A Brief Guide to Printing Offset | Blurb Blog

A Brief Guide to Printing Offset
03 Jul 2017

A Brief Guide to Printing Offset

Blurb’s Client Services team gets a lot of questions from authors and businesses wondering if offset printing is right for their printing project. Every case is different, but here’s a basic understanding of offset printing, and some things to consider if it will be a good path for your book project.

While the bulk of Blurb’s books are printed digitally, when your volume gets higher, offset might be the right choice. Digital books are an efficient way to do as few as one book at a time, and Blurb helps a lot of people make a lot of digital books. Offset is an older, more traditional method of book printing. Each set of pages needs to have 4 custom plates made for each of the 4 inks used in printing (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black). The press itself takes up an area the size of a small warehouse floor, and when the press is run, it does so one time. It’s not possible to go back and print a few extra books with offset, nor is it possible to print a single completed proof book prior to the press run, like we can with digital printing.

Unlike digital printing, offset printing becomes much more cost-effective as quantity goes up.

While that may sound less convenient than digital printing, offset has advantages. Unlike digital printing, offset printing becomes much more cost-effective as quantity goes up, provided you are printing a high enough number of books. Our minimum volume for offset printing is 750 copies for photo books. It’s a bit higher for trade books and magazines, because it takes a higher volume to be cost-effective compared to digital printing. As you get into the thousands of books, you’ll see significant savings over our base retail prices—even past our very best digital pricing. Because each offset project is a custom job, which Client Services needs to consider individually, quotes can take 5-10 business days.

The production and shipping time will be longer for an offset print run than a digital one. We have offset printers in both the United States and China. Orders from China will take around 12 weeks from start to finish, provided there are no changes to the files. Orders printed in the US will take 8-10 weeks. This obviously translates to a longer wait, but the tradeoff is that the pricing will be the absolute best pricing Blurb can offer on book printing.

…the tradeoff is that the pricing will be the absolute best pricing Blurb can offer on book printing.

Offset printing is a bit more involved than using Blurb’s basic printing functions, which is where Client Services becomes your secret printing weapon. Until recently, offset book printing was only available to professional printers making many thousands of books, but Blurb makes it possible, and cost-effective, to print smaller runs. The Client Services team will consult with you to determine if offset is the right solution for your book. If that’s the case, we’ll start moving forward, getting pricing and files in place. We’ll handle all the technical details of dealing with the offset printer directly, as well as work with you to make sure your books, budget, and timeline is just what you have in mind, right up to delivery of all those new books.

When you decide to work with Client Services to print your offset book project, we recognize that it’s a considerable investment of both time and funds. We do everything we can to make sure you’re prepared for every eventuality, and informed of the process the entire way. If you have any questions whether offset printing is the correct choice for you, please contact Client Services today.


Josh Flanagan

Josh Flanagan is Blurb’s Client Service Manager.

  • Offset makes sense for larger quantities. But if you’re just starting out, it’s best to hold off. Especially if you don’t have the space to store all of the copies.