Offset vs. Digital Printing

Digital book printing has become an increasingly popular service.  The ability to produce small quantities of books and maintain nearly the same quality as traditional offset printing is very attractive to content creators who don’t want to store a lot of books.  For those outside the industry, the differences between offset and digital printing can be shrouded in mystery.  Here are a few of the major differences between digital and offset printing.

Imaging quality

digital printingThough subjective, the difference in quality of the books produced by these two printing techniques can be noticeable.  Advancements in technology sometimes make it difficult to differentiate between offset lithography and digital book printing.  Any noticeable differences ultimately come down to the type of machinery that is used to produce a printed page.  Some digital equipmentcan produce print on paper that looks better than print produced on traditional lithography machines and vis versa.  For example pantone colors are reproduced from digital machines by using a 4 color build (combination of magenta, cyan, yellow and black).

digital printing

Some of Malloy's Digital Printing Equipment

While this technique can reproduce pantone colors, there are occasions when it cannot or when it does not even come close.  Some machines are equipped with color management tools while some are not.  Depending on the color being reproduced, there may be a significant shift in the way it looks when reproduced on a digital machine.

Quantity of books

Offset Printing

Malloy's Largest Timson Web Press. Fully automated and capable of printing at speeds of 1300 feet per minute.

The fundamental difference between digital and offset printing is production capacity.  Offset presses, particularly web offset presses, can print thousands of signatures (groups of pages) in just minutes.  However, with offset printing, printing plates have to be made for each signature in a book, and offset presses require several minutes of set-up time between signatures.  Digital presses lack the production capacity of offset presses, but they don’t print in sections and go seamlessly from one title to the next with little to no set-up time.  Thus, if you need no more than 500 books at a time, you are likely to be better off choosing a digital printing solution.  When you need more than a few hundred books, and certainly more than a thousand copies at a time, offset is the most cost effective route to go.

Digital vs Offset Printing Schedules

Schedules for printing can run anywhere from 2-3weeks for an offset job (soft-cover) and digital jobs can be completed in a matter of days.  This all depends on the quantity of books needed, whether you want a proof and a variety of other factors.  .

Historically, Malloy specialized in offset printing.  While we continue to provide that service, we offer a high quality and streamlined digital printing process for customers that want fewer than 500 copies of a book.  Digital printing is one of the fastest growing aspects of our business.  Click for more information on our digital or offset printing services.

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