what does cost of book folding and book binding depend on?

as well as book trimming and basically any and all other operations that occur after the book got printed as a stack of pages from an industrial laser printer.

Does this involve some sort of manual work? Are the machines involved expensive to buy? Are there large maintenance expenses for keeping these machines running after they are bought (as in the case with industrial laser printers) or do they usually just work without problems?

Is it important for the machines to work with books of a fixed length or can we assemble batches of books with 200 pages and 300 pages in the same production line without any expensive adjustments? Let’s assume fixed page size for all batches.

Are any of the supplies used, e.g. maybe glue, expensive? Or is the production cost almost entirely dependent on the cost of machine time?

Also, are there any “modern” non-industrial but sufficiently productive methods of book assembly? E.g. are there industrially produced kits that could be used to bind books using relatively primitive tools by trading off labor for capital? Could you let’s say bind a book in 30 minutes of work using some such “low wage man’s binding” method?

Blimey, you don’t ask much, do you? :smiley:

Honestly, it depends. There’s generally some manual work, but how much depends on the set-up. There are entire ranges of machines to suit different sizes/volumes of production — what would you consider expensive? At what point do maintenance expenses become “large”? What do you mean by “usually”? What sort of adjustments count as expensive? What do you think is a reasonable price for glue? What level of productivity is sufficient? What kind of binding do you want? What quality? How fast? How many? How long is a piece string?

You’ve obviously got something of a bee in your bonnet about printing costs, based on the threads you’ve started, but I get the impression that there’s one fundamental question behind it all, and that if you’d just ask that it would all be a lot simpler and we could actually be more help.

Are you trying to work out why your printing quotes are so high? Are you looking for a business opportunity, and hoping to find a gap in the market? Do you want a job in printing?

If I’ve got the wrong end of the stick, I apologise, but I’m genuinely trying to help you find some answers, rather than another list of questions.

I am interested in the price structure of certain industries (on-demand printing amongst them), both in the “here and now” and in “what could be achieved with straightforward adjustments” versions. No, I am not looking to actually print anything right now, neither am I looking for a job in a print shop.

So yes, “looking for gaps in the market” is closest to my approach. You cannot find the gaps in the market until you have understood how the market works in the first place.

code_grey, I’ve never personalljy seen any of the real moderators actually discourage anyone from posting questions but I think you may want to pause and see if you’re testing the patience of the members. I don’t claim to speak to speak for everyone but based on many of the replies you’re getting in your various threads, I think some folks feel you’re abusing SDMB as a free business advice consulting service. You’re asking many narrowly focused questions that have little interests to the general readers.

On the front page from the last 48 hours, you’ve started threads on:

what does cost of book folding and book binding depend on?
why aren’t line printers used for cheap printing of ascii texts?
why aren’t there newcomers in printer marketplace with machines using easy-to-refill cartridges?
what does the cost of 3d printing of an object depend on?
will single primary color printing on inkjet or laser printer cost as little as black-and-white?

SDMB seems to love questions about physics, mathematics, vocabulary, history, MS Excel, airplanes on treadmills, etc. Basically, the kind of questions you might find in Parade’s Ask Marilyn World’s Top IQ. (If none of those are possible, at least tie your printer related questions to something provocative like how to print naked ladies. :slight_smile: )

All your questions above obviously have a pattern related to some work you’re trying to do. So, what exactly are you trying to do? Is there some overall question you can ask that one of us might answer?

Modern book-binding is designed to function in bulk. There is a high initial cost to the equipment: printing presses range from the high $200,000 to about $2 million, depending on printing capacity, imaging method, and quality desired.

Finishing equipment (folding and binding) can be built into the primary press, but usually isn’t - folding equipment on the end of a print line will cost an addition $100K or so. Folding and batching of jobs requires “imposition” software (which may or may not come with the press, but is inexpensive compared to the system). The actual mechanics are very simple, and is easily changed based on job size. Ultimately, your pages always need to come out to a power of two in number (usually an even multiple of eight or 16) to avoid waste (and if you don’t want blank pages, manual removal).

Cutting and binding require two more (usually, they can be combined) end-of-line systems, which may or may not be attached to the primary press. Add another $10K or so for the cutters, and $50-$100K for the binders.

Materials cost is high: paper, ink, and power are the big ones; glue is relatively minor. Even the best presses require a lot of labor to load, unload, guide, and maintain, and there’s a lot of front end (literally “pre press”) work necessary for most customer jobs and to set up the presses for a run.

The primary maintenance issue is paper dust, which is impossible to really get around in an industrial setting – it gets everywhere, and needs to be cleaned out. It absorbs moisture and becomes effectively paper mache in hard-to-reach places, and of course it’s a fire and explosion hazard in it’s pre-moistened form. Ink is a lesser issue, usually, despite it’s inherent messiness.

On the other end of the coin, people have been doing one-off book binding for innumerable generations; a simple Bing search will provide a jillion hits on how to do it and the costs involved: for small numbers of copies, this used to be much more cost effective: today, digital presses can print on-demand in lot sizes as small as one, the setup being done largely in software on the press itself.

Right, well now we’re getting somewhere.

As I tried to explain in the other thread, you’re not going to understand the pricing structure of on-demand printing by scrutinising the physical printing process.

Times are hard for printers, and they have been for many years now – any rational, practical means of minimising cost and maximising profit have already been done by people who know the industry inside and out. And because, traditionally, the biggest single cost on any print job has been the set-up, some printers have gone the route of specialisation: not just, for example, books, but a single specific type of book (for each press/finishing line, at least). One size, one type of paper, one method of binding. This minimises the cost per job, but it does rely on being able to get sufficient jobs of that type to keep the press running.

This is where print on-demand comes in. Print on-demand companies offer an off-the-peg package deal — you fit to their format and schedule, rather than them printing what you want, when you want it. You want a brochure? You have to choose option A, B, or C and fit it to their template, in the format they give you. Then they send that to a printer who only prints that specific type of brochure, who fits it on the press when it’s most convenient and cost-effective to him.

Because each job is exactly the same as the last, the production costs are effectively fixed — but the cost to the consumer is only limited by what he’s willing to pay.

That’s where the pricing structure of on-demand printing really lies. It’s effectively divorced from the minutiae of the production process, and based almost entirely on “what the market will bear”.

Now, for heaven’s sake stop trying to work out if you could shave a fraction of a penny from the cost of a vanity-published book by using cheaper glue.

TimeWinder, thank you for your response.

Do I understand correctly that you have described a production line that starts with the printing press as opposed to a laser printer? AFAIU printing presses inherently require more preparation work than printers and so only make sense with large batch jobs.

Would the finishing equipment cost those same around $300K in a production line with the laser printer?

It seems that you ignored my question as to whether adjustments are necessary for the finishing equipment based on the number of pages. E.g. suppose Lulu.com has 2 jobs: 7 books with 200 pages and 14 books with 300 pages. Will the technician need to do any adjustments during job boundary, or will the laser printer based line basically do any number of such jobs without a hiccup?

now we are talking. So, WhyNot, why do you suppose a whole bunch of new companies have not yet entered the, as you claim, blatantly gouging industry and have not yet knocked the price down closer to the production costs?

high demand and mass production does not automatically mean mechanization from start to finish. i reckon that manual procedure shown in the britannica, using specialized hand tools, genuine leather, and gold leaf embose will still find a market.

I neither know nor care to speculate. I will point out that at no point did I make any claim of “blatant gouging”. The phrase I used was “what the market will bear” – and the market holds prices down, as well as allowing them to rise.

If you’re discussing the commercial production of a book, then the machine that does the printing (whatever technology it uses) is called a printing press. These are machines that range in size from “large family car” to “bigger than your house”.

I’ve been in shops that create books printed with pooled high speed laser printers (not digital presses). I’ve never heard them referred to as printing presses.

In the bindery needs area, some farm it out to trade shops, some bring it in house with individual machines by task.

Really? Well, there you go then. I’d be surprised if that was the way to go to reduce per-unit costs, though, which seems to be what code_grey’s looking for.

Cite that there is blatant gouging. WotNot is not claiming this. What is your reasons for suspecting there are unnatural profits?


Maybe the OP needs to ask Santa for a Kindle.

in an efficient, competitive market without collusion price cannot be “what the market will bear”. It’s supposed to be production cost plus small markup. And when some Greyhound starts thinking otherwise, they usually get hit with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinatown_bus_lines - not that I think that these guys have a “small” markup either, but at least a smaller one than Greyhound traditional practice.

So if it turns out that the market is not behaving efficiently and competitively, it is natural to wonder, why is that. If a print shop equipment costs $1M, that does not sound like a huge cost of entry. How does resale value depreciation work in this business, incidentally?

Or does this equipment require highly skilled technicians to maintain in working order and is the industry choking for lack of expertise because nobody bothers training new people?

Of course the price is “what the market will bear.” It’s that way in all markets.

I strongly recommend that you do at least some modicum of research before asking piles of highly-detailed questions and then arguing with the answers.

There is so little margin in the commercial printing business that there is a glut of used printing and finishing equipment on the market. It’s a shrinking market and most shops are struggling to survive.

And that’s without counting Internet job submission and outsourcing. There are many print shops in China that can knock out commercial quality 4 color printing let alone black and white books.

You’re trying to reinvent an already highly optimized wheel. Unless your volume is high numbers of low count jobs, I don’t think you’re going to have luck here.

And even then, there are printers everywhere. It’s a highly competitive market and it’s not unheard of for printers to accept practically zero profit on a job just to be able to keep the machines running and pay the workers.

I read this and I am immediately reminded of Exapno’s (did I spell that right?) comment regarding economics from that other thread.

Every free market is what the market will bear. There is no “supposed to be”.