Please Note

This list previously shown on this page has been discontinued as printers with digital printing equipment are now widely available. If you are looking for printers capable of book printing, please refer to my list of book printers where printers offering digital printing services are included and flagged with "(POD)." This page remains for those who may find the discussion useful.

Digital Printers

Publishing on demand (POD) mandates an all digital work flow, perhaps using Direct to Plate or Direct to Press (this DTP should not to be confused with Desk Top Publishing) imaging. Most of the printers offering digital press services have looked at the digital market as demanding a premium fast turn around service, while book publishers are more interested in being able to economically order a small quantity with reduced cost. If you are seeking book printing services, some mutual education will be required as you consult with these printers.

Keep in mind, too, that the discussion covers printers who offer full-color (process-color) work. For most publishers the appropriate materials to be produced by these firms are covers, sales brochures, flyers/sell sheets, and other marketing materials. A few publishers, in need of complete 4-color books, may wish to contact these firms to determine if their project is feasible in a small quantity or "test" version. For most publishers, the interior of a book is single color (black ink only); for this a network Xerox Docutech (or similar device) is appropriate for printing short runs of the book interior pages. There are many printers who offer digital book printing services; They are shown on my list of book printers.

Press descriptions:

Heidelberg DI presses are based on a traditional offset press with special on-press digital thermal imaging device that was developed by Presstek. These presses are capable of printing any paper stock that a non-digital press can handle. An economic quantity to produce on this type press would range upward from three or four hundred copies of each original page. Presstek has also partnered with several other manufacturers such as Imation, Scitex & KBA, Sakurai, Akiyama and Omni-Adast to produce various on-press and computer-to-proof, computer-to-plate, and computer-to-press devices. There are currently several competing technologies being introduced or "just around the corner." Most manufacturers of this type of press refer to their presses as a "DI" model.

The Xerox DocuColor 40 (and similar Scitex Spontane) is essentially the "big brother" to the typical color copy machine; it prints 40 letter-size sheets per minute using dry toner on one side of the sheet at a time. The straight paper path handles up to 11 x 17 sheets, but there are limitations on very thick or thin stocks and on various coated papers. This would be an excellent device to prepare a modest quantity of materials as prototypes or for preparation of press releases. These machines can also output on heavy cover stock that is suitable for making covers for 'prototype' copies of a book. An economic order quantity is probably in the range of 20 to approximately 250 copies, depending on the project. In recent months, Xerox has introduced the Xerox DocuColor 60 (based on the Xeikon print engine, below) and the Xerox "NextPress." Xerox is also selling a model of the Heidleberg DI press under the Xerox label -- actually a remarkable situation when you consider that Xerox technology was supposed to "knock out" offset printing technology.

The Indigo E-Print 1000+ (and various other Indigo models, including one offered by traditional small press manufacturer and marketer, A.B. Dick) is a hybrid electrostatic printer-offset press. It uses liquid electrostatic toner-inks that are imaged on a "blanket" then offset to the sheet. A sheet passes through the imaging station four times in succession to image the 4-colors necessary to achieve full color printing. The E-Print is capable of accommodating an additional two passes to lay down spot colors or varnish finishes. Like a copy machine, each page is imaged in succession to make up a fully collated set. Paper stocks must be pretreated to run on an Indigo E-Print, therefore, the paper stocks are somewhat limited. Still, short runs of cover stock are possible on this machine. Economic order quantity ranges from 1 to approximately 500 copies, depending on the project. Indigo was purchased by Hewlett-Packard in late 2001. In mid-2002, the first Indigo models under the Hewlett-Packard label are being introduced. Despite the change in ownership, the OEM arrangement with A.B. Dick and others have been continued, so far.

The Xeikon DCP-x (and essentially similar Xerox DocuColor 70) is a dry toner-based digital printer that uses two sets of 4 imaging heads to print on both sides of a web of paper at the same time. (Web is paper-talk for a large roll of paper.) Sheets are cut to size in a "finisher" at the end of the machine. Use of continuous roll paper allows exact registration to be maintained throughout the project. The paper rolls, however, are a special small-size and are only available in a limited number of paper types and weights. These digital presses print complete 4-color books, although no extra spot colors or other finishes are possible. Print pricing of color books, however, is prohibitive for commercial sale, although some projects where moderate quantities are needed for prepublication marketing purposes may be practical. (Some text book publishers run prototype books for state text book selection committees. Changes, identified as a result of the selection process can be incorporated before the publisher committs to a full press run in commercial quantities.) Projects are printed in collated order. Economic order quantity ranges from 1 to approximately 500 copies, depending on the project. In 2001, Xeikon fell on hard times, with the parent company going into bankruptcy in their home country and was facing liquidation. The Agfa relationship with Xeikon was terminated, although a number of Chromapress installations still are active. The Xerox relationship has been suspended in the face of the bankruptcy. Recently, Xeikon passed through the bankruptcy and has been reorganized under new ownership. OEM arrangements with Xerox and others have resumed. Quality, speed, and cost of production allow the Xeikon-based equipment to remain competitive with the other technologies. As a result of the bankruptcy, some specialized models of the Xeikon have been discontinued. (For example, Xeikon was selling a single side "label printing" variant that was discontinued.)

The frustrating reality is that all these machines do not offer small book publishers the opportunity to print a book with full color throughout with any reasonable cost of production that might allow economic sales. Even the books printed for the text book publishers are outrageously expensive -- and are only reasonable to produce considering the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars of revenue that would result from adoption of a particular text by a large state. Otherwise, the only role for these machines, for the publisher, is to print "prototype" and sample quantities of books for pre production planning and early marketing efforts. In many cases, even those needs might be better served by books taken from the main press run shipped by express from an overseas printer.

Other printing technologies that show promise, but aren't ready for commercial book production include the VersaMark system. This (typically) million dollar (plus) machine is a super-fast ink jet printer. The black ink version is capable of printing book interiors, although there is some complaints about fuzziness of type generated with the ink jet technology. The CMYK (process color) version, produces colors characterized by very rough and uneven shades. Dither patterns are used to create intermediate colors, resulting in rather unattractive output. Probably suitable for low cost flyers, but certainly not competitive with offset printing for process color books. The main attraction of this technology is the very low cost of consumables, resulting in the capability to produce printed books at a very low unit cost. However, at this time, the low cost is accompanied by low quality that is unlikely to be acceptable in a trade book.

The printing trade magazines sometimes mention new technologies "just around the corner" that are expected to dramatically lower the cost of color printing with a digital technology, offset lithography, or some combination of the two. None of the various products given early publicity have reached the market. It is probable that a revolutionary breakthrough is unlikely, but rather evolutionary changes to existing equipment will eventually bring costs to more acceptable levels. Indeed, over the past few years, the cost of consumables and the reliable "up time" of the equipment has allowed some significant reductions in cost. Only time will tell.

Xerox iGen3

Xerox has been working on the iGen3 digital press for the past several years. In the fall of 2002, Xerox has announced the press as actually being availble. A select few printers have been operating the iGen3 in "beta" test for the past several months. It is claimed that the iGen3 will allow low enough pricing to allow a printer to produce a children's color picture book "at a profit." (Since this comes from a magazine directed to the printing trade, one assumes that the profitability would be for the printer.) It remains to be seen what pricing will be offered to publishers wishing to use this new digital printer.

You might make inquiries about the availablity of this toner-based printer for short run children's book printing. As the number of instalations increases, the list of book printers will add the designation "(COLOR POD)" to those printers listed who can offer competitive color POD printing rates.

At present, we have identified one printer, Mercury Print Productions, Inc. on our list of book printers with this capability.

Digital Printing Companies:

The listings of digital printing companies previously shown on this page have been discontinued. For listings of printers specializing in Print On Demand book services, see the main "Book Printers" listings and look for the "(POD)" designation.

Please contact us with any questions or comments you have about digital printers. Additions to this list are welcome. Printers (with digital presses) from other states who wish to be listed are welcome (available starting list only covered selected printers). Printers specializing in books are listed under Book Printers.

There are many issues in creating a professional book. Aeonix Publishing Group can help you with producing your book. We can give you advice, as a consultant, or we can produce a complete camera-ready book for you. We also can design covers and marketing materials for your book. In addition, we can help you prepare RFQs for printers and evaluate the bids you receive and give you guidance in marketing and distributing your book.

We have no financial interest in any printing company and do not specifically recommend any particular printer. Information provided is the most current available at the time this list was compiled. Always make inquiry with the printers to verify their ability to produce any particular job.

Please note: The information contained herein has been compiled from sources deemed to be reliable and, while not guaranteed, is believed to be factual and accurate. It is not intended to recommend or deprecate, and is furnished solely to assist you in exercising your own judgment.

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