Granted these are general numbers, but the comparison is not only relevant but also true in my experience. Inkjet is slow when compared to other printing technologies. The color is spectacular, due in part to all the additional colors beyond cyan, magenta, yellow, and black that many inkjet presses use, and the resolution is great. But they’re slow.
On the plus side, however, there are characteristics of inkjet printing absent in offset lithography. Inkjet presses can include variable data, and due to the minimal makeready (when compared to offset lithography), they are exceptionally economical for short press runs.
But The Issue with Speed Is Changing Now
I just read a few press releases from Kodak about their new Prosper 7000 Turbo Press, and the development of the technology is very encouraging. In fact, production inkjet may well be the future of commercial printing. Color fidelity is, and has been for a while, extraordinary, but the speed of this custom printing technology (as that word “production” suggests) is now increasing significantly as well.
Speed, quality, number of available paper substrate options. All of these are pertinent to the recent improvements in production inkjet. To put this in perspective, let’s say you’re printing a thousand copies of a 300-page print book, you will want the text to be clear and the photos to be crisp and detailed. But you’ll also want the overall time on press to not be excessive (or, as noted above, 300 pages x 1,000 copies at 16 pages per minute).