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Print on Demand vs. Offset Printing

As a publisher, we have a responsibility to make sure that we do our job well. A big part of that responsibility is the aptitude to bring our audience what they want to read at the lowest price possible. Likewise, we are responsible for making as much profit as we can afford to lose available to our authors, without whom we would have nothing to share with the world.

One primary decision which greatly affects this ability is the manufacturing process by which we create our books. When it comes to printing a book, publishers generally have two options. We can either print the book as orders necessitate (Print on Demand) or we can conduct a large print run of hundreds or even thousands of books at a time (Offset Printing). Read on to find out which is right for you!


POD, or Print on Demand, is a method used to create a single book at a time. Publishing houses often use POD as a way to create one-off books as sales or requests come in. When properly applied, it works like this: the reader orders a book online or directly from you. The order is then sent to the manufacturer, who receives the customer payment, and the cost of production is deducted from your total profit. You then receive a payment from the manufacturer. Not every POD system works like this, but integrated printing solutions often follow this blueprint. Print on Demand is often used by independent authors who are publishing their own books, or short runs of books, as a way to save money in the short term.

There are many different companies that provide this type of manufacturing to publishers around the world. IngramSpark, for example, operates a service known as Lightning Source, a POD resource for anyone to use. BoookBaby and Total Print Systems also offer model Print on Demand services.


As discussed above, the biggest advantage to POD printing is the manufacturing cost. POD printers can create books one at a time, so even if you only have one or two orders, the overall cost is lower than offset printing. This allows a publisher to make their books more affordable and competitive with other titles on the market. Another advantage of POD printers is that there is no minimum order quantity. With offset printing, you often have to commit to printing at least one thousand books at a time, if not more. This can put a serious strain on cash flow, especially if your sales aren't as brisk as you had hoped they would be, or if your books remain in inventory unsold. Since POD printers work on a smaller scale than offset printing, they can print your books much more quickly. You may have to order your POD books a few days before your publication date, but that is often still enough time to get them to your readers. POD printing is often a more affordable option for the first-time publisher, since there is no upfront investment to print and store large quantities of books.


Offset printing is the process by which a publishing house, or a printing company, creates a large quantity of books on large presses. This process dates back to the early twentieth century and is still used in the publishing industry today, especially for large print runs. The workhorse of the printing industry, offset printing is often the first choice for publishing houses that want to produce a large number of books at a low cost. This is because offset presses can print thousands of copies of a title at once, and the setup costs are often less than a print on demand machine.


This depends on a couple of factors. Larger print runs mean lower per book costs. While POD printers can create a book for anywhere from three to twelve dollars, you can expect to pay around one to five dollars per book when printing in large quantities. So if you are planning on publishing a large title, offset printing can be a much more affordable option. Whether you are printing a thousand books or a million, the setup costs are the same. This means that you can create as small or as large a print run as you need and there is no pressure from the publisher to sell more copies than you're able to sell.

Print on Demand printers can print a single book in minutes, but offset printing takes considerably longer. If you are planning a publication date that is sooner than a month away, POD is probably your best bet. Additionally, not all POD printers allow you to use a full color cover.

Also, with offset printing you can use almost any type of paper stock and finish you want. This gives you much more flexibility in how your book looks, which is especially helpful if you are self-publishing.


If you are a small or independent publisher, or even a self-published author, print on demand can be a great option. It allows you to create individual books as orders come in, so you don't have to print large quantities of books that may not be sold. If you are planning on selling a lot of books that have a high price point, offset printing is likely your best bet. But most of the time, small houses and self-published authors publish titles that are smaller in scale and lower in price. This means they will often use POD printers, or digital publishing software, to create their books. If you are a small publisher or an independent author, POD can be a great option for creating your books. It has many of the advantages of offset printing, without any of the drawbacks.

On the other hand, if you are planning on publishing a large title, say more than five thousand books, offset printing can be a very economical option. If you have a large title and you want to take advantage of pre-orders, you will need an offset print run at some point. While you can create an initial run of books on a POD printer, you won't be able to create enough of them to meet demand. If you want to take full advantage of pre-orders, or if you want to create a large number of books to give away to your readers, offset printing is the way to go.

The appropriate method of manufacturing depends entirely on your publishing goals and the nature of your book. If you have a smaller title and you want to be competitive on price, POD is most likely your best bet. If you are publishing a large title, offset printing will be more perspicacious than POD.

If you are a small publisher, you can use POD to create small runs of books without breaking the bank. If you are a large publisher, you will likely need an offset print run and can take advantage of consignment printing.

Now that you know the difference between Print on Demand and Offset Printing, you can make an informed decision about which one is right for you!


At HIP, we prefer to use print on demand for most of our titles. This allows us to sell our books at the correct market price while still remaining profitable to the press. Inventory space can be expensive as well, so Print on Demand is an efficacious solution to the high cost of specialized book storage.

In an ideal world, Print on Demand would be more cost effective and every printer would integrate into an online sales platform, but material costs and manufacturer profits rise every year. At HIP, we believe that everyone has a story worth telling and we are always on the lookout for the newest technologies and marketing strategies to bring those stories to light. While you’re here, take a look around and see if Huntsville Independent Press is right for you! We hope you found something useful in today’s article. If you liked it, share it with your friends! Thank you for spending your time here with us. We look forward to serving you again next week!

Written by

Joshua Adams

Senior Editor

Huntsville Independent Publishing

This article was brought to you by Huntsville Independent Press, a premiere traditional publishing house servicing southeastern writers in any way we can. If you enjoyed this piece or found it helpful, please consider donating to our house @ $HIPHuntsville on Cashapp or by using the GoFundMe link found on the Support Us page. All donations go straight to author advances first and business expenses only. In that order. Together we can build a fair-to-authors company with ethical practice and a supportive passion for the art of the written word. Thank you so very much for your time!



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