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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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Hardcover Book Printers: A Case Study on Book Binding

A custom book printer recently sent me a contract including the following proposal for book binding. Hardcover book printers are very specialized in their skill set, and their jargon is somewhat arcane. The following explanation will help you understand the contracts you receive from book printing and publishing companies. Contracts from book printers are often more complex than contracts for such jobs as custom envelopes, print newsletters, and the like. Ask your book printer to explain anything you don’t understand.

The Specifications from the Book Contract

Binding (Adhesive, Case): Signatures will be gathered with endsheets, adhesive bound and trimmed square on three sides. Cases will be made over .098 board with Arrestox B materials and 3 hits of foil stamp measuring approximately 30 square inches. Dies are billed as additional. Books will be cased in round, loose back with head and foot bands, wrapped in preprinted jackets, and packed in 275# single-wall RSC cartons. Prices are FOB our plant.

An Explanation of the Specifications

Adhesive case binding: Printed book signatures are gathered, and the bind edge is roughed up to better accept the hot melt glue that holds the signatures together and within the case. The text blocks are then cased in (set within the paper- or fabric-coated binder boards that make the books hardcover rather than soft-cover). Adhesive case binding is similar to perfect binding (except for the case) and different from Smyth Sewn case binding, in which signatures are actually sewn together to strengthen the binding.

Endsheets: These are the papers attached to the inside front cover and inside back cover of the binder boards. Half of each sheet is attached to the binder boards, and the other half folds back and is loose (this part of the sheet is called the flyleaf). The text block is attached to the case at the folded edge of the endsheet. (The endsheet actually holds down a flap attached to the spine of the gathered signatures and keeps the text block firmly within the case.)

Case Materials, “.98 board with Arrestox B materials”: Arrestox B refers to a particular brand of fabric that will cover the outside of the binder boards. Ask for samples of fabrics and colors when you specify cover materials. Also note the thickness of the binder boards. For example, .88 boards are thinner than .98 boards, yielding a less sturdy book. If the book is smaller than 8.5” x 11”, this may not be a problem. Also note the color of the endsheets (Rainbow Antique Willow stock, for instance, refers to a particular green colored endsheet).

Foil Stamp: “Three hits totaling 30 inches” refers to the placement of the foil in three places (front cover, back cover, and spine) and the maximum area (30 inches) that will be foil stamped. (The name of the book and other information will be stamped out with a die and attached to the book with heat and pressure.) Dies are billed as additional. They are expensive. Budget $400.00 to $500.00 extra for this item for a case-bound book. (Caution: “Three hits” can also mean three separate colors, so be clear with your printer as to 1) how many colors you want, 2) where they will be placed, and 3) how much space they will occupy.)

Books will be cased in round, loose back with head and foot bands: That is, the book will have a round spine rather than a flat spine. (You’ve probably seen the elegant, curved appearance of a rounded spine.) The term “loose back” means that the fabric strip attached to the book block spine (called the “mull”) is not itself attached to the case of the book. Having the book block attached to the case doesn’t allow the book to open as easily and lie flat on a table, although it is a bit more durable. Head and foot bands are the purely ornamental bits of colored fabric at the top and bottom of the book, immediately adjacent to the bind edge. They cover the book pages at the spine for a more polished look.

Wrapped in preprinted jackets, and packed in 275# single-wall RSC cartons: The printer produces the hardcover books (in this case on a web press), prints the book jackets on an enamel 80# text stock on a sheetfed press, and then wraps the books in the jackets and places them (without shrink-wrapping them first) in cartons of sufficient durability to resist breaking (in this case 275# single wall cartons). (You can specify the weight of the final, packed cartons: such as 40# or less.)

Prices are FOB our plant: This means the client pays for the shipping and takes responsibility for the safety of the books starting when they leave the printer’s loading dock.

In particular, when you receive contracts from hardcover book printers, it is prudent to carefully review all specifications. Due to the complexity of the jargon used by book printing and publishing companies, these contracts from book printers can be confusing. Ask your book printer to explain anything you don’t understand.

2 Responses to “Hardcover Book Printers: A Case Study on Book Binding”

  1. This is nice posting about book printing. I like this. Thanks for sharing it.


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