Is China the best place to print art books? At Art book Printing, today we still answer that question with a resounding “YES!” But you will be surprised to learn why!
Many people suspect that we print and bind books in China because of cheap labor. While it is true that labor rates are generally lower than in the US, this is not the main reason. In fact, master pressmen earn wages competitive to their US counterparts. Paper and equipment costs in Asia are similar to those in the US. Of course, international container freight adds a lot to the overall cost of printing an art book offshore.
Why then is China the best art book printing location? Here are the main reasons.
Best Art Book Printing Location – evolution
As printing evolved in the 20th Century, US printers invested in large presses capable of producing long runs. Large magazines and catalogs, newspaper inserts and massive direct mail campaigns are still the staple of commercial printers in the US.
To be an art book printer requires massive investment in highly specialized equipment. It is truly a specialty. To print a coffee table book, US publishers traditionally worked with printers in Italy and Spain. However today, the best quality art book printing is done in China, Singapore and South Korea.
Best Art Book Printing Location – latest technology reduces cost
We require a press that can print perfect registration and delivers consistent color on every sheet. New technology offers many improvements in these areas. In the US, the average offset printing press is 15 years old. We print art books on presses that are on average less than four years old. Because art book printing typically means short runs and high page count, the capability to change plates very quickly is of crucial importance. When I started my career in the printing business in the 1980’s, it would take two hours and 500 sheets of paper to change from one signature (typically 16 pages) to the next. Today, a modern Komori press is capable of changing plates in just a few minutes with 50 or fewer sheets wasted. Considering that a 96 page book in 9” x 12” requires twelve such plate changes (48 total plates), it is easy to see how such a press has a distinct advantage. In addition, while the older presses require no less than three operators (five workers in union shops), the presses now being installed in Asia can be run by one press operator and one assistant.
Best Art Book Printing Location – From pre-press to bindery all under one roof
Our partners have sophisticated pre-press departments that make accurate proofs and book prototypes. The ability to print and bind under one roof also offers significant advantages in the area of quality control. The Asian plants we represent are exclusively specialized in printing and binding the highest quality art books. It is all they do. The cost advantage and superior quality make it a clear choice if you are looking to produce a coffee table book fit for a museum store.
Best Art Book Printing Location- The World is Smaller
It is true that printing a full color coffee table book or exhibition catalog in East Asia is not without challenges. Language, time, currency and cultural barriers stand between the US publisher and the promise of top quality book printing at amazing prices. And international shipping means understanding import/export logistics, ocean containers and US Customs. Clearly, this is a leg of your art book printing journey you do not want to travel alone. We have worked with our Asian partners for many years with excellent results. As part of our US representation of their plants, we have agreed on complete but rather complex purchase orders and financial arrangements that address the interests of all parties. We can get great quality at very competitive prices.
Best Art Book Printing Location – Production of High Quality Books Take Less Time
It comes as a pleasant surprise that the actual production of hard cover art books in China actually takes less time than in the US. It is one of other advantages found in working with an Asian book printing company that is 100% dedicated to the production of ultra high-end coffee table books. When every part of the book is made under one roof, production can flow very rapidly from proofs to press to hard cover case making.
Best Art Book Printing Location – Time management
Good planning includes allowing plenty of time for careful proofing, production and shipment of your precious cargo. But, if needed, we can produce a complex art book printing project quickly and efficiently, even though our customer and our printing plant are 8000 miles and twelve time zones apart. We can arrange for shipping of books via FedEx, but this is expensive. However, in the greater scheme of things, it is entirely feasible to send a small quantity of books via airfreight for a special event such as an exhibition opening.