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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 Update: Hardcover/Softcover Split-Run Error

Online Printing Services

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog entry about a client of mine whose online book printer had transposed the number of hardcover copies and the number of softcover copies of a book he was producing for her. I just learned the outcome, and I wanted to share this with you.

To recap:

Upon learning of the error, the book printer had stepped up immediately and offered to make my client whole. He had offered her three options:

  • Accept the printing as is, but pay for the additional case-bound books at the lower cost of the perfect-bound books.
  • Cut off the hardcover cases, print new soft covers, and rebind the books with the new covers.
  • Reprint the additional 800 softcover books.

My client chose option #3. She decided to have the softcover books reprinted (only the copies that should have been softcover in the first place) at the online printing company’s expense, as he had offered.

This is why I think my client made a prudent decision:

Custom printing is an imprecise art and science. Cutting and trimming operations in particular can magnify errors. If the original book blocks had been the least bit off of “true” once the covers had been removed, the retrimming process could have made an imperceptible error into a visible one. The text margins may not have aligned exactly with the cover trim. Or, what had been an adequate face margin might have become an uncomfortably tight one. And it is possible that the trimming of the books might not have been of the same quality throughout the run.

Each copy of the book my client planned to send to her subscribers would, essentially, have been an advertisement for her company. Would she really want to risk sending out a problematic copy and tarnishing her company’s reputation as a book publisher? Her clients were paying a premium for each book.

I think my client chose the best option. The online printing service would produce the 800 books from start to finish, rather than altering the erroneously bound books. Interestingly enough, a colleague of mine noted that my client had lost a few weeks in the completion of the job due to the book printer’s error. She asked whether my client should not only have requested a reprint of the 800 books but also a discount for the late delivery.

I’m a great believer in compromise and in treating one’s printing companies as partners. The book printer had stepped up immediately and offered to reprint the problematic books. That showed good faith. Rather than asking for an additional discount, above and beyond the reprint, I think my client chose to foster the future working relationship with the custom printing vendor by compromising. She accepted the late delivery of the 800 books. That was her compromise. The book printer chose to incur a substantial extra cost by reprinting the 800 books at his expense. That was his compromise. Both parties can now feel secure working together on future projects.

As an extra point, I do want to say that removing book covers and adding new ones does have its place. I personally have seen it done successfully by another local book printer.

Speed vs. Perfection

In making the decision of whether to remove and replace the covers or whether to reprint the problematic books, I think the key is the following question: What level of quality do you need for this job? Not all jobs need to be of showcase quality. For example, an industrial parts catalog that needs to be distributed immediately might be a perfect candidate for removing and replacing the covers. In this case speed trumps perfection in binding. My client, on the other hand, was selling a reference book for a high price, and this required quality over speed.

Custom printing is a process with multiple steps, and things do go wrong from time to time. How the business printing service makes things right is what distinguishes true quality.

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