10 book printing definitions

If you decide to self-publish your book entirely on your own, you’ll have to find and work with a printer or print broker. Which one you select can make a big difference, both in price and quality, so it pays to become familiar with the types of printing and printers available today.

Here are 10 printing definitions to get you started:

1. What is digital printing?

A method of printing in which the information about the image to be created—that is, the text and graphics—is sent from a computer to the printer, then printed using inkjet or toner technology. Because there’s no need to create a printing plate and set it up on the press, digital printing is faster and can be less expensive than offset printing.

2. What is offset printing?

The older but still effective method of printing in which the text and images to be printed are “burned” onto a printing plate, which is loaded into a printer and used to transfer (“offset”) the image to a rubber blanket, then onto the paper or other printing surface. Also called offset lithography.

3. What is a web offset press?

An offset printing press that prints on a continual roll of paper, which is then cut up into individual pages or sheets. Also called web-fed press.

4. What is a sheet-fed offset press?

An offset printing press that prints onto individual sheets of paper or other surfaces.

5. What is a long run?

Printing many copies of your book at once, from tens of thousands and up. Because you are printing so many, the cost per unit can be very low.

6. What is a medium run?

Printing several thousands of copies of your book at once, perhaps up to 10,000 or so.

7. What is a short run?

Printing a modest number of your book at once, anywhere from 50 to a few thousand copies.

8. What is an ultra-short run?

Printing a very small number of your book at once, generally less than 50.

9. What is POD (print-on-demand)?

A form of ultra-short run printing in which copies of your book are printed only when ordered, even if just one is ordered at a time. Because you are printing so few at once, the cost per unit can be fairly high.

10. What is a print broker/print manager?

An independent middleman who helps you locate the best printer for your project.

Although I’m not a print broker, I’ve prepared a list of book printers in the U.S. and Canada to help you begin your search for the right printer. I’m not offering an opinion on any of them, simply listing them to help you get started. Good luck!


Barry Fox, Nadine Taylor, ghostwriters, memoirs, business books, art books, history books, health books

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