Printing books today is completely different than it was even ten years ago. With current digital printing equipment, the necessity for large offset print runs to keep the per-unit price down is not the factor today as it was in years past. Cost effective short runs are now easy to achieve in most instances.
But if you want a hardcover book with a dustjacket in a short print run, the cost of the dustjacket becomes prohibitively high. Why is that? Most of the digital printers, toner based, are limited to 19” long with the exception of the Xerox iGen which can handle a cover sheet 22.5 long. A dustjacket for an 8.5 x 11 hardcover book with 4” flaps will end up being about 28” long.
Now you are faced with either having the dustjacket offset printed or perhaps printing on a wide format ink jet. Both end up being quite expensive. Full color offset printing on that size could run in excess of $500.00. If you’re only printing 100 books, this equates to an additional $5.00 per book. Wide format inkjet is an option but sheet to sheet registration is a problem, meaning that each individual dustjacket may need to be hand trimmed which is time consuming and expensive, not to mention that inkjet consumables are quite high.
What are the alternatives? First, consider not having a dustjacket. Unless the book is sitting on the shelf at a bookstore, and you are using the dustjacket as a sales tool, there may be no need for the dustjacket. After all, the reader can find them cumbersome when the book is in their hands and the dustjacket continues to slide around and just be in the way. They get creased or torn easily. Plus you have the cost of the cloth or leather material and foil stamping underneath the dustjacket.
The best alternative would be having a printed and laminated cover. This is like a coffee-table book, a full-color cover laminated and glued to the cover board. Printed and laminated books are becoming quite popular for memoirs and books filled with photographs. This type of binding is less expensive than having a dustjacket as the cover does not require such a long sheet due to end-flaps. You have the joy and expression of the full color cover with less expense for a hard cover book. It’s the best of both worlds.