Choosing between the two is not only a question of pricing. It is also about what material is being printed, in what kind of quantity and how quickly the finished job is needed.
To take the cost of a print job first. There is no saving to be made for digital printing, which is cost per page, and this means that there is no advantage to be gained by ordering a larger print run. The reason for this is that digital machines actually keep a running total of the numbers of pages printed and at a certain point the printer will require substantial maintenance.
Printers using digital machines normally have a contract with the supplier that includes supplies of ink and replacement of various components as well as maintenance and these costs will inevitably form part of the quote for a customer ordering a print job.
The big advantages of digital printing are the speed with which a job can be finished and delivered and the option for customising or personalising the print without having to stop the printing press.
For example this would be particularly useful for marketing materials where the client wants the material “personalised” by including each customer’s name and address in a mail-out. There are even some printers who specialise in printing books in which a character’s name is “personalised” to the individual who will be reading it.
Another big advantage of digital print is the ability to print on demand. This can be useful for book publication, where previously the number to be printed had to be determined in advance with the risk that those that remained unsold if it did not prove as popular as predicted would have to be withdrawn and pulped.
Currently, however, digital printers cannot print in spot colour – where one colour only is required along with black – because their ink cartridges are designed for full colour only. A job requiring spot colour would have to be printed using a litho printer.
Offset Litho printing, on the other hand, offers a very high image quality and can be used on a wide range of surfaces including paper, wood, cloth, metal, leather, rough paper and plastic. Also the unit cost reduces as the quantity increases.