View Full Version : Some questions about printing & design

05-21-2006, 02:34 AM
A friend of mine recently died. He was self-employed in the publishing business selling reference guides to railroad enthusiasts, which is how we became friends in the first place. I am currently talking with the family to see about keeping his business alive.

Here is my dilemma. I'm an economist by trade. The graphic design shouldn't be too difficult as it's mostly charts and tables. I think I can manage this OK. What I lack, however, is the knowledge of printing to know whether or not I'm getting ripped off. Anybody who is an economics geek like myself gets really annoyed in cases like this. :Headbang:

The reference books are 10.5" tall by 4" wide, saddle-stitched. Forgive me as I don't know my paper weights, but the pages are .004" thick and the cover is .010" according to my trusty calipers. Depending on the release, there would be 8 or 12 pages of color, with the books maxing out at 104 pages because of the saddle-stitching limitations.

He would typically do runs of 1500 copies at a time, paying between $2.50 and $3.00 per copy, for a total of $3500-4500 per press run. Like I said earlier, I have no idea if he was getting ripped off or not. While I'm thinking about it, how much more expensive does perfect binding run?

I could use a brief debriefing on the printing industry. Here are the things I'm curious about:
-How much do prices fluctuate across the USA and around the world?
-Does geographical location (relative to say, pulp and paper production facilities) affect the price of printing?
-In general, is the cost savings achieved from using a distant printing company always offset by the higher shipping costs?

On a completely different subject, why are Apple Macintosh computers so popular in the graphics and printing industries? For my regular job, Apple/Mac products have never been practical and to be honest, I don't like using them at all. Before my friend passed away, we had several friendly debates on this subject because he swore up and down by Mac's. Those were good times. :D

Anyway, given the situation I've suddenly found myself in, I don't especially want to learn Macintosh stuff all over again. The last Macintosh I used was the SE30 and it broke on me in 1992. It's been 14 years since I last used a Mac. Give me the pros and cons about why I SHOULD use a new Mac. How difficult would it be to take my friend's Adobe Pagemaker/Indesign files (created on a Mac) and transfer them over to a PC assuming I have software for the PC as well? How do most printing companies respond when you present them with files created on a PC?

Thanks for being patient with me. I have a lot to learn.

05-21-2006, 08:24 PM
First of all, that's a really, really awkward page size, and you're going to get completely unrealistic estimates (and be very lucky if they're at all comparable).

Converting to the more-standard trade size (6x9) and going for perfect-bound (which is more economical over 96 pages than saddle-stitching anyway), and converting all illustrations to b/w (more on that below), a print run of 1500 copies would spec out something like this:

text: 112pp 50lb white 6x9
cover: 10pt 4-color (note: the effect of the number of colors on a cover is miniscule at this print run, and I suspect you'll want a photo on there anyway)
est. cost: $2500 +/- $300 plus shipping (1500 copies)
est. delivery: 4 weeks

And here's why you want to avoid interior color work (leaving aside the expertise required to do it properly):

text: 112pp 80lb gloss or matte white 8x8
cover: 10pt 4-color
est. cost: $11,400 +/- $3,000 plus shipping (2000 copies, the effective minimum)
est. delivery: 9 weeks

Leaving aside the cost issue, getting interior color illustrations right is an art, not a science.

The answer to your three general questions is "it depends." At this instant, shipping costs are likely to eat up savings within the US on runs less than 4,000-5,000 copies. Two months ago, the break-even would have been around 6,000 copies; two years ago, around 2,000 copies. Then, too, if you happen to catch a printing plant with down time, you can often get a much better deal, particularly if you're willing to wait up to 4 extra weeks.

Finally, Macs are "preferred" because historically, the graphics subsystems on Intel-based machines were less adaptable to the software used for hardcore graphic design. These days, though, you'll find that actual book layout is split fairly equally between Macs and PCs (as opposed to 80/20 five years ago), because the software now available for PCs is considerably superior to that for Macs. It's also rather ironic that the dominant Mac software--Quark--is far more command-line-like than is the dominant PC software--InDesign (the successor to PageMaker). Much of this is just inertia and art-community perversity, not merit; I've always found the quirks in the Mac OS to outweigh any greater graphics ability, even in the 1980s when the Mac's graphic superiority was pretty clear. But then, I got my start using punch cards on a PDP-3.

05-21-2006, 09:36 PM
This is the kind of project that cries out for Lulu.com.

It's cheaper to put color images on a CD than it is to print and bind them.

InDesign files from a Mac will work with a bit of eyeballing and tweaking on InDesign in Windows.

You'll need to check carefully--be aware of things like fonts, etc.

Don't just import it and run to the printer.

And Macs are better ;)

05-21-2006, 10:31 PM
I should note, these "color" pages are not color photographs. They are color maps. I just counted, none of them use more than 10 colors.

There is a reason for the awkward size. I think I mentioned earlier these are reference-type books for railroad enthusiasts. The railroad companies issue materials using the exact size. Part of the appeal is the size because it fits into your back pocket very nicely.

07-19-2006, 03:08 AM
Those "colors" you see are all combinations of 4 basic colors (a red, a blue, a green and black) so "4-color" printing = "full color".

If you're looking for a very up-front printer who is excellent at odd sizes and whose prices are very good, check out Signature Book Publishers (http://www.signature-book.com/). I've worked with them and Phil is a great guy; very professional and good to work with. He does all bindings (including saddle-stitch.)