With today’s newest equipment, short run book printing is not only viable due to unit pricing that can match some web press pricing, but the quality many times is superior. Generally speaking the paper grade is better than the standard stock used for book printing on a web press and if you have any dots in your file (images with screens) the digital book printing press may be even superior. The covers today also can rival an ink press if your book printer is utilizing the latest equipment by Canon or Xerox.
With the newest Canon or Xerox IGen presses, covers for printing books can be done inexpensively as well as with high quality. With book printing one also benefits by using UV coating or film lamination for durability and professional appeal. Now with the newest machines for short run book printing you can benefit with the same finishing.
The equipment that produces short run text pages has been around for a while, yet there are always later generations coming to market. It is the Docutech by Xerox. Canon too makes a similar machine. The nice thing about these machines is that it not only prints but collates as the pages come off the press, thus allowing for a fairly inexpensive bindery due to the lack of need of off line collating for the single sheets used by the machine. A good tip here to save money, is always go with 50# paper rather than 60# as due to these presses using cut letter sized sheets, the 20# copy bond (same thing as 50# offset) market keeps the price down and thus a wider affordability gap between it and the 60# offset.
If with a commercial book printer, you will also have a wider variety of professional binding options. Another reason NOT to go to a press that is essentially a copy shop with upgraded equipment, is that you will benefit from the additional expertise at a commercial book printer in order to help you with any file problems, as well as any help you might need along the way.