web printing vs. sheet for magazines, catalogs and booksYou have a book, magazine or catalog to print and you are not sure which printing company may suit the job best. Rather than spin your wheels calling willy-nilly or Willy the printer blindly, your time would be better spent if you understood the differences between commercial web printing and commercial sheet fed printing. Therefore let’s do a comparison of the two technologies in order to see the advantages or disadvantages of each printing company technology as it would benefit you with magazine printing, catalog printing, book printing or other types of commercial offset printing. I will also point out that in today’s commercial printing there is virtually no difference in quality between either type of press, when running the newer and well maintained printing presses.

There are many reasons to choose either web printing or sheet fed and while we can look at many of them here, the first and foremost reason to choose web printing is quantity.  Web printing presses print from large rolls of paper and at a much faster impression rate (a signature moving through the press), than a sheet fed printing press. However since the web printing presses are much more costly to purchase, own and run than sheet fed, the startup costs for a printing job will be much more and thus requiring a much larger quantity to amortize those costs over the run. Therefore we will review quantities and page count first.

Run Quantity & Page Count:

The quantity of your magazine, book or catalog that you want printed, along with the page count will dictate where your money will go furthest. This also depends on the nature of the press and the printing company. Some down and dirty newspaper presses may quote jobs of as little as a couple of thousand publications and with a minimum page count of 8 or 16 pages. Others, especially the more costly heat set web printers, with their more costly start ups, may start at 10,000 finished magazines or catalogs with a minimum of 32 pages, especially if they are running a double 16 page (32 pages) printing press. Book printers may segue from digital to the web press with as little as 500 books. Therefore there is no starting point as a general rule, but hopefully this gives one a reasonable yardstick depending on the nature of your project.

Page Size:

Unless you can be flexible with the size of your magazine or catalog printing, should your page size not be suitable for a web press, you will be printing on sheet fed equipment. As web printing companies print from roll paper stock, there are far less choices of paper sizes available to the web printer. Therefore if you cannot swim downstream with some typical sizes, such as 8 3/8 x 10 7/8” (many newer presses have a 10.5” height cut off), 6 x 9”, 5 3/8 x 8 3/8” or the larger half or full tabloid sizes similar to your local newspaper, you may not be printing cost effectively. Sheet fed presses can offer more sizes as there are many more sheet sizes available to them to run through the sheet fed printing press.

Paper Stocks:
There are far more paper styles that are available on a sheet fed press, such has cover grades that are heavier than 9 pt, high end stationary or other branded stocks, a wider variety of recycled stocks as well as heavier grade coated and uncoated stocks. Web printers generally are set up to print standard periodicals using standard and generally thinner stocks then sheet fed presses. On a sheet fed press, the lightest stock that can be run is 60# coated or 50# uncoated papers. Webs can run 27# news, 32# coated etc. Also the higher runs, where cost is a major factor with paper being half the cost of the job, most print buyers for magazines, catalogs or books want to use the lighter stocks.

Bindery Options:

If your bindery options are standard folding and binding, one reason to be on a web press is that much of the binding and sometimes even die cutting, gluing, UV coating and more can be inline. As Henry Ford discovered with the Model A, anytime you can produce printing in line, as a one stop assembly line process, your cost goes down. Since at the very minimum, web printing provides with the press signatures coming off the press folded, this precludes the need for folding and collating offline which must be done by sheet fed printing companies.

In the final analysis, if you are shopping price and your magazine, book or catalog has sufficient run quantity and standard page sizing you will be best served seeking a web printing company. Should your ultimate goal be to make a “fashion statement” with a printing job that is very unique and eclectic, so that when it hits the end users desk, providing the quantity is not too large, you stand out in the crowd?

Please remember Printing By Design for all of your printing requirements whether a sheet or web printing fit. We will save you money and at the same time provide you with the quality you seek.

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