Superior Book Productions

Offset Printing vs. Print-On-Demand

Choosing Traditional (Offset) Printing vs. Print-on-Demand (POD)
Choosing how to print your book is not an easy decision. Before you decide, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • How many copies do I realistically think I am going to sell? (To put that in perspective, know that 95% of books published sell less than 500 copies).
  • Do I have room to store hundreds of copies in my home, or do I want to pay to store them all somewhere? (Think hard about this. Those books will come in large boxes of 20-35 lbs each and weigh hundreds of pounds total.)
  • Do I want to sell books directly to the public by carrying them to various selling events? Do I want to sell them off my website and then go to the post office every couple of days to mail them?

Once you know the answers to those questions, you can decide what kind of printing better suits your lifestyle and your book promotion plans. Now let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages involved with both kinds of printing.

Traditional (offset) printing means that you work with a printer to have your books printed. A printer can usually print a run of 500 or more copies for you. Some printers will agree to do runs as low as 100.


  • The more books you print, the cheaper the unit cost. For example, printing 100 copies of your book might cost you $10.00 per book. However, printing 1,000 copies might reduce the price to $6.00 per book. Printing 2,500 might reduce the price to $3.00 per book. Of course, you’d rather pay $3.00 per book, but do you have $7,500 to spend upfront and a place to store all those books?
  • Traditional printers can usually handle any shape and size book, while Print-on-Demand services are usually limited to standard sizes.
  • Color printing of interiors is usually higher quality with Traditional printing.


  • You need storage space.
  • If you find errors in your book, you will have to sell out your print run before reprinting to correct it.
  • You have more upfront costs because you’re printing a large number at once. Printers might make payment arrangements with you, but most will want half upfront and half when the job is completed (usually within 30 days).
  • You have to deliver all of those books to stores and to individual customers, which means investing in mailing envelopes, postage, and making frequent trips to the post office, plus mileage on your car and your time spent delivering.

Print-On-Demand (POD) Printing
Print-on-demand technology basically means that instead of printing large print runs of hundreds of copies, you can have just one book printed at a time as needed. You can have your book files uploaded to a platform like CreateSpace or Lightning Source and then that platform will print and sell the books for you. For example, CreateSpace is the print-on-demand platform at Amazon, so if you used CreateSpace, your book would be for sale at Amazon. When people purchase your book at Amazon, CreateSpace will print one copy and mail it to them. It costs you nothing to use CreateSpace’s platform and you do not pay anything for the printing or mailing of that individual book. Instead, you will receive royalties on your sales, so for example, if you have a book priced at $20 and CreateSpace sells it, you’ll get a royalty payment of about $6-7, usually paid about two months later.

However, you may want to sell books at your website as well as at Amazon, and you may want to have your copies on hand to sell at book signings and other events. In that case, you can also order your own books from CreateSpace at a discount.


  • When you order your own books at CreateSpace, you pay the same price for every book you order and you can order as many as you want. The printing cost will depend on the size and number of pages of the book. For example, CreateSpace might charge you about $3.00 to print a standard size book of about 200 pages. You would pay $3.00 if you buy one copy or $3.00 per copy if you buy 500. And you can order any number you want—1, 27, 59, 238, 3,838, etc.—all at the same price per unit plus shipping (of course, the more you order, the higher the shipping costs will be). Other POD sources may approach this differently.
  • You only need to order as many books as you think you’ll need in the short-term so they are easier to store.
  • Your book never goes out of print because CreateSpace will constantly print it.
  • You are saved the hassle of mailing books if you prefer to direct people to Amazon, even from your website, to buy them.
  • You can order smaller print-runs so you don’t have to make a big investment upfront.
  • If you find an error in your book, you can have it corrected in your files and re-upload them without having to sell out your whole print run or destroy the copies and lose money. However, some POD sources will charge an additional fee each time you update your files.


  • Interior color printing quality is not always as good as with traditional printing so if you’re doing a colored children’s book, photography book, or coffee table book, traditional printing may be the better route.
  • Some POD sources, such as Ingram Spark, charge a fee to upload your book's interior and another for the cover and the eBook, if applicable. This fee is again charged if you need to upload corrected files.
  • Print-on-Demand companies tend not to support odd sizes that are used for art and coffee table books.
  • Some Print-on-Demand publishers may produce lower print quality. While that may still be true in some cases, print quality has greatly improved in recent years so that it is difficult now to tell most Print-on-Demand books from traditionally printed ones.

Whether you decide on Print-on-Demand or Traditional Printing, Superior Book Productions can help you.

We have frequently uploaded books to CreateSpace and Lightning Source and know how to use their templates and what glitches to watch for to make sure your book files are accepted.

We also have good relationships with several different printers across the United States who are known for producing high quality books and offering competitive pricing. We will be happy to connect you with a printer who will help you produce the kind of book you want.

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