink to a rubber blanket, which in turn transfers it to paper sheets. For black elements (like text), only one plate (used with black ink) is needed. To print color elements, four plates are used in series (each transferring ink in one of the four basic ink colors: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black, also called CMYK). This is why color printing is much more expensive than black only. Plates are usually relatively large (for instance 100 x 70 cm in full-format printing presses) and multiple book pages (4, 8, 16 or even 32) can be fitted on a single plate. As a result, multiple pages are printed on a single sheet of paper (actually on both sides of the sheet). This is very important, because if even a single page on the sheet contains color, the entire sheet must be printed in color. Pages are arranged on the sheets so that when properly folded, the sheets become little books. The arrangement of pages is important during the creation of the book layout when book contains color. By careful shuffling of the color figures it is sometimes possible to significantly reduce the number of color plates (and hence the cost). After folding, sheets (now looking like little books) containing subsequent pages are cut to proper size and put together in the right order, forming the final book. Next, the spine is glued (or stitched and glued) to the cover (which is printed just like the rest of the book, only on thicker cardboard paper). And this is it (of course in a great shortcut). For a more extensive desctiption of offset printing you can visit this site.
First, offset printing means quality. Offset is still unbeatable when it comes to color and detail reproduction and overal repeatability (although some of the last generation digital presses come very close). We print our books on top-of-the-line, modern printing presses (MAN Roland and Heidelberg) that quarantee highest quality. Our bindery is equipped in full range of machines to deliver precisely assembled books, fast. Second, the unit costs (price per book) of offset printing decrease rapidly with increasing number of produced books. This is because the initial setup costs (fabrication of the plates, machine setup etc.) are relatively high, but the production costs are very low. So offset printing is definitely recommendable with high-volume orders (> 300 books). Third, books containing a lot of full-color pages are usually cheaper to produce using the offset method. But again this strongly depends on book number.
Probably the biggest disadvantage of offset printing is the high initial cost. This makes printing of, for instance, 50 books almost as expensive as 200 books. Second disadvantage is that all produced books will be identical, so if you want some number of your books to have a slightly different content, you’ll have to pay almost double (because new offset plates will have to be made).