I have been considering changing my book printing plans from POD to offset. Although i do believe that POD has its place and will be even more commonplace in the future, my title needs (and deserves) the chance to be carried in brick-and-mortar book stores.

From this conclusion,Ii obviously had to rethink my budget since there
is greater costs related to doing any sort of print-run before hand
and set out to get some quotes. Because, I am sure that some other
self-publishers out there are looking (or at least thinking) about print
runs versus POD, I set out to get several quotes and do a simple cost difference
analysis. Of course quoted prices will vary from one quote to another
depending on cost of goods, book specs and several other factors but it should
give a good idea to other publishers which printers they might want to
approach to issue their RFQ's.

But before i get any further, here are the quick specifications on the
title for which i made quote requests:

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BOOK SIZE: 7 x 10
TEXT SPECIFICATIONS: Black and White
TEXT SPECIFICATIONS: Illustrations (halftones) # of 20 (approximate)
TEXT STOCK: 50# White
COVER BINDING: Perfect Bound
SOFT COVER SPECIFICATIONS: Color
SOFT COVER STOCK: 12pt C1S
SOFT COVER LAMINATE: Gloss Laminate
PACKAGE: Bulk
NOTE: The text and cover data will be submitted electronically and i did
not request for any bleeds as i can easily work around this with my
title.
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Starting off with the cost of printing via POD, my printer of choice
would be LSI. I do not believe much in POD-publishers as in my mind
they borderline on vanity presses and would rather go straight to the source. That being said, the LSI cost
structure is fairly simple and is as follows:

For LSI the costs per unit are 0.90$ + 0.013$ / page. So for my 300
page book, we are talking a per unit price of: 4.80$. Of course, this
does not account for setup fees for a title which are in the 150$
range but since the setup costs are one-time, i did not factor any of
them in my analysis.

Quotes received from several printers, for different quantities. Note
that some of them do use the same technologies as POD printers.
Below is the quotes is have received so far:

                         500          1000         1500          2000
_____________________________________________________
BookMobile         3,384$      6,637$      N/A           10,885$
(per unit)             6.77$        6.64$        N/A           5.44$
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TPS                   2,453$      3,618$       N/A           5,907$
(per unit)            4.91$        3.62$         N/A           2.95$
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Data Rep.          2,722$       3,263$       N/A           4,459$
(per unit)            5.44$        3.26$         N/A           2.23$
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StarNet              N/A           6,020$       7,035$       8,060$
(per unit)           N/A           6.02$         4.69$         4.30$
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Fidlar                 3,245$      6,290$       9,435$       12,580$
(per unit)            6.49$        6.29$         6.29$         6.29$
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Central Plains    4,147$       4,903$       N/A            6,409$
(per unit)            8.29$        4.90$         N/A            3.20$
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Worzalla            N/A           6,837$       N/A           7,850$
(per unit)            N/A           6.84$         N/A           3.93$
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Color House       2,586$       3,072$       N/A           4,046$
(per unit)            5.15$         3.07$         N/A          2.02$
Note:
Trim reduced to 6x9 to reduce costs and 60# paper.
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McNaughton       2,440$       3,224$       3,966$      4,707$
(per unit)            4.88$         3.24$         2.64$        2.36$
Note:
Trim reduced to 6x9 to reduce costs and 60# paper.
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Quebecor           3,272$       3,736$       N/A           4,664$
(per unit)            6.54$         3.74$         N/A           2.33$
Note:
Trim reduced to 6x9 to reduce costs.
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The first thing you can see from the above quotes is that the prices above tend to float into two pricing buckets. One of them in the 2-3$ range and the other in the 6-7$ range.

Taking a look at the printers in the higher range, all of them (BookMobile, StarNet and Fidlar) all offer or are exclusively digital printers. This means that at least for smaller runs, they will use the same technologies that are used for POD printers such as LSI. The interesting thing however is that they will charge about 1.50$ more per unit to print. This raises the question as to whether their printing quality is any better than from LSI.

In the second bucket, the prices are definitely more competitive, especially as we approach print runs of 2000 units. The major only exceptions seem to be Worzalla and Central Plains which still offer per-unit costs of over 3$ even at 2000 units. That being said, they might specialize more in slightly bigger runs and may be much more competitive for bigger quantities.

So far, i have narrowed my search down based on price and feedback i have received in these forums. I have send requests for samples from Quebecor, Color House, Data Rep and McNaughton. Based on their samples, I will make a final decision based on their choice of paper and overall sample quality, submission process (how closely it corresponds to my production process) and also based on the ease of communication with their representatives.

Overall, it would seem your per-unit prices can be 50% better through an offset run even for mid-sized runs of 1000-2000 copies. Of course, if you can afford such an investment.