Ask The Experts – Working With Printers

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Topics Discussed Below Include:

Looking for a Quality Book Printer
Working with Printers to Prevent Unauthorized Photocopies


I am looking for a good quality book printer for a full color 224-page 11×8.5 landscape book. I have a quote from Friesens in Canada. Are there any comparable US printers? Qty is 1,000 or 1,500. Hardcover and Softcover.

I will not work with Sheridan books anymore, as their quality has plummeted since they merged with some other companies. And their prices are too high. I don’t believe BookMasters can handle this job either. Capital Offset in Concord, NH is outrageously expensive.

I’m looking for suggestions for a good quality US printer other than those mentioned above. Can you suggest anyone? I’m asking the experts so that I have a recommendation from someone who has printed books with a suggested vendor and gotten good results.

Thank you!


4-color printing in the US is usually phenomenal expensive, especially at the quantities you are trying to print. Usually, you’ll find that you can get price breaks on a unit basis above 2,000 copies, so I would encourage you to quote going forward on something like 1,000, 1,500, 2,000 and 2,500 copies, just so you can get a sense of what the cost of higher quantities is. You may not need that many books, but you may be surprised that you may not have to spend that much more to get the additional copies, which can make the cost seem a bit more bearable.

With that in mind, I’d recommend looking either to Mexico or China. RR Donnelly has a plant in Mexico that does four-color work and tends to be slightly cheaper than its US counterpart (I believe they also have a plant in Canada that may be worth checking out). If you are set on US, also look at Edwards Malloy in Chicago, they do a lot of four-color work, but again, usually expensive.

While the idea of printing in China can seem daunting, it’s usually not much more complex than here in the US. And the cost of shipping is usually only $0.30-0.50 additional to what you pay to print (and when you are saving $3-4/book, it’s worth it). Both Toppan LeeFung and Oceanic Graphic Partners (OGP) are good companies to look at…and I think Donnelly has a plant in China as well. I think you’ll find the cost savings to be significant and the print quality superb (we use both Toppan and OGP on a regular basis for our 4-color titles).

~ Adam Salomone is the Associate Publisher of the Harvard Common Press, overseeing all aspects of the digital and social media strategy at the company. He’s also involved with acquisitions, marketing, ebook conversion/distribution, and more. Feel free to contact him at or visit Harvard Common Press online at


I plan to publish nutrition-related worksheets for use by those who care for the elderly. Is there any printing technology available to prevent unauthorized photocopies of a worksheet so customers must continue to purchase the product and not simply make photocopies for future use? For example, blurring of photocopies to render it illegible….

Answer #1 (10/2011):

At first I thought, “No way!” However, the right answer is probably, “Contact a printer of bank notes and/or checks.” Yes, there are technologies that will reveal a “VOID” watermark on a check when photocopied, and there are a variety of techniques used to prevent color copying of currency. However, they are often expensive, and hardly foolproof. Most seem to depend on either “colorblindness” in black and white copiers (they may intentionally be blind to “repro blue,” for example), lack of greyscale gradation/high contrast in the copying process, relatively low resolution, and related techniques. Essentially, they depend upon deficiencies in the copying process. The problem is, all or most of these can be avoided when using appropriate technology, such as high resolution color scans with accurate color rendition. And the cost may push up your price to the point that folks don’t want to buy. Still, it’s probably worth looking into the products offered by American Banknote and the like.

I understand your concerns about copying. There is and will continue to be disagreements among publishers about how to approach the problem. Sometimes, the approach is to erect barriers. The trouble is, barriers are taken by some as a challenge to overcome. Other approaches are social – if your customers like and respect you, fewer are likely to copy. If they feel that you distrust them, some will copy and actively spread pirated materials out of spite. Others generate enough revenue from the initial sale and other products to make the impact of illegal copying painless. Others make the product so cheap that it’s inconvenient to do anything beside purchase the original ($1-$5 iPhone apps are an example).

And even if you make photocopying/scanning difficult (at, probably, a very high cost that has to be passed along to the consumer), it doesn’t prevent a person from re-creating your works. The number of authors and publishers who try to (legally) produce a “better,” competing product, can be staggering. If you’re successful, they will come. And end-users are often inspired to create their own, “better” version. This is especially likely with relatively short works like checklists and worksheets, where any individual with Microsoft Excel can readily make their own version. The results might look crude, the time they spend at it might seem unprofitable, but their emotional reward (one-upping the greedy publisher) is enough to compensate.

Another approach is to organize your business plan such that photocopying isn’t likely to hurt. Your current plan implies that you’ll be selling relatively small quantities of the worksheet to each end user, and hoping for repeat purchases. If your target customer is an individual care-giver, rather than an institution… Most individuals buy these items on good intentions, but rarely have the discipline to follow through. The number that might use up their initial supply and re-purchase could be small, under any circumstances. Rather, concentrate on that first sale, and, perhaps, provide spin-off products/services that your repeat customers would want to own in addition to the item you’ve already sold them.

Regardless of your approach to copy protection, make sure your worksheets are prominently branded with your name and web address. It will keep your brand name in that person’s mind, and expose your brand to anyone else they might “share” the form with.

In this day and age, it could pay to produce an app for iPhone/iPad and Android devices. Those are difficult to pirate, and, though the development costs are higher than simply designing some printed forms, you’d avoid manufacturing costs.

If you’re planning to sell to senior care agencies and the like, look at how textbook publishers work with schools. These days, they often sell a reproduction license, rather than try to sell more printed copies of workbooks/worksheets. Public agencies are generally required to respect copyrights, so the model is closer to software sales, where end-users know they must buy a copy of the software for every computer user, or one copy per physical location, etc. Licensing deals (in this case, probably a download from your web site) provide you with enough end-user information that you can reach your customer base with upgrade/new product offers, require subscription renewals, and the like. This is hardly a cheap infrastructure to build, but a steady stream of payments with low or nonexistent manufacturing costs (such as a monthly or annual automatically-renewing subscription) is a very nice thing.

It happens that my publishing house is doing many of these things. Our flagship book is a difficult-to-copy travel guidebook with built-in organizer pockets and worksheets. The cost and difficulty of manufacture is very high. Out-and-out copying would be more trouble and expense than its worth, and despite our fair success, even our colleagues in travel publishing haven’t attempted to duplicate our format/approach – it’s something of a print production manager’s worst nightmare. Individuals have been inspired by our approach to build their own version using ring binders and off-the-shelf Mead school supplies – they often spend more, but they love the process of creating it. Once we connected with our readership, we found all sorts of other ways to supply their needs, including related books and travel accessories, and a subscription “club” that delivers supplemental information and dozens of vacation planning worksheets in PDF format. For a while, a “premium” subscriber could request the design of a particular worksheet. Eventually, all the easily-built worksheets that could be made had been made, leaving only overly-complex interactive PDFs (fill-in forms with drop-down lists, calculated spreadsheets, etc.), so we withdrew the offer. In the process, we developed a large library of these worksheets that address most of our readers needs, and that library remains an inducement to new subscribers. We’ve operated on the honor system in regard to copying and copyrights, and have put enormous energy into our customer relationships, such that, although we’ve never copy protected our e-books and e-worksheets (PDFs), we’re not aware of any significant copying or pirating activities. Most people want to be honest, if you make it easy for them to be honest. It’s only when you create “unreasonable” barriers that the good apple goes bad.

~ Dave Marx is the Publisher at PassPorter Travel Press, and co-author of several of the company’s guidebooks. PassPorter guidebooks have received over a dozen awards, including IBPA’s Bill Fisher Award. He’s spent 35 years in the media—print, broadcast, music, and online. Dave also serves on the IBPA Board of Directors.

Answer #2 (10/2011):

I don’t know of any technology that prevents copying. I called a couple of printers I work with, and they too, did not know of anyway to prevent copying once the worksheet has been printed. Since the copying technology is essentially taking a picture of the piece, it is difficult to prevent that.

That said, there are probably ways to discourage copying. One obvious one is to make sure that the copyright notice is printed prominently on each worksheet, with a clear indication that broad dissemination, especially for a profit, is illegal. Another way would be to make sure that each worksheet encouraged the user to write on the sheet, so it essentially becomes a one-time use item. Another suggestion would be to carefully consider the paper that the worksheet is printed on, so that becomes a factor in usage. For instance, using a heavier stock may make it easier to use in client interaction, such as writing from your lap. Another thought would be to format the worksheet at an usual size that does not lend itself to copying. For instance, make it slightly bigger or smaller than 8 1/2 by 11.

I also think that merchandizing decisions can factor in to the equation. Sell the worksheets in packets of ten or so, but at an attractive price. That coupled with the formatting (paper, etc.) would, it seems to me, encourage purchase instead of pirate.

One final idea would be to gather a number of different but related worksheets into a workbook, so the consumer would be encouraged to buy the whole workbook for each client. You would include a place to write the client’s name and date on the front of the workbook. You could sell several copies of the workbook together.

~ Karla Olson has been in the publishing industry for over 25 years and has been involved in the creation and development of hundreds of books representing traditional and custom publishing and packaging. President of BookStudio (, she is also President of Publishers and Writers of San Diego (, and Founder and President of Read Local (, a marketing coalition for authors.

We hope you will find this program useful, but as with any advice, we recommend that you make sure it fits your specific business needs. IBPA does not specifically endorse or support any particular group or service.

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