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Custom Book Printing: Can I Print a Book without Publishing?

Stacks of page blocks in a print facility ready to be Perfect Bound

Understanding the Difference between Printing and Publishing

Printing a book refers to its physical production, i.e. applying ink to the paper that will form the pages and cover of a bound document.

Publishing a book refers to the various tasks required to make the book marketable and available to the public, such as editing, formatting, cover design, adding ISBN and price barcodes, promotional activities, and widespread distribution.

Though the content for all books should be properly edited and formatted prior to printing, it is not necessary to perform the other publishing activities if the book will not be promoted or distributed to the population at large.

So...the answer is YES - you can most certainly have books professionally printed without formally publishing them. In fact, many books and booklets are printed for a specific audience without any plans to launch a marketing campaign or make them available to the general public.

A young man removing a book from a bookstore shelf
Unless you plan to offer your book through traditional channels, like brick-and-mortar or online bookstores, you do not need to formally publish your book

Below are some common examples of Book Projects that are professionally printed but not published

> Many consumer products come with a bound book or booklet, such as an instruction manual or installation guide. Manuals and guides that accompany a product are one of the more prevalent types of printed books that are not formally published.

> Organizations often print a variety of books to assist with day-to-day functions. For example, operation manuals, procedure manuals, and training manuals are commonly printed for business use. In addition, product catalogs and price manuals are sometimes printed for internal use, with modified versions being provided to customers.

> Certain companies and organizations may periodically print a book about their history or accomplishments. This is usually done to commemorate a milestone anniversary. This type of book is primarily intended for distribution to shareholders, employees, major clients, and other interested parties.

> An individual might print a book to be given away to family members, friends, and other acquaintances. The topic of the book could be anything that appeals to the author and his/her inner circle. For example, it might be an interesting autobiography, a book of humorous anecdotes and stories, or the sharing of genealogy research.

> Accountants, attorneys, financial advisors, real estate agents, and other business professionals often create books or booklets to be used as promotional giveaways to current and prospective clients. Used to share useful recommendations, tips, and FAQ's, these books can offer practical advice and insight to clients while helping to keep the service provider's name and contact information top of mind.

> A church, club, scout troop, school, or other community-based entity might print a book to be sold locally for the purpose of fundraising. The book might contain recipes, puzzles, useful facts, short stories, poems or any other content of general interest.

> Event programs, such as those used for trade shows, conferences, theatre performances and sporting events, are commonly printed as small booklets. This provides a convenient format for conveying important information to everyone in attendance.

> Teachers, professors, seminar presenters, and other educators occasionally develop and print student workbooks to supplement the material presented in their classroom lectures or online courses. Whether used as part of traditional K-12 curriculums, college courses, or adult education and training sessions, workbooks help to reinforce a student's understanding of the subject matter.

Many book projects, like the examples above, are produced in quantity on commercial printing presses. However, they are not offered to the general public via traditional marketing channels or sales outlets.

A stack of perfect bound books
Perfect Binding is the most popular method for binding books with medium to high page counts

When would I need to Publish my book (either by Self-Publishing or using a Traditional Publishing Service)?

If you intend to promote, sell, and/or distribute your book through bookstores or other retailers (whether online or brick-and-mortar outlets), book distributors, college campuses, libraries, or any other traditional channel that helps share your book with the masses, various publishing tasks will need to be performed.

Whether you handle these publishing activities yourself or partner with a publishing service, the book's pages and cover will have to be edited and properly formatted for print production. The cover of the book will also need to have a professional and marketable design that captures attention and encourages people to acquire the book.

Of course, the book will also need to be promoted via various marketing methods in order to build awareness and stimulate interest. Plus, a payment and distribution system will need to be established to fill orders for the book.

In most cases, saleable books will need to have a unique ISBN in addition to a price barcode. ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. Some outlets, such as Amazon, don't require an ISBN because they provide their own identifier code.

Related article: What is an ISBN Number? Do I need one?

A stack of  saddle stitched booklets
Saddle Stitching is the most popular method for binding books with lower page counts

If you self-publish, the good news is you get to make all the decisions, including who will print your book. The equally good news is you also get to retain all the profits from the sale of your book.

Conversely, if you enlist the help of a publishing service, they will handle most of the publishing tasks but you will have to share a good portion of the book's profits with them. Also, depending on the publisher, you may be required to sign a contract and relinquish the ownership rights to your book.

Needless to say, whether to self-publish or use a traditional publishing service is a very important decision. So be sure to thoroughly research your options.

As mentioned earlier, if you don't intend to offer the book to the general public, you can have it printed while foregoing many of the publishing activities.

Have a Book to Print? Color Vision offers budget-friendly book printing services!

Color Vision has been a printer of affordable books and booklets since 1984. Because we have both digital and offset presses, we can print books in short, medium, or long production runs.

We also offer a wide range of printing, binding, and finishing options to help make your book unique. Plus, as a totally-custom printer, Color Vision offers just about any book size that you might want.

So whether you are looking to print some books without any formal publishing, or are going the self-publishing route for books you intend to sell, Color Vision will be happy to assist with the printing and binding of your book project.

If you would like to receive a quotation by email, please complete our Quote Request form. Or, if you prefer to discuss your project by phone, we can be reached at 800-543-6299.

As always, we look forward to assisting with your book project!

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