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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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Book Printing: Self-Cover vs. Plus Cover

When you work with book printers, catalog printers, or magazine printers to produce multi-page documents, it is important for you to specify whether your job will be “self-cover” or “plus cover.”

How Thick Is the Paper Stock?

The key is whether a heavier stock will be used for the outside four-page cover. For instance, if you design a 16-page booklet on 80# text stock, you would call this a “16-page self-cover booklet.” If you added a four-page cover on 80# cover stock, this would then be considered a “16-page-plus-cover” job. However, adding the same four pages but using 80# text stock rather than cover stock would yield a “20-page self-cover” job. The difference is the weight of the printing stock for the outer pages. If it’s thicker than the text stock, it’s considered a cover; if it’s the same, it’s part of the text.

This concept is important to remember for a few reasons. First of all, it’s easy to forget this specification when you’re getting prices from printing companies. If you do so, your estimate might not match your expectations when you receive the final invoice.

More importantly, you can use this information to save money when buying printing services.

How Many Pages Do You Have, How Big Is the Press, and What Is the Trim Size of Your Book?

First of all, let’s define a signature. Whether it is a book or booklet, a magazine, or a catalog, your multi-page print job will be composed of signatures. These are the groupings of four, eight, sixteen, etc., pages that are the final product after a single press sheet has been printed, folded down, and trimmed. For example, on a 25” x 38” press sheet, the printer can lay out sixteen 8.5” x 11” pages (eight on either side of the sheet). Some presses can accommodate a larger sheet size, and therefore the number of pages in each signature can be much higher (32 or even 64 pages, depending on the size of the press sheet and the size of each book page).

Now, let’s say you’re printing a 16-page booklet. Furthermore, let’s assume you had planed to add a cover but through a few editing and design changes, you no longer need the 4-page cover. In such a case, you could print one 16-page self-cover booklet in one pass on the press instead of one 16-page text signature and one 4-page cover signature in two press runs. By eliminating the cover signature, you could save yourself press time, ink costs, wash-ups, paper, folding and trimming costs, etc. (in short, you could save a lot of money).

When designing a booklet, you should ask the printing companies what size press will be used for the job, what size sheet the press will accommodate, and how many pages can be printed in one signature (leaving room for bleeds). In some cases, depending on the press size and the final trim size of your book, you might actually be able to shrink the trim size slightly and get more pages on the press sheet.

Be Mindful When Adding Pages.

It is also wise to be aware of the cost of adding pages. For example, on a 25” x 38” press sheet, you can lay out sixteen 8.5” x 11” pages. Were you to add four pages to the design of your book (even on the same text stock rather than cover stock), you would require an additional signature to accommodate the extra pages, and hence you would need to pay for a second press run.

Working with printing companies (whether book printers, catalog printers, or magazine printers) to produce multi-page documents requires you to specify whether your job will be “self-cover” or “plus cover.” Being mindful of the difference, as well as the size of the press, the press sheet, and the book page, can save you money.

4 Responses to “Book Printing: Self-Cover vs. Plus Cover”

  1. Debra says:

    Exceptionally useful article!

  2. WILLIAM says:

    Just what i need. Thank you so much!


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