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letterpre$$ (was Re: Inkjet printing)

Finding a "rational" basis for pricing private press books can be difficult
when considering the myriad circumstances of the persons producing the
books (and the essentially irrational impulses that drive us to make them).
Some are hobbyists concerned more with breaking even than showing a profit,
some are artist/craftspersons try to scrape a living out of it, some are
institutions who can subsidize the final price...but one thing they all
share is the problem of distributing the costs out over a small number of
units. If you paid a quality offset shop to set & print 50-100 copies of,
say, a 32 page two-color chapbook on a decent mould-made paper you'd still
be looking at pretty steep unit cost. The point being that the hypothetical
$15 a page average that Cory and Asa came up with is due to more than the
choice of reproduction process. For my own part, I find the "offset vs.
letterpress" question to be on the same level as the "mac vs. wintel" wars.

>While on the subject (are we?) of the alleged superiority of
>letterpress printing except in the cases of "letters, resumes and
>reports", my sweetheart and I, letterpress printers both, did a highly
>unscientific study in the fall of 1993 to try to determine whether there
>was any apparent rational basis in how different printer/publishers
>priced their various productions, and using all the bookseller's catalogs
>we had then on hand (more than one might think), we arrived at a figure
>(for 1993) of between 14 and 15 dollars per beautiful, funky, hot metal
>page. At this figure, D. Cockerell's "Bookbinding and the Care of Books"
>would run
>$5,085 (higher estimate), Joan Lyon's "Artist's Books", $4,035, and
>Keith Smith's "Structure of the Visual Book", $3,585. Needless to say,
>out of my price range; in their blessedly accessible, utilitarian offset
>versions, perpetually useful in this printer's library. This "letterpress
>and only letterpress" attitude irks! Would you build a house with only
>one tool? Gah!

Bradley Hutchinson * Digital Letterpress * 1906 Miriam * Austin, Texas 78722
512-478-7632 * 512-478-5508 fax * http://www.zilker.net/~ltrpress/index.html

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