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Difference Between Short Run Printing And Print On Demand

Short run printing and print on demand are somewhat similar in that they typically address small quantities, but they do have significant differences.  This article focuses on the book printing industry, and not general printing, however the concepts apply across all of your printing needs.

The short answer is short run printing is limited quantity print runs using traditional printing technology.   Print on Demand are generally small quantities, printed digitally.   Due to the high upfront and setup costs of traditional printing, Short Run Printing tends to be fairly expensive on a per publication basis.  Traditional Printing becomes more and more economical the larger the print run, as the setup is spread across a larger and larger quantity.   Print on Demand however, frequently lacks the professional polish of traditional printing, but tends to be fairly inexpensive when tackling small projects as there is virtually no setup costs.

Warehousing your printing (literature fulfillment)  is an option that is offered by Print ETC that gives you the benefit of print on demand – small quantities –  with the advantages of Traditional Printing – High Quality.   Print ETC will do a full run of printing, deliver you only what you need “right now” and then warehouse the extra publications until you need them.

Short Run and Digital, in the Book Printing Industry

Short run is an industry term used to describe replication or duplication in small quantities, usually from 1-500 copies. Short run printing allows you to print smaller quantities. You can print as few as 500 copies of whatever you need printing, whether it be color post cards, posters, or flyers. Short run printing also means that you can get your printing needs returned to you faster.  Typically Short Run uses traditional printing technologies, just in smaller batches.

Print on demand is a newer technology that uses digital printing techniques to produce standard prints in a rapid and cost-effective process.

Print on demand, prints one copy at a time through a variety of print technologies while  and short run production, which produces very small amount, mostly used for course adoption and small book-trade orders. Print on demand is a fairly new adaptation of the short run printing technologies that most of printing companies utilizes to produce high quality short run print. However, there are quite a few differences between short run printing and print on demand printing.

Print on demand printing typically involves a consumer/user working in a desktop publishing or word processing application using templates.   This leads to very fast thought to deployment time, but also leads to frequently bland or “me too” results that lack the differentiation of old school printer.   Short run printing does not offer standard templates, and relies heavily on the creative process to produce fantastic printed results, but in smaller amounts than one would typically run through the offset printing process.

Most of print on demand printing service produces books sized to 5.5″x 8.5″ with no exceptions, thin volume books; typically print on demand books do not have print on the spine, if they even have a spine. Very few print on demand service can produce a book with an integrated graphic hardback case-made cover. Short run printing does not require a standard size. Since short run printing can customize the design each book, short run printing can also produces books that are unique and stand out.

Print on demand printing typically only creates trade hardback books. Short run printing produce completely custom, library edition over sewn or smyth sewn hardback books that will last for generations.

Print on demand printing publish your work on an “as is” basis and leave everything up to you. Short run printing can handle the entire publishing process for you.

No matter how many dissimilarities these two may have they both end up in a the same method, these two uses similar digital printing processes.

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