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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: The Virtues of Unique Cover Designs

My fiancee and I went to Barnes & Noble yesterday to get a birthday gift and card for a friend. We had been advised by a mutual relation that he wanted a particular print book about Christopher Columbus: a paperback best seller.

With a little help in the book store we found the text, a perfect-bound, (approximately) 6” x 9” print book with an intriguing cover. What makes the cover intriguing is that it does not extend all the way to the face trim. It stops just short of the trim (perhaps 1/2”), and when you lift the cover there is another, full-size cover beneath it.

Details of the Cover Design

Interestingly enough, the front cover wraps all the way around the spine and back of the text block, and under the short-folded front cover, the second cover, which is cut from the same weight stock as the outer cover, seems to have been tipped in between the first text signature and the outer print book cover. That is, a single 6” x 9” (approximately) sheet of cover stock appears to have been fit into the binding in front of all the text pages, and presumably glued to the first signature and into the spine. At least this is how it appears to me.

Regarding the book printing, the designer has included text and images on the front cover (with the short fold), the inside front cover (the reverse of the cover), and the additional, tipped-on cover. All graphic images have been printed in four-color process inks, and all images bleed on all four sides.

To add interest, the print book designer has chosen an uncoated, textured stock for the outer cover and a gloss-coated stock for the second cover (the one that extends fully to the face trim).

The Effects of the Design Choices

For me, the cover is intriguing for a number of reasons:

  1. The contrast between the rough, uncoated stock of the outer cover and the smooth coated feel of the inner cover immediately involves the reader’s tactile sensibility.
  2. The short fold invites the reader to open the book. The slight bit of graphic image beneath the first cover just begs to be revealed.
  3. The graphic on the front cover is a full-bleed image, but it has a restrained, symmetrical sense of balance. Therefore, when you open the cover to a more dramatic and colorful interior spread (inside front cover and second front cover), the reader’s field of view expands as the art becomes much more dynamic.

French Flaps, a Similar Approach

One of my commercial printing clients (a husband and wife literary publishing team) does something entirely different with their books. All of their titles have 12pt. covers with French Flaps (the covers extend past the books’ face trim by about 3” and then fold back, similar to dust jackets on case-bound books).

Although these French Flaps are different from the short-folded cover of the book about Columbus, the effect is similar. My client often prints full-bleed images on the inside front and back covers, and with the extensions of the French Flaps there is a lot more space to fill with compelling graphics than on the usual perfect-bound book. There is room on the French Flaps for author biographical information, reader comments, and perhaps a synopsis of the book, as well as imagery suggesting the tone of the upcoming print book the reader is about to experience.

Marketing Value of Both Options

Books are a dime a dozen. You go into a book store and there are many thousands to choose from. For good or ill, a book can capture your attention (or not) based on its cover—regardless of what your parents told you about not making such judgments. And intriguing book covers (with unexpected folds, whether the extended French Flaps or a short-folded cover) will differentiate the print book from its peers on the shelf. This is before any ink has been applied to the cover.

Secondly, the added space provided by these two options gives the book designer a much larger canvas on which to paint a picture of the story, stories, or poems contained in the book. Playing upon the contrast of a restrained front cover design and a more dynamic interior cover (as is the case with the sample book) can further invigorate the graphics, as can pairing either similar or dissimilar paper stocks.

Thirdly, since these cover treatments are unique (and apparently quite common in Europe), the perceived value of the print book will increase (based on its production values). The book just looks “classier” than a comparable text with covers that extend to the face trim and with no graphics on the interior covers. And for the marketer, “classier” or “European” translates into a higher price tag and perhaps a higher profit. So everyone wins.

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