Self-publishing Book Printing Australia

1. Overview – Australian book printing

When you are self-publishing a book in Australia, you’ll find many book printing companies that offer a range of services including offset printing, digital printing, short run printing, and more. These companies are spread out throughout the country, with many located in major cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Brisbane. Some of the biggest book printing companies in Australia include Griffin Press, McPherson’s Printing Group, and NewSouth Books.

Latest statistics indicate there are over 4,000 printing companies in Australia. There is plenty of choice. But these aren’t all capable of printing books. Book printing companies need special expertise and special equipment. With the printing industry in Australia it is commonplace for printers to subcontract work to others who may be able to do a particular task cheaper often because they have the most suitable equipment.

So if you find a little print shop on your local street and ask if they can print your book, chances are they will pass the work onto another printer marking up the price in the process. Sometimes printers will only do a component of the book and then pass it to a printer who can bind the book.

Printing a book can be a minefield – there are so many options, so many opportunities and so may potential pitfalls. All companies will have their own sales people with their own sales pitch.

One way to navigate this complex business eco-system is to simply view samples of print work.

Another way is to seek out the services of a broker. Green Hill will broker print for you if required. A good broker will be able to speak ‘industry talk’ and take responsibility for the outcome guaranteeing a great print result.

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2. Offset printing for self published books

Traditional book printing in Australia typically involves printing books using offset printing technology.

Offset printing is a printing method that uses plates to transfer an image onto a substrate (such as paper or cardstock). There are several advantages of offset printing, including:

  1. High-quality prints: Offset printing produces high-resolution, sharp, and consistent images with a wide range of colors.
  2. Cost-effective: Offset printing is a cost-effective method for producing large quantities of prints. The cost per print decreases as the quantity increases.
    Offset printing machine for self-publishing books

    Photo: Wutthichai Charoenburi

  3. Versatility: Offset printing can be used to print on a wide variety of substrates, including paper, cardstock, metal, plastic, and more.
  4. Durability: Offset printed materials have a longer lifespan compared to digital prints and are more resistant to fading and wearing.
  5. Customisation: Offset printing allows for a high degree of customisation, including the ability to print on different paper types and sizes, as well as the ability to print with multiple colours.
  6. Speed: Offset printing is a relatively fast method of printing, and it can produce thousands of prints per hour.

Overall, offset printing is a reliable, high-quality, and cost-effective method of printing that is well-suited for a wide range of applications and industries, including commercial printing, packaging, publishing, and more.

Some disadvantages of offset printing include:

  1. Higher initial setup costs: The plates and printing press need to be created before any printing can take place, which can be costly.
  2. Limited colour options: Offset printing uses a four-colour process (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) to produce a wide range of colours, but it may not be able to match the exact shades of some Pantone colours.
  3. Not suitable for small quantities: Offset printing is most cost-effective for large print runs, so it may not be the best option for small quantities.
  4. Not suitable for printing on certain materials: Offset printing is not always suitable for printing on certain materials, such as plastic or metal.
  5. Longer turnaround time: Offset printing has longer turnaround time than digital printing.
  6. Not suitable for variable data: Offset printing not well suited for variable data printing, such as personalised direct mail pieces or variable data labels.
  7. Not suitable for printing on irregular surfaces: Offset printing is not well suited for printing on irregular surfaces such as mugs, pens, or other promotional items.

To use offset printing as a self-published author, Green Hill recommends the printing of book in at least 1000 copy runs. For some self-published authors the investment in this quantity of book is a high financial commitment and high risk.

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3. Digital printing for self-published books in Australia

Some advantages of digital printing in Australia include:

  1. Lower setup costs: Digital printing does not require the use of plates or presses, which can lower the cost of getting started with printing.
  2. Faster turnaround times: Digital printing allows for faster production times, which can be beneficial for businesses that need to get materials printed quickly.
  3. Greater flexibility: Digital printing allows for more flexibility in terms of the materials that can be printed on, and the designs that can be created.
  4. Personalisation: Digital printing allows for easy customisation and personalisation of printed materials, which can be beneficial for businesses that want to create targeted marketing materials.
  5. Cost-effective for small runs: Digital printing is more cost-effective for small runs of printed materials, as opposed to traditional offset printing which is more cost-effective for larger runs.
  6. Cost-effective for short-run on-demand printing
  7. Cost-effective for variable data printing
  8. Cost-effective for easy and fast editioning
  9. Cost-effective for easy and fast updating
  10. High-quality printing: Digital printing can print great resolution and accurate colours and images.

More specifically why should self-published authors go down the digital track  for the printing of their books?

  1. Cost-effectiveness: Digital printing allows for shorter print runs, which reduces the financial risk for publishers and authors. Additionally, the cost per print is often lower for digital printing than for traditional offset printing.
  2. Speed: Digital printing is faster than offset printing, which allows for quicker turnaround times and faster availability of books.
  3. Customisation: Digital printing allows for a high degree of customisation, including the ability to print on demand, which can save on inventory and storage costs.
  4. Environmentally friendly: Digital printing is less wasteful than offset printing, which produces less waste and uses less energy.
  5. Self-publishing: Digital printing makes it easier for self-published authors to produce and distribute their work without the need for a large initial investment.
  6. On-demand: With digital printing, books can be printed on-demand, which can reduce the need for large inventories and storage space.

Overall, digital printing offers a number of benefits for book printing, including cost-effectiveness, speed, customisation, and environmental sustainability. Additionally, digital printing can help to democratize the publishing industry by making it more accessible to self-published authors and small presses.

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4. Digital versus Offset printing – the difference in a nutshell

Offset printing and digital printing are both commonly used methods for printing books in Australia, but they have some key differences.

Offset printing, also known as lithography, is a traditional printing method that involves using a printing press to transfer ink from a plate to a rubber blanket and then onto the paper. This method is typically used for larger print runs and is more efficient for printing large quantities of books. It is considered a high-quality printing method and is suitable for printing books with many colours, images and graphics. However, it has higher setup cost and longer lead time than digital printing.

Digital printing, on the other hand, uses digital files to print directly onto the paper. This method is typically used for smaller print runs and on-demand printing. It is more cost-effective for short runs and doesn’t have the same setup costs as offset printing. It is also faster and more flexible as it allows for on-demand printing and personalisation. However, the print quality is not as high as offset printing, and it is not suitable for printing large runs of books.

Quality: Regarding digital-print quality not being as high as offset – that’s fast become a matter of conjecture with some digital printers using dry-toner technology that certainly deliver excellence. Often to the untrained eye, dry-toner printing is indistinguishable from quality off-set printing.

In summary, offset printing is best for large quantities of high-quality books, while digital printing is best for small quantities and on-demand marketing and sales strategies.

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5. How to provide a book printing scope for your self-published book

Book printing specifications refer to the technical details and guidelines that must be followed when producing a printed self-published book in Australia. These can include things like the size and format of the book, the type of paper and ink to be used, the number of pages and images, and the layout and design of the text and illustrations.

Other important specifications may include the binding method, the typeface and font size, and the color scheme. These specifications are typically provided by the publisher or author and must be followed by the printer to ensure that the final product meets their standards.

5.1 Book size

The best book size to print depends on the intended purpose and audience of the book. Some common book sizes include:

  1. Trade paperback: This is the most common size for adult fiction and non-fiction books. It typically measures around 6 inches by 9 inches and is easy to hold and read.
  2. Mass market paperback: This is a smaller size than trade paperback, usually around 4 inches by 7 inches, and is typically used for genre fiction such as mystery, romance, and science fiction.
  3. Digest: This is smaller than mass market paperback, around 4.25 inches by 6.75 inches, and is typically used for magazines and comics.
  4. Hardcover: This is a larger size than trade paperback, typically around 6 inches by 9 inches, and is typically used for more serious, literary, or scholarly books.
  5. Picture book: This is smaller than trade paperback, around 7 inches by 10 inches or 8.5 inches by 11 inches and is typically used for children’s books, illustrated books, or photo books.
  6. Large format: This is larger than trade paperback and hardcover, typically used for coffee table books, art books, and photography books, it may measure up to 11 inches by 14 inches.

Ultimately, the size of the book should be determined by the content and target audience of the book, as well as the budget and goals of the publisher or self-published author.

5.2 Paper types

There are a variety of paper types available for book printing in Australia, including:

  1. Coated paper: Coated paper is smooth and glossy, making it ideal for printing high-quality images and graphics. It is available in different weights and finishes, such as gloss, semi-gloss, and matte.
  2. Uncoated paper: Uncoated paper has a more natural, organic look and feel. It is available in different weights and finishes, such as bond, offset, and text. It is well-suited for printing text-heavy books and novels.
  3. Recycled paper: Recycled paper is made from post-consumer waste, which makes it an environmentally friendly option. It is available in different weights and finishes, such as bond, offset, and text.
  4. Specialty paper: Specialty paper is available in a variety of textures and colours, and it is often used to create unique or premium-quality books. Some examples include handmade paper, laid paper, and vellum.
  5. Woodfree paper: Woodfree paper is made from pure cellulose and is also called acid-free paper. It is known for its high resistance to yellowing, which is ideal for archival and long-term storage of books.
  6. Newsprint: Newsprint is an inexpensive and lightweight paper, which is mostly used for newspapers and magazines. It is not recommended for book printing because it is not durable and the print quality is low.

Keep in mind, paper selection for book printing can vary by publisher and printer. Australian printers may have access to different types of paper depending on their local suppliers, and some may have more experience with certain types of paper than others.

5.3 Book binding types

There are a variety of book binding options available for book printing in Australia, including:

  1. Perfect binding: This method is commonly used for paperbacks and involves gluing the pages to the spine of the book.
  2. Saddle-stitching: This method is used for small booklets or brochures and involves sewing the pages together through the fold.
  3. Case binding: This method is used for hardcover books and involves gluing the pages to a hard cover.
  4. Spiral binding: This method is used for notebooks and other items that need to lie flat when open.
  5. Wire-O binding: This method is similar to spiral binding, but the wire is bent into a double loop spine that allows the book to lie flat and open 360 degrees.
  6. Thermal binding: This method is used to bind books with a plastic spine that melts when heated and adheres to the pages.
  7. GBC binding: This method is used for binding documents using plastic combs.

These are the most popular binding options available in Australia, but there are other options available depending on the type of book and the printer you choose.

Options 1-4 above are most suitable for self-published books in Australia. Perfect binding can be achieved by two methods:

  • PVA – polyvinyl acetate (sometimes referred to as hot glue binding).
  • PUR – polyurethane resin.

PUR was once to be more expensive but is becoming the standard method of binding self-published books in Australia. The advantages of PUR and significant.

PUR (sometimes called polyurethane reactive) binding is a type of binding used for books that involves applying a liquid adhesive called polyurethane reactive (PUR) glue to the spine of the book. The adhesive is then activated and cured using ultraviolet (UV) light. This binding method is known for its durability and flexibility, making it a popular choice for books that will be used frequently or will be exposed to elements such as heat, humidity or cold.

PUR binding is considered a perfect-binding method and uses a flexible spine which allows the book to lay flat when open. Books bound with PUR glue are also known for the high resistance to humidity and temperature changes. The binding process is highly automated and can produce a high volume of books with a high degree of accuracy and consistency.

This binding method is particularly popular for books that will be used frequently, such as textbooks, library books, and reference books. It is also a good choice for books that will be exposed to harsh conditions, such as cookbooks, travel guides, and outdoor guides.

It’s worth noting that this method of binding can be a little more expensive than traditional hot glue binding, but the benefits of increased durability and flexibility can outweigh the additional cost for some publishers.

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