A print run is a term used in the printing industry to refer to the number of book copies produced during one print job. The print run’s size can vary significantly depending on several factors, including the popularity of the book, the type of printing press used, and how many books the publisher believes it will be able to sell.
Traditionally, most books were printed using offset lithography presses. This process involves creating metal plates with images etched into them; these plates then transfer ink onto rubber blankets, which apply to paper. Offset lithography enables print runs as small as dozens or hundreds or as large as hundreds of thousands.
Offset lithography offers consistently high quality but may not be cost-effective for short runs. Creating custom plates can be expensive and time-consuming. In this case, digital printing is often an option. Unlike offset litho spriting, digital printing doesn’t require any physical setup: files go directly from computer to press, minimizing costs at small volumes.
The aim of a print run is straightforward: to allow printers to mass-produce books quickly and economically. It’s crucial parting because, by definition, it results in multiple copies (otherwise, you’d have one ‘print’). This matters because publishers need lots of prints: if there’s demand for 10k books, they need to ensure that once printed, they exist – if only so they’ll be available for sale five years later when your hit debuts on Netflix.
Printers must factor number copies into their pricing calculations since larger quantities generally mean smaller unit costs and vice versa, which is worth considering when getting quotes.