Why Choose Inkjet for Book Publishing

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If there’s one part of the print industry that has experienced the most fluctuations in the last decade or so, it’s book printing. The introduction and development of e-readers was the first market force that briefly derailed book printing — though print books have seen a resurgence in the last few years with sales topping 700 million annually — and the most recent hiccup is changes to the supply chain, which is forcing book printers to become more efficient and economical in how they manage elements like order quantity. 

As is the case with commercial print, transactional print, and direct mail, today’s book printing is also making the move toward high degrees of versioning and personalization, and printers are also adapting to new paradigms in terms of economies of scale and the kind of print volumes designers and marketers need to optimize their print budgets. 

This is where digital inkjet provides a number of benefits for book printing compared with more traditional presses. To demonstrate how and why, here are a couple of reasons why you should choose inkjet for book publishing. 

Inkjet presses creates more flexibility in book printing

While book printing demands a certain level of standardization in terms of size and paper type (more on that in a moment), the kinds of projects that are on the rise in the book printing space are actually best served by some degree of non-standardization. 

Take educational book printing, which is a significant growth area of the print space due in part because of the increased retention and comprehension that comes from reading in print compared to reading on digital devices. In fact, a recent study of more than 170,000 readers found a majority of them read more carefully and demonstrated a better understanding of complex ideas when reading in print. 

This level of success in print is prompting educational publishers to explore how things like versioning and personalization in educational texts can double-down on what’s achievable in terms of instruction and learning. 

In The Designer’s Guide to Inkjet, 3rd Edition, authors Elizabeth Gooding and Mary Schilling discuss how only inkjet can provide the level of personalization and versioning necessary to create personalized educational texts that create a deeper sense of connection with the reader, and address learning goals or challenges in a more effective way. 


“The latest designs for educational texts, graphic novels, and children’s books are making use of versioning and even personalization,” writes Goodding and Schilling. “Some books can be personalized with a name or a selectable ending. Others can be made available in multiple languages. “


Whereas print runs with this degree of personalization would be extremely costly due to the economies of scale and pre production processes associated with traditional offset presses, the ability to use variable data printing (VDP) technology and the digital nature of how inkjet presses print makes these kinds of runs quick, efficient, and cost-effective. 

Plus, according to Gooding and Schilling, this flexibility in order quantity and personalization in book printing with inkjet also helps book publishers and authors: 

“For processing efficiencies, publishers make use of personalization to print customized inventory numbers on orders and embed fraud detection that protects authors and publishers.” 

Inkjet presses can now work on a cover-to-cover basis

The primary use of production inkjet in the book industry has been for the printing of book blocks in black. A book block is the book’s page contents, and these must have a fixed thickness in order to fit cleanly into the binding. This means that the book’s pages and cover need to fit precisely when combined, which can be more challenging than you’d think because covers require heavier paperweights or coated paper — two substrates that are more compatible with traditional offset printing. 

This is why even inkjet print shops use presses other than inkjet print book covers — and it’s also why errors or mistakes in either a book block or cover could be extremely costly and time-intensive. 

But this is quickly changing as printers are seizing the continued development of inkjet press technology to incorporate inkjet into book printing on a cover-to-cover basis.

According to the Guide to Inkjet, this transition is in large part due to the introduction of sheet-fed inkjet presses that can handle heavier paper stocks, and also the development of inks and primers that are more compatible with offset coated stock. 

Gooding and Schilling argue: “As more inkjet coated papers become available, and newer inkjet models are released that support offset papers, covers, too, are likely to transition from offset and toner to inkjet.” 

What does this transition mean for designers? Gooding and Schilling provide some critical points for designers and printers to discuss when designing books for inkjet to ensure a high quality, cost-effective end product: 


  • Review ink coverage limitations for thin book papers with the print provider and get specific guidance on settings

  • Discuss capabilities for book cover production and guidelines for use of inkjet coated and offset coated stocks

  • Review options for postcoating of colors and the impact on stock selection and ink coverage levels

  • Understand the proper margins, gutters, and clear space measurements required for finished bookbinding


With inkjet press technology, book publishers can not only take advantage of high degrees of personalization and versioning to create a better reading experience in a variety contexts, but they can also streamline the print process from cover-to-cover in order to optimize print budgets, reduce lead time, and present a better quality print book. As with so many other areas of the print industry, inkjet simply unlocks more opportunity for creativity and innovation. 

Download The Designer's Guide to Inkjet, 3rd Edition to learn more how digital inkjet technology can help enhance your print projects.