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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: Finessing the Weight/Thickness of a Book

One of my current clients used to work for me back in the ’90s, when I was an art director. She is a shrewd print buyer and very knowledgeable about commercial printing. So I was a bit amused and pleased to hear from her today about a print book I’m brokering for her.

The perfect-bound, 6” x 9” print project was 320 pages last year, but it has grown to 424 pages this year. She would like it to “feel” like last year’s print book. She doesn’t want it to be perceived as being a third longer.

Why Might This Be So?

I didn’t really ask her, since she’s the client and my goal is to please her.

My client asked for the width of the spine of the prior year’s book (which had been printed on 70# Finch Opaque stock) compared to the width of the spine for the new page count if this year’s book were printed on either 60# Finch Opaque or 50# Finch Opaque. My client also wanted a mock-up (also called a paper dummy) produced on both 50# and 60# Finch to see how the two options would feel in her hand.

After forwarding this information to the book printer, I thought about why my client might want to make this change. This is what I came up with:

  1. The books are sold to clients annually. Some readers might take issue with paying the same amount for a longer or shorter book if they are used to getting a certain length book each year.
  2. The books reflect a certain amount of scholarship. Some people might perceive the thicker book as being more thorough than the thinner, particularly since the yearly editions contain the same number of articles.
  3. Or, and this would be the most practical reason, the print books are shipped to clients, and lightening the overall weight of the book will save money in shipping costs.

Of course, these are just speculations. However, if you yourself ever wind up in a similar position as a book printing buyer, you may want to consider these issues as well.

What Were the Differences?

This is what I heard back from the book printer:

  1. Last year’s book (320 pages printed on 70# stock) was .812 inches thick (the text only).
  2. This year’s book (424 pages) if printed on 60# stock would be .954 inches thick (the text only).
  3. This year’s book (424 pages) if printed on 50# stock would be .848 inches thick (the text only).

The printer pointed out that, either way, this year’s print book will be thicker than last year’s. He went on to say that he would lean toward the 60# stock due to its improved opacity, and he also pointed out that 60# text block (text with no cover) would be only 1/8th of an inch thicker than last year’s text block.

Why Request the Mock-Ups?

So the take-away from this exercise is that at this book length, even a third more pages would only increase the thickness of the book by 1/8 of an inch.

However, 1/8 of an inch is merely a concept, a mental image. I applaud my client’s practical side in wanting to see and feel a paper dummy of both a 50# and a 60# Finch Opaque press sheet. The final decision will be based on the heft of the book plus on how the pages feel in the hand at their various thicknesses.

Fortunately, this printer can make the mock-ups in house. Not all printers can do this. If you need a mock-up or paper dummy, in some cases your printer will request one from his paper merchant or from the paper mill, and this might take a little time. Therefore, it’s always wise to ask for a mock-up (of a book, a brochure, or any other project you want to get the “feel” of) early in the process.

What About the Opacity?

Now this is where I was worried. I knew that there would be no “show-through” (of the ink on one side of the page when reading the opposite side of the page) in a book printed on 70# Opaque Finch paper.

This particular annual book includes lots of screens, some solid ink coverage (in small areas), and lots of photos. It’s a good candidate for having problems with show-through. That said, like the book printer I felt that the 60# Finch Opaque stock (“opaque” to minimize show-through) would be just about as thin as you could comfortably choose for such a book. The printer and I both thought that the 50# stock (even if it were Finch Opaque) might just be a little too transparent.

(Since I was curious, I looked it up online. I found 93 opaque—on a scale of 100–for the 50# stock vs. 95 opaque for the 60# stock vs. 96 opaque for 70# stock. I’ll stand by my advice that my client choose 60# Finch Opaque.)

We’ll see how my client feels when she sees the paper dummies.

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