Zoll admits that in-house production is cheaper than outsourcing. "For example, hiring a junior graphics designer for $15 to $20 an hour guarantees that your design work has priority compared to a contractor for whom you are only one of many clients; it substantially cuts down on design costs," she explains, comparing it to a company she recently contracted to do a large-scale halftone film project for a design fee of $45 an hour.
In contrast, Zoll says that big jobs often require greater expense no matter what reviews an in-house printer may earn. "A high-end quality Xerox laser color printer can do amazing things," she says, "but for large quantities and quality control for a big job, I still most definitely prefer a press. A press will have more accurate color consistency from print to print so I never have to worry about variations in a single batch that can occur from weird things happening with toner."
Zoll's other concern is durability. In a recent project for indie musician Lorna Vallings, Jabali was in a hurry to ship postcards announcing a new album. Because of deadline pressures, Zoll looked to a high-end in-house printer to get the job done. She says, "It looks great," but adds, "carry it in your book bag for a day and it will look really cheap and scruffy. If you handle it enough the glossiness dulls down quite a bit." She also explains that color is an enormous concern from a marketing perspective. "One color, two spot colors or four-color-processes make a big difference in the appearance and set-up fees," she says. "A black-and-white CD cover is cheaper to produce than one with full-color photos; duotones are slightly cheaper than four-color-process; and four-color-process is painfully expensive and does justify a high-end laser printer."
For Jabali, there is more leeway gained by outsourcing. Zoll says, "Currently, we are exploring other options—mainly because I'm friendly with a printer and trust their work. And because we are also going to be printing a lot more promo material this time around and may be able to work out a better deal." She adds, "But the more you can do yourself, the better. I love seeing good looking indie stuff that was all done in someone's basement. However, even though a lot of the technology is becoming more accessible to the layperson, it's not necessarily less expensive."