Designing for Print-on-Demand Production

November 2010
by Joel Friedlander

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Joel Friedlander-IBPAJoel Friedlander (photo right) is the proprietor of Marin Bookworks, a publishing services company in San Rafael, CA, that has launched many self-publishers. An award-winning book designer and a self-published author, he blogs about book design and the indie publishing life at

As the technology we use to manufacture books changes, designers responsible for creating those books adapt. Sometimes slowly. Sometimes reluctantly. But we adapt, because the new technology will eventually supplant the old technology.

Today most books are still printed by offset lithography, and any print run over about 1,000 units will benefit from the more mature ink-and-paper way we’ve been printing for a long time. But digital technology, used in print-on-demand distribution, is now very popular and gaining in popularity even for short runs, and for getting into print without having to pay for a print run up front. Anyone who has studied the history of technological transitions can see that eventually offset printing will die off and some form of digital imaging will replace it.

For now, we have to know how to design for both technologies, because our books—and sometimes the very same books—are produced on both.

Images on the Move

Recently I sent a book to Lightning Source for setup and proofing. In designing the cover, I used a technique I’ve often used before—choosing a color from the front cover, which has a white background, to use as backgrou…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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