Printing and Design Tips: October 2019, Issue #219

Otabind and Smyth Sewing as Binding Options

I received queries from two clients this last month, which I'd like to share with you. I think both the questions and the answers might be relevant to your own design and print-buying work.

Here's the first question and my answer to my client. She is referring to an 8.5" x 11" cookbook. My client is considering various binding methods, since the book is so long and since it needs to be both durable and conveniently usable (i.e., not heavy and unwieldy) during cooking tasks. Understandably, she also wants it to be affordable:

Question: I came across a new term: Otabinding. How sturdy is that? I've also seen 670-page, thick paperbacks that are sewn. For a 670-page book priced at $40, how much quality can readers expect? The $125 plasticoil version is very sturdy but can't be in stores.

Answer: They say it is sturdy, but for a book as heavy as yours, I would want to see a printed sample of the same length as your book. Otabind is like case-binding using a paper cover. You "hang" the text block on the cover paper with hinges. Since there's less surface area to which the glue adheres ( i.e., to hinges attached to the cover as opposed to glue completely applied to the spine), I personally would need to be sold on its durability. That said, an open Otabind book does lie flat.

Sewing is a good idea. Art books (even paper-bound ones) are sewn as well as perfect bound. Personally, I'd visit a museum bookshop and see what looks appealing. There's a similarity between your cookbook and art books produced by art museums: i.e., both are big, heavy books that must last a long time and tolerate heavy use.

Book printers can bid on Otabind and sewing. You want a dedicated book printer with relevant equipment for Smyth sewing, case binding, Otabinding, and such, onsite to keep prices down, control up, and schedules short. If a printer owns all of the binding equipment (and most commercial—as opposed to book—printers do not), costs are more reasonable.

Customers will still expect high quality for $40. Art books go for $50 (paperback) to $75 (hardback). Mechanical binding (done by hand) like GBC or plasticcoil tends to be expensive because it is so labor intensive. It is hand work.

Tight-back case-bound book binding is another option. This means gluing the ground backs of the press signatures to the fabric crash of the book and then gluing this to the spine of the book case-side (the combined front and back cover and spine, composed of the binding boards and the fabric or paper covering the binding boards). In this approach, all of the weight is distributed over the entire area of the case-bound book spine.

Splitting the 670-page book into two volumes is another option. A 670-page book printed on any kind of paper (even thin coated stock) will be heavy. As a cookbook, it will also be unwieldy, whether or not the case binding ever pulls apart from the heavy, bound signatures. Producing two 335-page (approximately) books can solve both of these problems.

Marketing a Client's Skills

Here's the second client's question, and my answer. I had designed and printed two books of poetry for this client over the past ten years, and she recently asked for my help and advice with promoting her nonfiction writing business:

Question: Could we talk soon about marketing me as a writer and communications leader, as you suggested?

Answer: Absolutely. Let me know what kind of goals you have in mind and what kinds of services and products I can help with.

For the first question, you might envision a particular kind of work you are seeking, particular services you can offer, and the values, tone, or overall ethos of your business.

Then, this needs to be reflected in the logo, corporate identity materials, and brochure. The best way to start is to collect sample identity materials that speak to you. Pay close attention to paper choices, color schemes, use of photography, etc.

Then think about the marketing copy, where to get any photos, and such.

But the first step would be to articulate what makes your business stand out from the competition.

Once you have the corporate identity materials, you can develop a strategy for using them, or even expanding into print ads or public relations articles in periodicals to market your services.

All of this should then be carried over into your LinkedIn and Facebook presence. You can also use Twitter and respond to comments on blogs and other online venues to establish your status as an expert in your field. Having a consistently branded cross-media presence will extend your reach dramatically. People will know what to look for. They will recognize your brand imagery when they see it.

One other thing to do is to collect similar materials from your competitors. You want to fit in (be seen as part of this particular group), but then you want to go further in some way (in the writing and the graphics) to show how you are a cut above your competition. All of this (quality of work, skills provided, corporate values) will be reflected in every detail, from the kerning in your logo to your choice of paper, as well as the words and photos that comprise the marketing content. Precision suggests attention to detail; flaws in writing and print production suggest lower quality work. The subliminal messages are profound and far reaching.

Frank Romano's Article on the Future of Print

When I was young, some kids used to trade baseball cards. Now I think I'd prefer to trade cards of the luminaries in the tech field or, more specifically, in my own particular niche, printing technology. Chief among my heroes is Frank Romano, whose books and articles I have been reading for the last 30 years.

Here is what he had to say recently about the future of print in an article entitled, "'New Print' Will Prevail," published on 8/12/19. I found the article on the InfoTrends InfoBlog.

1. The conventional wisdom that digital printing will take over for analog printing (offset lithography) presupposes that the number of pages printed overall will rise or at least stay the same. Romano does not think this will be the case. Printed pages are actually shrinking in number.

2. Therefore, for "New Print" to succeed, it must find new markets: new people with new needs.

3. Advances in technology (and improved quality of current technology) will be a catalyst for growth within these new markets.

4. Romano considers large-format inkjet printing to be a potentially transformative technology. One of the reasons is that it is a huge step forward from the signage that preceded it, in which screen printing was the technology of choice. Large-format inkjet provides expanded color fidelity and much higher resolution. It can also produce much larger signage than analog technologies of the past.

5. Using this logic, Romano notes that potential markets include interior décor, listing the following materials: glass, plastic, wood, metal, ceramics—all of which can be decorated with digital inkjet equipment. (It's still printing, just not printing on paper.)

6. Large-format signage, ceramic tiles, and other functionally printed products had been screen printed before the advent of digital inkjet printing. Print runs just had to be very high to be economical. In contrast, with digital inkjet printing, printers can economically produce just a short run of decorated ceramic floor tiles (for instance). Or they can even produce floor tiles that are unique to an individual customer. Both of these options were out of the question (i.e., extraordinarily expensive) prior to inkjet printing.

7. The same approach (short run, personalized, and high quality) will benefit other markets, such as packaging, signage, and even small promotional items.

8. Some printers have even been experimenting with printing holograms.

9. Other vendors have been printing directly on irregularly shaped items, such as footballs and glass bottles. This provides expanded options for the digital decorating of items and has dramatic implications for the production of personalized and short-run labels.

So, in short, Frank Romano thinks we should not focus on increasing the number of printed pages consumers want to produce (i.e., books, newspapers, magazines, flyers, etc.). Instead, we should focus on finding new substrates and products on which to print. (Think about how just a short time ago companies weren't adorning their fleet vehicles with car, bus, and truck wraps. Then, boom. These were everywhere, and they commanded the attention of passersby because they had never been seen before.)

To quote Frank Romano, "From the days of Gutenberg, print meant printing on paper. Now it means printing on anything" ("'New Print' Will Prevail)."

[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.]