I am almost ready to select a printer. I have narrowed the selection to three out of the fourteen printers who responded to my request for quotation.
They are all short run printers who can print 100 to 1500 books of excellent quality at prices that conventional printers cannot match.
When I say excellent quality, I mean that these short run printers use a toner-based technology which reproduces type better than most ink-based printing systems.
The books from all three of these printers had cleaner, darker type than was seen in the books printed by an offset process. I used a loupe to verify my first impression and found that the offset printing was clean, but the ink coverage seemed to be lighter and varied slightly, while the short-run printing was consistently dark.
The final three printer provided sample books with lay-flat laminated covers. This may not seem like a big deal, but if you live in Florida or in other humid area, covers protected by polyester, polypropylene, or varnish will curl and you will end up with a garage full of books that will look pre-used.
Varnish and two plastic films are moisture-proof, so the book covers will curl as the uncoated side of the cover expands. (The same thing happens when you paint wood on only one side.)
The lay-flat laminate is nylon with tiny holes in it to admit humidity. Make sure your next paperback book has this kind of cover lamination.
All three printers provided me with references, and I called to find out how these printers treated their customers. In all cases, the people I called raved about the great service they got from their printer! In addition, each reference told me horror stories about other printers they had used.
The most interesting thing for me was that none of these references knew about the other two printers. Most had dealt with their preferred printer for several years. Every reference said almost the same thing, "Once we found printer X, we never wanted to go anywhere else."
What an incredible set of recommendations! We all want customers like these!
As you can guess, I am going to make this decision very carefully. These are three excellent short-run printers and their current customers swear by them. There may be some factor I have not yet considered which may tip the decision. It would make the deciding much easier.
I think I will be able to summarize the decision in a few more days. Meanwhile, I am madly reformatting the book using InDesign and it is going faster than I expected.