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Printing Industry Exchange (printindustry.com) is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Book Printing: Consider Both Design Goals and Custom Printing Costs

A client of mine is producing a family history print book. We’re not absolutely sure yet whether it will be long enough to warrant perfect binding—or even case binding—or whether the press run will require digital or offset printing.

That said, my client wants the book to be first class in design and primarily for family and friends. So at this point I’m guessing that it will be an 8.5” x 11” format, 100 to 200 pages (based on the number of photos and the amount of text), and case-bound in a limited edition on table-top case-binding equipment. I would assume at this point that the interior of the book would be digitally printed on an HP Indigo (or similar press) due to the short run (presumably less than 500 copies if the book is for friends and family), and the 4-color imagery in the text of the book.

Regardless of the method of producing the book, it will need to include one or more images reflecting two branches of a large family tree.

I was just called upon to offer advice regarding both custom printing and design issues, and I wanted to share them with readers who might face similar challenges.

The Goals for the Family Tree

A family tree includes a lot of information, and to be useful this information must be readable. Moreover, in this particular case the family tree will include two smaller trees: one for the mother’s side of the family and one for the father’s.

I spoke with a book printer to discuss options. He suggested the following:

From a Book Printer’s Perspective

  1. My client could print the two segments of the family tree on two consecutive pages within the book. If artwork on the two pages needs to cross over and align perfectly, these could be the two center-spread pages of a signature in a perfect-bound or case-bound book, or the center spread of the book if the text winds up being short enough for saddle stitching.

    Or, my client could print the mother’s family tree on a page preceding her chapter of the book, and the father’s family tree on the page preceding his. (Either way, there would be no additional custom printing charge. The pages for the family tree would just be part of the text.)

  2. My client could print the two segments of the family tree on the inside front and inside back covers of the print book. If the book were saddle stitched or perfect bound, this would be no problem, and if my client choses to produce a case-bound book, the segments of the family tree could be printed on the endsheets of the book.

    For either a saddle-stitched or perfect-bound book, there might be no extra charge, or only a minimal charge, depending on how the covers are printed. More specifically, some larger presses can print both sides of the press sheet simultaneously. In this case, depending on how many inking units the press has and how the covers are imposed (set up on the press sheet), the additional cost might be only for ink, wash-ups, and plates.

    On the other hand, if the covers must be printed once for the exterior front and back covers, and an additional time for the interior front and back covers, this option might add hundreds of dollars to the cost of the job. The same would be true if the job is case bound, since an additional press run would be needed for the endsheets, which might otherwise be blank.

  3. As a third alternative, my client could add an over-sized sheet (11″ x 17″ folded to 8.5″ x 11″) between signatures within the book (called a “tip-on”). This would work whether the book is saddle stitched, perfect bound, or case bound.

    If the print book is saddle stitched, the fold-out would need to be placed in the “high-folio” side (the back of the book) and open out to the right (placing it in the low-folio side is an option, but since it is more difficult, it would cost more). Basically, an 8.5” x 11” book page would be on one side of the staples (the front half of the book), and the larger, two-page fold-out would be on the other side of the staples (the back half of the book). The fold-out would be folded in just shy of the trim so the cutting knives won’t chop through the fold when they trim the book.

    Depending on the page count and press run, this can add $600, $700, or more, for make-ready and the book press run.

From a Designer’s Perspective

I thought about these options as a designer as well as a print broker to see whether the respective goals might be in conflict. These were my observations and my suggestions to the client:

  1. Seeing both the mother’s and father’s side of the family tree side by side would show a connection between the two sides of the family.
  2. But this would require a larger than normal page size to allow for readable text.
  3. Therefore, the ideal option would unfortunately also be the most expensive (the fold-out).
  4. Placing the two halves of the family tree side by side on facing pages would work, too. However, a fold-out treatment will be more dramatic, giving prominence to the design and type on the fold-out page.

At this point it is early in the process. We’ll see what my client will choose. I’m sure it will depend on the size and format of the print book, its budget, and my client’s design and editorial goals for the family history. These may all affect both the printing technology (digital or offset) and the binding options (traditional long-run binding or short-run table-top binding).

But this does illustrate the need to coordinate the physical requirements of the custom printing process with both the desired look and functionality of a job and the amount of money available for its design and production. And, as always, it’s wise to involve the book printer early in the design process.

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