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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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Booklet Printing: Considering Options for Nested Booklets

When I receive bids for a print job, the pricing from the various custom printing suppliers usually falls within a narrow range. Some prices are lower, and some are higher, but it is unusual for one book printer to be twenty or thirty percent higher than all the others. If this happens, it is usually because of a miscommunication of some sort.

A few blog posts ago, I mentioned a smaller print booklet (6” x 9”) bound within a larger booklet (7” x 10”) that a print brokering client of mine has been designing. It is a 4-color self-mailer (i.e., it will not mail in an envelope). The job will include a folded letter inserted in the back of the larger book, and the mailer will be closed with three wafer seals to meet US Postal requirements for self-mailers.

Vastly Different Pricing from the Vendors

One printer bid $470.00 to insert the smaller print book into the larger print book, while another printer bid $2,400.00 for the same work. If the vendor with the higher insertion cost had not offered such a low price to print the two booklets (comparable to the lowest bid), I would have assumed that the high bidder was just not competitive for this kind of work. But the custom printing price was low, so I looked deeper.

My first thought was that the printer with the low bid had just priced the job with two stitches affixing one print book into the other. This would have been problematic. After all, my client wanted to be able to remove the inner book and keep it intact (i.e., the inner book had to still have two staples once it had been removed from the outer book). To do this, one additional staple would need to be added, binding the two separate, previously stitched books together.

But had the first printer (with the low bid) understood the complexity of the job? That was my question. Clearly the bidder with the higher price had understood, hence the higher price. I called the first bidder to confirm absolutely that he had understood. The inner book would need to be removed by the recipient. He agreed to hold the price. He had understood, and I had given him a chance to make a price change if he had not understood.

A New Option for Mailing the Promotional Piece

The high bidder could not bind the job for anywhere near the price the low bidder had provided. (My assumption was that the equipment on the pressroom floor of the two book printers had differed enough to account for the price discrepancy.)

However, since the high bidder’s prices for the custom printing component of the job were competitive, he suggested an alternative. He would produce the two print books and the accompanying letter (keeping them separate) and insert them into a 4-color printed envelope.

The Basis for the Change in Job Specifications

I considered the change in job specifications because the book printer offered an interesting rationale:

  1. A self-mailer would get banged up in the mail.
  2. Wafer seals, which would be required by the Post Office, might tear the cover stock of the outer booklet when the recipient of the mailer slit them to open the print book.
  3. The fifth stitch (the one used to bind the two print books together) would be opened when the inner book was removed from the outer book. This extra staple might accidentally prick the finger of the reader, since the staple would still be open and would extend into the center of the book once the smaller book had been removed.
  4. Most notably, the envelope would protect the entire package (all elements: the two books and the letter) from damage.

All of this seemed prudent, so I asked the book printer to revise the bid, deleting the costs for binding the books together and adding a price for a 4-color printed envelope.

This new price was quite good, so I submitted it to my client as an alternative to the self-mailer. I also explained why this might be a good option to consider.

The One Downside I Could See

I could see only one reason not to choose the envelope option (although clearly I would defer to my client’s wishes, regardless). When you find a 4-color self-mailer in your mail box, it stands out from all the other mail. You don’t need to open the envelope. You get an immediate recognition of the image and message.

In contrast, you have to open a sealed envelope. Granted, you can put teaser copy on the envelope, but it still may not be as dramatic as a 4-color self-mailer. I explained this to my client so she would understand the pros and cons of both options.

A Final Thought on Adding Wafer Seals

Over the years I’ve received numerous self-mailers closed not with wafer seals but with fugitive glue. Granted, neither option is as user friendly as an open self-mailer, but this is not an option given the requirements for US Postal Service automated processing. The mailer needs to be securely closed.

That said, I’ve never torn a self-mailer sealed with fugitive glue, while I have inadvertently torn self-mailers sealed with wafer tabs.

It was just a thought. I presented it to my client as an option to consider.

The jury is still out. We’ll see what my client says.

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