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Printing Industry Exchange ( 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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Update on the Book Set

I mentioned in a recent PIE Blog article that a client of mine is producing a set of 6” x 9” booklets that will be inserted into a printed, corrugated box sleeve. Getting them to fit in the box is crucial (not too tight, and not too loose), and this challenge has been compounded by my client’s not having a firm page count for the print books.

A Quick Review of the Specs

The product comprises four original books in a slip case. The books will be 6” x 9” saddle-stitched translations of government education articles aimed at a high school audience. The covers will print in four-color process, and the text pages will be black ink only. There will be three copies of each of the four books in a box, or 12 books total.

The covers will be printed on 12pt. C1S (coated one side) stock, and the text pages of the print books will be produced on 70# Finch Opaque white text stock. (The first bid had specified 80# Finch, but a paper dummy of all the books provided by the printer fit very tightly in the sample box used for the prior year’s version of this project, so my client reduced the paper thickness to 70#.)

The front of the box slip case will be only 5” high, and the back will be the full 9” height of the books. This will protect the books but also allow for their easy removal from, and replacement into, the box. The (initially planned) 2.5” width of the box will need to allow all twelve books to sit comfortably in the box sleeve.

Once printed, the books will be saddle stitched and inserted into the boxes, and the boxes will be shrink wrapped.

Based on the initial specs, the projection was that the books would be 48 or 52 pages (two books of each length). In the prior year’s version, the books ranged from 44 to 56 pages (this is relevant insofar as it provides a good estimate of how many book pages will fit in the 2.5”-wide box).

However, when my client laid out the initial proof of the books, the page count increased. Now the books are 54 pages, 60 pages, 64 pages, and 68 pages (three copies of each in a boxed set).

The Implications of the Page Count

Normally, the length of a print book is not of particular concern. However, in this case the books all need to fit into the slip case box, so to determine the proper width of the box, it is good to start with the total page count and the paper thickness.

The initial printing of this boxed set included ten books. When you add up the number of pages, this equals 484 pages plus covers. The box for this initial job was 2.5” wide. Hence, the printer’s initial bid for this job assumed a 2.5” box. It was assumed that this would not be a problem, since there was extra room in the last version of the boxed set once all books had been slipped into the box.

But this year’s print books were initially specified as 80# text, not 70# as in the prior year’s version. In addition, even the initial page estimate (three sets of each of two 48-page books and two 52-page books) yielded a total of 600 pages plus covers. When stacked together, the books would include a 24 percent increase in book pages over the prior year’s product. In addition, there would be an increase in paper thickness from 70# to 80# text stock (a 14.28 percent increase).

To compound matters, the first page proof yielded longer books than expected: 54 pages, 60 pages, 64 pages, and 68 pages (rather than two 48-page books and two 52-page books). Multiplied out, these page counts equal 738 book pages plus covers.

So the books jumped from 484 pages to 600 pages to 738 pages, and the thickness of the paper jumped from 70# to 80# text.

My client had already produced a box template (art for the dieline from which the metal dies will be made that will be used to cut out the boxes). At the book printer’s suggestion, she had made it a 3” wide box rather than a 2.5” wide box. However, I’m still not completely comfortable. After all, the page count has risen more than 52 percent over the prior year’s version, and the paper has increased in thickness.

Projections for the Boxed Set

The printer made a complete paper dummy using the prior year’s box and mocked-up versions of the books. He had done this on 80# text stock (the covers were to be the same as the prior year’s version: 12pt. C1S stock). Even at the initially proposed book lengths (48 and 52 pages), the dummy books just barely fit into the box sleeve.

Now that the (closer to) firm book lengths have been established, my client has reduced the paper stock, reverting to the 70# thickness of the prior year’s iteration. This will help. Now the printer can make a revised set of paper dummy books to see how thick 12 of them will be. This will provide a realistic interior box width that will comfortably contain the print books.

Why This Could Have Been a Disaster

Boxes are cut with metal dies, and the dies are both expensive and time consuming to make. Had my client, or the printer, not made paper dummies (and revised paper dummies) to see for sure how the books would fit in the box, there could have been unnecessary delays and additional costs for revised dies. This could have compromised the book production schedule, getting boxes to the end-users past the deadline.

What You Can Learn From This Case Study

First of all, you get what you pay for. This particular printer is not the cheapest in town. However, he has always delivered a superior product on time. Paying a little more to know he will make the paper dummies, and confirm the proper width for the box, is priceless.

In your own work, if the page count for a similar product changes, request a second paper dummy. Don’t assume, don’t guess. Be certain.

Remember that a book set in a box is a physical product with certain physical requirements and limitations. This is why a paper dummy is so helpful. You can not only see but also feel exactly what the final job will be like.

6 Responses to “Update on the Book Set”

  1. Mia says:

    It’s good to know that every penny is worth it. I’ll try them out and see for myself.

    • admin says:

      Thank you for your comment. I think going with the lowest bid is not always wise. You get what you pay for, and I’m happy paying a little more for superior service.

  2. That is a very good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere.
    Brief but very accurate info… Appreciate your sharing this one.
    A must read article!

  3. Very good blog post. I absolutely love this website.
    Continue the good work!


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