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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 Case Study for Hardcover/Softcover Split Run: Oops!

Like anyone else, printing companies make mistakes. After all, custom printing is a process with multiple steps. It is not a commodity.

I received a call today from a consulting client whose book printer had accidentally reversed the number of soft-cover and hard-cover copies of a textbook pressrun. My client had requested 1,500 case-bound copies of the book and 2,300 perfect-bound copies, but the business printing vendor had mistakenly printed 2,300 case-bound books and 1,500 perfect-bound books.

Keep in mind that the case-bound books sell for a premium, and marketing research (and orders to date) suggest that more perfect-bound copies of these particular books will be ordered than case-bound copies.

So my client really did need the extra 800 softcover books. Fortunately, the book printer was most apologetic and wanted to make things right.

My client came to me with three options and asked my opinion. The options were:

  1. Accept the printing as is, but only pay the book printer for what was originally ordered. In other words, pay for the additional case-bound books at the lower cost of the perfect-bound books, reducing the overall manufacturing costs.
  2. Have the business printing vendor retrieve the extra case-bound books from my client, cut off the cases, print new soft covers, rebind the books with the new covers, and ship the books back to my client within three weeks, all at the printer’s expense.
  3. Have the printing company go back on press and print the additional softcover books. Then have the printer retrieve the additional case-bound books from my client for repulping.

This was my response:

  • Since the cases would be cut off in option #2, the remaining “book blocks” (or gathered signatures) would need to be slightly trimmed down (on the head, foot, and face margins). For this to work and not look like a mistake, there would need to be sufficient margins in the books to allow for the retrimming process. In addition, if the retrimming were inaccurate in any way, the text blocks might not be evenly (or squarely) cut all the way around.
  • If she chose this option, I suggested that my client have the book printer check all retrimmed copies for accuracy, and that she herself spot check the books when delivered. I also encouraged my client to stipulate that if the results of the printer’s tearing off the covers, rebinding, and retrimming were unacceptable, she would ask the book printer to go back on press and reprint the books.
  • I ruled out option #1, since my client needed all the books in order to fulfill current and expected book orders from clients.
  • I noted that the best option for my client would be #3. After all, the books would be created from start to finish, not altered. I suggested that if my client chose option #3, her position of compromise with the printer (and all negotiations go better when both parties compromise) could be the lateness of these copies. She would accept their being late for delivery to her customers if the printer would be willing to absorb the cost of reprinting the affected copies.

We’ll see what she chooses.

Custom printing is a process with multiple steps, and things do go wrong from time to time for all printing companies. It is the measure of a reputable business printing service (the kind with which you will want to work through such difficulties) that the printer will want to make things right. Such a vendor, whether a book printer, catalog printer, or whatever kind of printer, is worth holding onto.

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