Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: Burning CDs vs Outsourcing ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   3 Comments )
Subject: Burning CDs vs Outsourcing
Category: Computers
Asked by: susank-ga
List Price: $30.00
Posted: 19 Jan 2004 08:31 PST
Expires: 18 Feb 2004 08:31 PST
Question ID: 297998
We are undertaking a project for which we will need at least 500
custom CD-ROMs with content that we have on hand (all 500 would be the
same). We are trying to decide if we should purchase a burner or
outsource creation of the CD-ROMs to a vendor. Here are the

1. We don?t know exactly how many CDs we will need. Initially, we
would likely order 500 if we purchase from a vendor and likely
re-order in increments of 100. If we burn our own, we would likely
start with 100 and then burn more as needed.

2. We know very little about this whole process. If we burn our own,
how much time is it likely to take to burn 100 CDs, make labels,
attach, and sleeve? Is there a difference in quality between what we
burn ourselves and what could be purchased from a vendor?

3. We want to know what is the most cost-effective solution, but
taking into consideration flexibility. If we can make them fairly
quickly, it may be more cost effective to burn them ourselves because
we can always burn exactly the number we need.

Thus, we need ultimately to know:

A. How much would it cost us to purchase 500 CD-ROMs, with color
labels, made from our content (all text files), including paper
sleeves with windows, from an outside vendor and then to re-order in
increments of 100? We would like estimates/quotes from at least 3
reliable vendors that show a comparison.

B. How much would it cost us to purchase what is needed to make our
own CD-ROMs? What would we need to buy? We want to burn the CDs, make
labels, and put them in sleeves. How long would it take to make 100
CDs? I am sure that there are differences in what is available out
there and a tradeoff between speed and price. Given that we would
NEVER make more than 1000 CDs in a year, but that we do need to pay
someone at likely $15 per hour to burn them, what is a good
configuration? Again, we want a comparison here.

C. Given the parameters outlined above, what suggestion do you have
for which option we should choose (outsource or burn)? Do you have any
expertise that would warrant your choice?

Please note that your answer should be targeted towards the relatively
low-volume commercial use described above rather than the home burning
of a single CD at a time. One vendor for outsourcing is Obviously, I am looking for more than a
one-sentence answer.

Thanks for thinking on this!
Subject: Re: Burning CDs vs Outsourcing
Answered By: clouseau-ga on 19 Jan 2004 10:28 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello susank,

Thank you for your question.

Not only do I do this on a weekly basis in my home office, but while
Director of Marketing for a small medical manufacturer, I produced my
own short run CD's for updates for our customers. I feel extremely
qualified to advise you and I have developed very strong opinions on
the various parts of this process that I shall share with you.

As you note, one major advantage of producing these yourself is that
you can produce exactly the number of copies you desire. Although you
might feel that your data is "fixed" today, you may be surprised to
find that in a few days, weeks or months, you will have a need to add,
delete or modify a file and obsolete the unused copies you might have
on hand. This will not happen when you are duplicating your discs in
house and you will enjoy the flexibility to make changes if and when
needed without waste.

The art of consumer CD duplication products has reached a plateau at
52X speed for CD Recordable drives. It is unlikely that this speed
will increase for CD's in the future. And, 52X speed does not mean
that this speed is reached and sustained throughout the entire burning
process, but rather a 52X drive might start at 24 or 28X speed and
work its way up to its maximum as the burning process continues. You
will find that an average 80 minute / 700 MB CD will burn at between
2.5 and 3 minutes per copy, plus the time to eject,insert and start
the software for burning.

Now, you mention your files are text. If that is the case, you will
very likely have much less than 700 MB to burn per disc as text files
are very small. Perhaps not, but if so, your burning time will be
significantly less and could be as little as 1-1.5 minutes per disc.
This will be determined by the size of the total files you include on
each disc.

Over the years I have used virtually every label system available.
None are very good. The inexpensive "standard" inkjet labels are of
low resolution and use poor glue. Over time, they will separate from
the disc. And they do not produce what I would consider to be a
professional product.

There are also "Photo Glossy" labels and among the best of these are
made by Stomp. They do have excellent graphic qualities, much better
stickiness, but are very expensive. You will find they cost about  .50
per label PLUS the cost of ink, which we will talk about shortly. And
while they last much longer than the inexpensive inkjet labels, I have
still had them "peel" after time rendering the disc next to unusable
at worst and unprofessional at best.

There have been two methods for printing directly to disc over the
years - inkjet and thermal. The professional disc you buy are either
silk-screened or thermal. The equipment for this is very costly. Until
last year, even inkjet printers have been excessively priced for the
small office. But this changed with the introduction of two Epson
printers - the Epson Stylus Photo 900 and the new Epson Stylus Photo
R300M. I have the 900. It can be purchased for under $150!!

I would expect other models and other brands to show up on the market,
but for now, these are the most affordable and they produce excellent
results. You can search for "CD printer" and uncover other products,
but the Epson is tried and true. But here is an example of other
models and package deals:

Nextag shows 409 CD printers here:

Now, to use these printers, you need to use inkjet printable CD-R
discs. There are several popular brands, but by far the best is made
by Taiyo Yuden. This company OEM's to other vendors, such as Sony and
makes not only fine quality discs that record well, but the absolute
best surface for inkjet printing. They are available with White or
Silver printable surfaces, and the  white will produce a brighter,
more vibrant photo realistic image.

See here, for example:

So, you will find that a per disc cost for these will run .33 to .40
per disc. It is almost impossible to guess what your ink costs will be
due to the nature of the graphics you wish to print on each disc, but
I shall guess. A set of cartridges for the Epson 900 at a discount
will run about $40. You will be able to print between 100 and 200
discs per set of cartridges, perhaps more. My best guess will be that
your ink cost per disc will be between .15 and .30 per disc - less
than half the cost of a quality label and ink and without all the
drawbacks of labels.

The software that comes with the Epson printer for label design and
printing is very good. You will have a small learning curve to get
professional results and will print maybe 10 discs that will not line
up properly until you calibrate and learn the proper settings for your
printer. After that, printing should go smoothly and take 4 or 5
minutes per disc to print. Depending on how many computers you
dedicate to this process, you will either be burning on one computer
and printing on another, or performing the tasks in a serial manner.
With time to load, burn, unload, set in the printer, print and sleeve,
once you are setup it should take between 5 and 9 minutes total per
disc to produce. In other words, one person can make between 6 and 12
per hour. These are rough estimates, but I would be surprised if they
are far off at all.

So, we have let's say .35 per disc, .25 for ink, let's say 2.00 for
labor and perhaps .15 for each sleeve
( ) and you have a
total cost of $2.75 per disc or close to. It "could" turn out to be as
low as $ 1.80 per disc. And you have little waste, print and burn on
demand and the flexibility to change your product at your own whim.

Hardware and software:

You will need one or two computers for this process and should not be
using these for anything but these tasks (at least as regards burning)
while doing your burn and print. They can be used for other things at
other times and do not have to be fancy, high powered machines. They
can cost as little as $250-300 each and you may already have computers
you can use.

A CD burner will cost between $50 and $100 for the best available.
Plextor is very highly regarded as is ASUS and several others. I use
an ASUS and I am very pleased.



These will "usually" come with "light edition" software packages,
which should be all you need. The two most popular are ROXIO's EZ CD
and Nero burning Rom, both good and easy to learn, particularly for
this purpose. Your computer if a Dell or HP for example, may have even
come bundled with a version of these products.



There are other little embellishments you might wish such as free
utilities to cause your disc to "autorun" or play when it is inserted
into a CD burner. I use Autorun Pro:

With this, your CD could automatically open up a text file, or menu or
introduction to your discs.
Now, to compare with outsourcing, let's look at a few alternatives:

Core Media Group

1,000 Retail Ready CDs with full color inserts $1,190!

See more pricing for them here:


Four Color (CMYK) Digital Printing 
Tray Insert - One Panel - Two Page 
Slim Line, and Insertion 
$50 Setup Fee 

100 $ 2.99 ea. 
200 $ 2.69 ea.  
350 $ 2.49 ea. 
500 $ 2.29 ea. 
750 $ 1.99 ea. 
1,000 $ 1.79 ea. 

Mixonic (as you mentioned)

Mixonic offers the easiest way to have your CDs duplicated!

Best option for shorter runs or if you need CDs fast 
Direct color-printed CDs and inserts 
Low Prices, no set-up fees 
2 Business Day Turnaround (orders under 500 CDs) 
Optional Print-only CD-Rs (burn yourself) 
Free Online Content Storage 
Entirely Web-Based 24/7 Ordering 
Duplication in any quantity - No Minimums 
Professional-quality CDs 
1-4 $5.78 
5-24 $4.28 
25-49 $3.78  
50-99 $2.98  
100-249 $2.78  
250-499 $2.48  
500+ $2.15

add between .05 -.15 for tyvek sleeves to these prices.

As you can see, there are almost unlimited vendors out there to do
this for you and a wide range of prices. My Google search "CD
duplicator" received almost 1,000,000 hits! You may find a service
that has the quality you desire at a comfortable price and with good
turnaround time. You loose the ability to change things almost
instantly by doing this in house. It is a choice you will have to

Here are a number of other links that might be of interest to you on
duplication hardware and duplication vendors:

CD Dimensions

CD Freaks forums

Scala Messages

Which notes:

"...To be honest I understand there is a lot of duplication houses out
there that charge a dollar or whatever, but I have tried those places,
they use cheap media, they don't deliver on time at all and there is a
bundle of problems,..."

CD Media World Forums

Search Strategy:

Epson photo stylus
taiyo yuden white inkjet
nero burning
cd printer
cd duplication
cd +duplication OR duplicator +forum OR discussion OR comparison

I trust my research has provided you with background on CD duplicating
and choices and I hope this has been helpful for you.

I realize this is a complex subject and if a link above should fail to
work or anything require further explanation or research, please do
post a Request for Clarification prior to rating the answer and
closing the question and I will be pleased to assist further.



Request for Answer Clarification by susank-ga on 19 Jan 2004 11:29 PST
Thank you! This answer is OUTSTANDING. 

My only questions are due to my own naivete, not your response. I am
not clear if it is acceptable to task follow-ups and I do not mean to
take advantage of you in any way. I have tried to make these as
straightfoward as possible.

1. I have a new Canon photoprinter, but you have recommended an Epson.
It is my understanding that I need a photoprinter that has a special
capacity to print on CDs and thus my existing photoprinter is likely
not usable. Yes?

2. On the issue of quality. Do you feel that the quality of the
printing that you obtain from your in-house produced product using a
photoprinter is parallel to the quality from one that is outsourced?
Basically, does it smudge, rub off, look professional? Will it look
like something that I can charge money for and be proud of? (it is
actually a promotional item, but we want it to reflect positively on
my client)

3. Does the software that comes with the burner not only allow me to
burn, but also have some basic design capacity for designing the

Clarification of Answer by clouseau-ga on 19 Jan 2004 11:50 PST
Hi again susank,

I expected you would have follow up questions and I'm happy to help.

"1. I have a new Canon photoprinter, but you have recommended an
Epson. It is my understanding that I need a photoprinter that has a
special capacity to print on CDs and thus my existing photoprinter is
likely not usable. Yes?"

Not usable for CD's. CD printing requires a specific "holder" to place
the CD in to have them travel through the print path. These printers
are unique. The Epsons work VERY well for this.

"2. On the issue of quality. Do you feel that the quality of the
printing that you obtain from your in-house produced product using a
photoprinter is parallel to the quality from one that is outsourced?
Basically, does it smudge, rub off, look professional? Will it look
like something that I can charge money for and be proud of? (it is
actually a promotional item, but we want it to reflect positively on
my client)"

I am very happy with the quality I achieve. You do need to be careful
not to touch the printing surface BEFORE you print as it will leave
permanent finger prints. But it is rugged after that once it has dried
and drying time will depend on the density of the images you print. An
hour tops should be thoroughly dried and I handle them after 10
minutes with care - or put them in jewel cases immediately and let
them dry there. I have not subjected any of my discs to torture tests,
but they look very close to professional quality and seem to handle
almost as well as a commercially produced thermal printed disc. I
would not be embarassed at all to sell these as a finished product.

"3. Does the software that comes with the burner not only allow me to
burn, but also have some basic design capacity for designing the

Yes, but you would not want to use it. You need software that comes
with the PRINTER as it needs to line up precisely and instruct the
printer precisely to print JUST the printable area of the CD. It is
usually specific to a particular printer model and not generic as the
software for many label printing programs are. The software bundled
with the Epsons is very good. It took me less than an hour of trial
and error to match the calibrations and print driver settings for
optimal results with Taiyo Yudens and my 900.

Now if you mean the insert or booklet for the CD case, then yes, it
may have software for that with the burning software and likely so
will the printer software package. There are also third party products
for CD booklets and inserts. Microsoft Word, Adobe Pagemaker and many
other desktop publishing programs have CD booklet and insert

I hope these clarifications are helpful for you.


susank-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $5.00
Outstanding answer with fantastic detail. Right on target.

Subject: Re: Burning CDs vs Outsourcing
From: clouseau-ga on 19 Jan 2004 13:25 PST
Happy to help, Susan.

Thank you for the rating and tip.


Subject: Re: Burning CDs vs Outsourcing
From: susank-ga on 04 Feb 2004 06:38 PST
I don't know if you are still out there or even how this system works
if it will notify you that a question is raised (so if no answer I
fully understand but I can't figure out how to contact you directly).

Based on your recommendations, we are ready to move forward. A last
question is, since this is inkjet printing, does the color run once
printed on the CD-ROM. Basically, if it gets even the slightest bit
damp, is it going to bleed like other inkjet printing is wont to do?

Thanks if you can help.
Subject: Re: Burning CDs vs Outsourcing
From: clouseau-ga on 04 Feb 2004 11:17 PST
Hi again Susan,

Normally a researcher is not notified when a comment is placed - just
when there is a Clarification. But I happened to notice a new comment
on your question and here I am!

I did a little testing for you this morning on a disc I made over a
month ago, so the ink is as settled as it ever will be. With just my
fingers, I could not rub off any ink (not fingernail scraping - just
fingertips). It is very solid this way. I then wet a Que Tip and could
get the ink to run and smear, but not as badly as I might have
expected. After a bit of rubbing, the ink / disc surface actually
turned "sticky" and trapped the hairs of the Que Tip.

I think this is more severe than you will encounter unless a customer
truly decides to use your disc as a coaster. Dampness should not have
a dramatic effect - however wetness will. And hopefully, one will use
a disc and replace it to its sleeve or jewel case.

I hope this has been helpful.



Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy