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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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The Printing Industry Exchange (PIE) staff are experienced individuals within the printing industry that are dedicated to helping and maintaining a high standard of ethics in this business. We are a privately owned company with principals in the business having a combined total of 103 years experience in the printing industry.

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Printing Customs: Who Owns the Specialty Paper the Printer Bought for Your Job?

When you are printing a book or any other long-run-, multiple-page-, multiple-signature-print job, it is prudent to consider the kind and amount of paper you buy (as well as the final page count and press run). This is true for books (book printing companies), print catalogs (catalog printers), magazine printing (magazine printers), and such.

If you have your printer buy specialty paper for a job and then change the length of the publication or the length of the print run, you may still be responsible for the paper. For example, let’s say you are printing 12,000 copies of a 56-page directory on 50# canary yellow offset stock. You bid out the job, receive quotes, choose the vendor, and ask your chosen printer to proceed with ordering paper.

As you are preparing the InDesign files for the job, your marketing department or editorial subscription department provides address database material, and you realize you will only need 11,000 copies of the publication, not 12,000. At the same time, the editorial department deletes some information from the directory, and the length of the book drops from 56-pages self-cover to 52-pages self cover.

The normal inclination of any print buyer would be to approach the printer for a revised estimate, expecting to save a lot of money (assuming that a job with a shorter press run and fewer pages will require less paper, fewer plates, etc.).

Unfortunately, you may only save your company $100.00 or so, for the following reasons:

  • Canary yellow stock is a specialty item. Not many print buyers want to use it, so your printer most likely will charge you for all paper he bought for your job. This would be the opposite of a “house sheet,” which is kept on the printing floor in bulk because multiple clients want such a generic paper for their printing work. Therefore, although a shorter press run and fewer pages require less paper, you will still probably have to pay for all of it. That said, consider using the canary yellow stock for an additional job that might go along with the directory (a brochure or flyer, for instance).
  • The assumption that a shorter booklet will require fewer printing plates (and perhaps other consumables as well) will not be borne out in this case. This is because a 56-page book and a 52-page book are both composed of four signatures (3 16-page signatures plus an 8-page signature, or 3 16-page signatures plus a 4-page signature, respectively). So no time, effort, or materials will be saved. Therefore, you will receive only a minimal price reduction.

To actually save money on the preceding job, consider the following:

  • Choose a stock that can be used by another customer if you don’t use all of it (ask about the printer’s house sheet).
  • If you reduce the page count of a booklet, consider not only the number of pages but also the number of signatures. Your printer can help you figure this out. As a general rule of thumb, start out with multiples of 32, then 16, then 8, and then 4 pages. If, for example, you had reduced the page count on the aforementioned job from 56 pages to 48 pages, there would only be three 16-page press runs, fewer plates, less press time, fewer wash-ups, etc.

Whether you will be approaching catalog printing companies, magazine printers, hardcover book printers, or paperback book printers for your jobs, it is wise to discuss the ramifications of paper choice early in the process, as related to press run and book length.

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