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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.

PIE's staff is here to help the print buyer find competitive pricing and the right printer to do their job, and also to help the printing companies increase their revenues by providing numerous leads they can quote on and potentially get new business.

This is a free service to the print buyer. All you do is find the appropriate bid request form, fill it out, and it is emailed out to the printing companies who do that type of printing work. The printers best qualified to do your job, will email you pricing and if you decide to print your job through one of these print vendors, you contact them directly.

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Book Printing: Nothing Shows Printing Companies What You Want Better Than a Sample

I met a potential new client at an art opening this weekend. We discussed an upcoming book printing run. She wants to produce a 5” x 5” case-bound book of her photographs. I started thinking about how to approach this new job prior to our upcoming meeting to determine how I might be most helpful. First off, I asked her to start collecting book printing samples that she likes, with formats, sizes, and materials she thinks most closely reflect the nature of her photography. Nothing communicates a client’s goals for a new project like a physical printed sample. Printing companies can understand and reproduce what they can see. If you’re designing a book and are faced with a similar situation, consider these sources for sample books.

From Used Bookstores

The best reasons to start your search for samples at a used bookstore are the low cost of the books and their wide variety. You can afford to collect a number of different samples, odd formats, unique materials, and bindings that are out of the ordinary. Used bookstores often have books in their stacks from the last twenty to thirty years, so the different book printing design trends will be evident in their manufacturing and style.

From Paper Merchants

Paper merchants (intermediaries who broker papers from a number of paper mills) can get unique samples for you for free. Their job is to interest you in a specific paper, so you will encourage your custom printing vendor to buy the paper for your job from them. Not only do paper merchants have access to promotional pieces showcasing the best design work on various press sheets, but they often have extensive knowledge of custom printing technologies, paper options, bindery methods, etc.

From Business Printing Vendors and Binderies

Printers have access to the same paper merchants (and samples) that you do. However, they can also provide samples of custom printing jobs they themselves have produced. And they have direct knowledge through personal experience of the benefits and pitfalls of various materials and processes. Don’t forget specialty printers such as letterpress vendors. It even behooves you to request samples directly from binderies, since they will know more about this aspect of book manufacturing than even the printers.

From Paper Shows

Design trade groups such as AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) present periodic trade shows. Custom printing vendors, paper merchants, binderies, letterpress shops, and other related suppliers attend these shows and bring samples of their best business printing work. It’s worth the nominal fee to attend the show and peruse the vendor floor, going from booth to booth and collecting samples of what you like.

What to Look for

  • Binding methods (perfect binding, saddle-stitching, side-stitching, and mechanical bindings such as plastic coil, plastic comb, etc.)
  • Shape (upright, oblong, square)
  • Size (from ultra small to ultra large)
  • Cover material (fabric, leather, paper, even wood)
  • Cover diecuts, embossing, or materials such as photos inset into, or glued onto, the cover of the book
  • Interior paper (thickness, color, texture)

This list is just a start. If you take some time to visit a used bookstore, visit with your paper merchant or custom printing vendor, or attend a paper show, you will start to develop a “swipe file,” which will help you get ideas for your next book project and also communicate these ideas to your client, your boss, and your business printing service. Nothing communicates your intent like a book printing sample.

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