All terms

What is a Print Run?

The number of copies of a book or other printed publication that are printed at one time.

The Joy of Printing: Understanding the Print Run

If you've ever wondered how many copies of your favorite novel are printed at once, you're thinking about the print run. This term refers to the number of copies of a book or other printed publication that are printed at one time, and it can vary widely depending on the project and the publisher.

For smaller runs, a publishing company may use a digital printer, which allows for smaller numbers to be printed more affordably. However, for larger runs, an offset printer--which uses metal plates to transfer ink onto paper--may be more efficient.

Knowing the print run can provide insight into the popularity of a book, as well as its financial success. A large print run may indicate strong sales potential, while a smaller run could indicate a more niche or targeted audience. Additionally, the size of the print run can affect the rarity and collectability of a book: the fewer copies printed, the more valuable each individual copy becomes.

So the next time you're admiring your bookshelf, take a moment to consider the printing process behind your favorite books, and appreciate the unique qualities conferred by each print run.

Printing Through the Ages: Examples of Print Runs in Literature

Authors and publishers alike have long been concerned with the print run of their literary works, from the days of the printing press to modern digital printing technology. Here are two examples of the use of print run terminology in literature.

The Catcher in the Rye

J.D. Salinger's classic novel, The Catcher in the Rye, has sold over 65 million copies worldwide since it was first published in 1951, with an initial print run of only 5000 copies, of which only 120 copies were sold in the first week.

The Hunger Games

Suzanne Collins' young-adult novel The Hunger Games was released in 2008 with a first printing of 200,000 copies, which promptly sold out in two days, resulting in Scholastic increasing the print run by an additional 400,000 copies.