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June 2, 2004

Estimated estimate
Posted by Teresa at 01:09 AM * 17 comments

John Savage, that excellent fellow, has built a printing cost estimator engine on his website. Tell it the trim size, number of pages, and number of copies, and specify a couple of things about the cover and binding, and it’ll give you a quote on the spot. It’ll also tell you your spine size, carton quantity, and number of cartons, which means it’s smarter than many —

Never mind. Splendid device. Check it out.

Comments on Estimated estimate:
#1 ::: Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2004, 02:09 AM:

This almost makes me want to get something printed, except I have nothing suitable for such an endeavor, nor the $$. Still, it is nifty!

#2 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2004, 10:51 AM:

The spine size estimate is exactly what I've been looking for! I've tried to figure it out with rulers and math and gotten no where. Amazing!

#3 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2004, 12:30 PM:

It's a lesson on economies of scale, too. I first asked for 1000 copies of my (imaginary) book, and was told it would run $3.10 a copy. Then I got hopeful and asked for 5000, which turned out to be $1.22 each. The cost of printing 5000 copies was only twice as much as printing 1000!

#4 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2004, 01:05 PM:


I did better than that -- I gave it 512 pages, trade trim size, and 500 copies, and the two colour cover, which leaves me with 7.58 USD/book.

Kick that up to 5,000 copies, and it becomes 2.08 USD/book. Factor of 3.5; 3.644 being stupidly precise. (A thousand would be 4.55 USD/book, so there's your factor of two.)

I do wonder what the curve looks like if you can run it out to 50,000 copies.

#5 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2004, 02:18 PM:

It's fun to play with, isn't it? :)

I was using it a while back when I was looking at zine printing. I was curious as to whether it would actually be worth getting a printer to do a short run, then throw away half the copies. Yes, it might well have been cheaper than printing the "likely to sell" number at Kinko's, for some sizes of print run.

#6 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2004, 02:27 PM:

Nature of printing. It costs foo dollars to create the plates that the book is printed from and to setup the press to run the books. After you do that, each copy is simply paper + ink + binding + press time.

A press that prints 100 books at a time is spending most of the day changing plates and running setups. A set of presses printing a few million copies of that same book can run for days with only occasional pauses to correct minor problems.

A printer *hates* stopping a press, and will charge you for making them do so. Which is why 100 512 page books cost $12.50 a throw, and 5000 cost $2.50 a throw.

#7 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2004, 02:47 PM:

Nice tool, well designed for what it should do.

I used to support much more complex software for print estimating and costing when I worked for a multi-state print firm. One of the most interesting things that I learned from one of the estimators is that while the traditional units for estimating are sheets, clicks and labor hours or dollars, you can express most litho costs in terms of time or rents, once the content is pre-flighted and ready to run. The big lump of setup costs (these days, Erik, you don't burn separate plates as such -- our big new 6 cylinder Heidelbergs were DTP or direct electronic) can be expressed in the number of labor ours of setup time with all the setup costs folded into the labor rate. You can then fold all the paper, ink, power, manufacturing overhead, wear, wastage, and captial charges (often the biggest part -- lovely new Heidelbergs run somewhere north of 2 million dollars each delivered but not installed) into a per minuite charge for the press with surcharges for special runs for special papers. This is for sheet fed of course -- the economics of web presses are even simpler. Just keep the damm thing running, for days if possible.

The one thing that is fairly sure, while the overall print market is not growing much, heavy litho, sheet or web, is not going away soon. Once you get past the first couple of hundred sheets (which does not take long at all) litho is cheaper than e-print by a factor of five to ten. We ususally figured litho was seven times cheper than using a big and efficient Xerox Dccutech, once you got it going. And we ran rooms full of e-print systems from up-gunned HP printers to Docutechs, big roll ink jets, and Indigos. Litho still is cheaper per click, usually higher quality, and will handle a far wider variety of papers.

#8 ::: Nancy Hanger ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 01:36 AM:

I wonder if he'll update it, given that the prices he has appears to have based his estimates on are now two years old. Also no way to choose different paper or weights, which is a big cost factor.

#9 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 02:32 AM:

He's mentioned recently (in his blog, IIRC) that he's in the process of doing just that.

#10 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2004, 10:42 AM:

What a lovely tool. Makes me wish I were still in production...

#11 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2004, 01:28 AM:

I just want to say that "Savage" is a great last name to have. John Savage, Dan Savage. It's a disgrace that Michael is blessed with a fine last name like that.

#12 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2004, 02:09 AM:

Mitch: Ah, but he isn't. (Or wasn't.) He was born Michael Wiener (link to a Salon Premium article, you can get the gist from the non-subscriber part).

#13 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2004, 02:54 AM:

When you push the quantities far enough I *imagine* that there are some breaks in continuity at the high end, too; when it becomes efficient to go to a higher-end type of press at some point.

Oh, and Nancy, there *is* a small selection of paper types (and printing resolution) in the calculator now.

#14 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2004, 09:54 AM:

I went to high school with a Jim Savage. He became an architect.

#15 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2004, 11:52 AM:

And to think he missed the opportunity to be named Savage Weiner!

#16 ::: Julia Jones finds comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2004, 02:37 AM:

More comment spam...

#17 ::: lauren ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2005, 01:23 PM:

hi im lauren
for skool i doin a tech project and i need some help!!!!
the question is find 3 methods of printing and i have got 3
1.litho printing
2.Lazer printing
3.Ink Jet printing
are those right
it also say give the name,cost and product for each
could u plz reply as it is urgent
p.s on

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