Printing and Design Tips: July 2011, Issue #120

Three Case Binding Options

When you design a hardcover book, you have options. Not every book has to be cloth-bound book, paper-bound book, or leather-bound book. Choices abound, and many variations are possible. Consider the overall look you want to achieve. Here are some book-binding variants.

  1. Fabric stretched over binder boards: (often referred to as cloth-bound or edition-bound): In this case you would start with thick chipboard binder boards to give substance and rigidity to the binding. Over these you would stretch fabric, which would be glued to the outside of the boards and then turned over the edge and glued to the inside perimeter of the boards. You could foil stamp the title of the book on the fabric along with publisher information such as the ISBN number. To protect the fabric cover and add flair to the book design, you could print a removable dust jacket on enamel text paper and wrap this around the cover. You can add photography, heavy coverage solids, and various dull and gloss UV coatings to accentuate specific parts of the dust jacket. A large number of the fiction and nonfiction books you see in bookstores have this kind of cover treatment.
  2. Leather (cowhide or pigskin) stretched over binder boards: This is an even more traditional variant. Think of the classics, lining the dusty shelves of libraries: Shakespeare, Melville, Milton. Leather-bound books are similar to cloth-bound books except that they are covered with cowhide or pigskin. Often the book manufacturers have also gilded the edges of the paper (added gold) or stained them. Sometimes they have even added fabric page markers (little strips of cloth to mark your page.) Usually the text signatures are sewn together (called Smyth Sewing) to improve a book’s durability. Also, for longevity, the book manufacturer has probably printed the text on acid-free archival paper. Books printed like this last a long time. Contrast the brittle yellow pages of paperbacks printed a decade ago to the pristine books printed in the 1800's. Many Bibles fall into this category as well.
  3. Paper laminated to binder boards: You have probably seen these books on college campuses and in the computer section of the bookstore. Paper covered chipboard comprises the book binding. You have the added flexibility of being able to offset print the enamel text paper that will be glued to the chipboard binder boards. Therefore, you can include photographs, heavy ink solids, and varnish or UV coating effects. Overall, these books look much less formal than cloth-bound books with dust jackets. In fact, they look like you have glued the dust cover tightly to the binder boards, which is essentially how these books are made.

F&G'S: OOPS (Catching an Error Just in Time)

A client of mine contacted me with a problem. She had received F&G's for a case-bound book project, and there were printing errors.

First of all, what are F&G's? They are the printed but untrimmed and unbound--signatures of a perfect-bound or case-bound book. At this point in the process, all text signatures have been printed and stacked on palettes ready for binding, but no bindery activities have taken place. A printing error caught at this point is bad (i.e., expensive, unless it is a printer's error), but it is easier and cheaper to reprint one signature or a few signatures and then bind the entire press run than it is to find the error after the books have been bound. At that point, a complete book reprint might be necessary. At the very least, the printer would need to remove all of the covers and reprint the problematic signatures, and then re-bind and re-trim all books.

When my client contacted me, I reassured her that it was much better to find the errors in the F&G's than in the final printed books, and I pointed out that, based on the printer's schedule, there was time to address the issue.

When I contacted the printer, I learned that he had retained a review copy of the F&G's, so there was no reason to send back my client's copy to show him the errors. I did, however, ask my client to send the printer a list of errors noted page by page.

Based on my client's descriptions, it appeared that all errors were either smudges, streaks, and scratches (four pages) or faint white text images within the black solids (two pages). The printing problems fell within four press signatures. These were errors introduced by the printer. They were not editorial changes (author's alterations), so the printer had to bear responsibility.

By reviewing his copy of the F&G's, the printer determined the cause of the problem (press blanket issues and scratched plates) and decided to reprint two press signatures. One of the remaining problems had only occurred on my client's copy of the F&G's and not the printer's copy (the extent seemed to be limited), and another problem, while still introduced by the printer, was minor enough that my client agreed to let it go.

So it was a true compromise between the printer and my client. The printer stepped up and reprinted the most egregious errors, and my client agreed to forgive one of the less noticeable problems. This compromise also ensured that both the client and printer felt confident that they could work together again on future projects.

[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He 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.]