Why We Print 4-Color Books In China

I’ve been hassled in a couple of comments this week for printing in Hong Kong



   Since this subject comes up on occasion, I’ll explain why we do it.

We have printed our one-color books in the USA for 40+ years. We, like virtually every other American publisher, print 4-color books overseas. Check out any of your 4-color books on the copyright page to see where they are printed.

   In loyalty to our American printer, Courier Corp., I printed the first edition of Builders of the Pacific Coast at their Kendalville, Indiana plant in 2004. It ended up costing us about $15,000 more than if we had printed it in China. We now have five 4-color books in print. With reprints, if we had continued printing in the USA, it would have cost us well over $100,000 more, effectively putting us out of business. That’s why we print in China.

    A couple of points here:

   1. The irony of people writing these comments on their made-in-China computers. Where are their TVs, cell phones, household appliances manufactured? The clothing they are wearing as they write these comments? Hypocritical, to say the least.

   2. I do like the idea of buying local. When possible. Less transport costs etc. I built my own house with local recycled wood. We raise and buy local food as much as possible. It doesn’t make sense to be eating tomatoes in the dead of winter, air shipment of produce, etc. I love my made-in-America Delta table saw.

   3. It’s a world economy, in case these guys haven’t noticed. The point is to get local as much as possible, but not to go bankrupt in the process.

   4. Lastly, I admire and respect printers and pressmen, whatever their nationality. It’s a brotherhood, all dedicated to producing the finest quality products. It also happens that Hong Kong is not mainland China. Pressmen here make a decent living, and our printers, Paramount Printing, run a responsible operation, and they have been fabulous partners in production of high-quality paperback books.

   I’m going to send this letter out in reply to any future China-bashing. Now I can get back to accentuating the positive.

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

5 Responses to Why We Print 4-Color Books In China

  1. ah Lloyd. It is generous of you to "explain"…

    but, it is also something which should be obvious to anyone with common sense ..

    Unless one wins the HUGE lottery (of which I HAVE bought my ticket), and even then, no one, especially a business spends money foolishly. That is, no one chooses to spend 100,000 more to do something.

  2. People often talk about clothing and sweatshops, but even Nicholas Kristoff (NYT) points out that working in a sweatshop is better than scavenging on a garbage dump. Poor people need work too, and it would be better to emphasize improving their working conditions rather than putting them out of work completely. We're all citizens of the same planet. It's only the ignorant who divide us via race, ethnicity, religion, nationality…

  3. Mighty fine rationalization….certainly good for sales…lessens the guilt factor…my Chinese computer has no American equivalent……touché.

  4. What if you raised the price of each book by 50 cents?

    Is there such a thing as fair trade books? I would think there are lots of issues wrt books – paper source, inks, working conditions, shipping that are worth looking into.

  5. Never mind such vacuous criticisms, your quality and integrity is obvious. Thanks for what you do, My father was a printer and published the first cold type newspaper in Alabama. It was a one man shop, approximately 36 pages, a weekly. Mimi

Leave a Reply