Printing on the Portland State University POD

Over the summer, I researched where I could have my graduate portfolio printed. Then in Fall 2010, the bookstore at Portland State University (where I am working on a masters in publishing degree) acquired a print on demand (POD) unit. The POD machine is a trial unit to see if it would be cost effective to print textbooks within the university bookstore since shipping unsold copies is expensive. However, while also printing textbooks, the POD machine is also open to students and the public for printing self-published texts and portfolios as the printing press Odin Ink. I discarded my printer research and opted for convenient and timely POD machine.

One thing that is nice about Odin Ink is that Portland-Metropolitan area residents can go talk to the POD technicians face-to-face to learn about print options. At the beginning of the term when they work on textbooks, the print time can take a little longer than it did for me, but during non-peak times print turn-around can be a matter of days. I gave the printer three files: one for a small chapbook of my creative work, a classic book (Candide) that I designed, and my portfolio. The two smaller books, the chapbook and Candide, were ready to pick up in two days, and the larger portfolio took five days. This, they said, was typical.

The smaller format books came out wonderfully. The margins were what I had expected, the paper weight was heavy enough so that the words from the backside of the page couldn’t be seen, and there were no overall print errors. The larger portfolio, however, did have some errors with the trim. The margins were trimmed down too tight to the text, and some of the coloring was off. The alignment of the text block was also off by a fraction. If I had to guess, since I was printing a large format book (8.5×11) on the color POD, I would say that Odin Ink doesn’t have the kinks worked out of either the color machine, or with working with large format. Perhaps it is the combination of the two.

So here’s the run down on prices: The full color portfolio would not be cost effective for Silk Road to print on the POD machine if we went to a large format with any interior color. My 160 page portfolio ran $36 a copy. The smaller format that we currently have (smaller format: less than 8×10) with a black and white interior would run Silk Road $10.15 for an average per copy price. In order to be feasible on the POD, we would have to work out bulk pricing.

For the average user (anyone who lives near Portland and would like to print on the POD machine), you can either bring your files straight to the Portland State University Bookstore, or you can publish through Lulu.com and have your files printed on the POD machine. The staff at Odin Ink can do ISBN registration for you, and they also offer cover and book design (all for a fee, of course). I didn’t use these services having designed my books and portfolio myself.

It is a strange feeling to see my work in print, even though I printed it myself. It is tactile, it is wonderful, and I love my professional and creative work bound in convenient book form, even if in the end it will just be for myself. And although the POD technology isn’t perfect, and although it isn’t quite to the quality of regular book printing, it certainly is convenient, and it certainly gives writers the option to bind a sample of what they have to offer for future employers, for their family as gifts, or for their own personal pleasure. Or maybe even as a beautiful final example of the work that they have done in college—a thesis, a dissertation, a portfolio.

See Odin Ink’s website

or visit their location on the second floor of the PSU bookstore located at 1715 SW 5th Avenue in downtown Portland. They accept email for quotes on projects.

—Tanna, Silk Road, Online Marketing