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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: How to Approach a New Job

A client recently came to me with a print book proposal. She wants to create a notebook for American soldiers deployed abroad. She came to me for advice, perhaps some design work, and connections to commercial printers. I thought several aspects of the job might interest readers of this blog.

The Binding and Format of the Notebook

My client’s goal is to produce a notebook in which service personnel can write notes and collect various kinds of memorabilia. It will have a Wire-O binding, a pocket on the back inside cover, and an elastic closure surrounding the book and allowing users to secure any inserts so they don’t fall out.

How might you approach this information, if you are producing a similar print book?

  1. Consider that mechanical bindings, such as Wire-O, spiral, and GBC, will allow your book to open easily and lie flat on a table. (Ota-Bind, or lay flat adhesive binding, can do this as well.)
  2. A pocket added to the front or back cover of the book will allow readers to collect related materials, whether articles or photos. However, you need to consider the shape of the pocket (4” horizontal—for instance–attached at the bottom and outside edge, or a diagonal or curved pocket, or a vertical pocket).
  3. You will also need to consider whether to include a “build” for the pocket. This is a thickening of the pocket by adding extra paper all around the edge of the pocket in order to allow for the insertion of more papers, photos, and such. Keep in mind that a build pocket can be crushed more easily than a flat pocket. In addition, you should expect to pay extra (up to $500) for the die for such a pocket. That said, ask your book printer about using a pre-existing die, if you’re flexible as to the dimensions of the pocket.

Choosing the Paper Stock

I had initially suggested synthetic paper to my client, since it is so durable and tear resistant. I thought the service men and women would appreciate a notebook that would accept rough treatment. Synthetic paper accepts abuse. You can even put it under water. However, when I learned that my client wanted the service personnel to be able to write in the book, I changed my views. Instead I suggested a thick, matte coated sheet and a thicker than usual cover stock.

(Apparently, upon further research, I have seen claims that some synthetic paper can be written on. I’ll withhold judgment for now, but I’ll also do more checking before encouraging my client to choose one paper over another.)

How might you approach paper selection, if you are doing a similar project?

  1. If you plan to write on the paper stock, consider an uncoated sheet. A matte coated stock would be a good second choice. Writing on a gloss sheet is inconvenient at best. The ink smears off if you don’t press down hard enough to break through the paper coating. Dull coated stock is very smooth as well. If you want to write on paper, it really needs a bit of “tooth” or texture.
  2. Paper thickness is a consideration if you want a durable product. Assuming that most (or at least many) paperback books use 10 pt. cover stock, you might want to specify 12 pt. instead (or thicker). If you’re used to specifying 60# or 70# text and you want a thicker sheet for the book pages, consider 80# or even 100# text. Keep in mind, though, that the thicker sheet will yield a larger and heavier book. On the Internet, research the thickness of your chosen paper (PPI, or pages per inch) when you have determined the page count of your book. This will tell you exactly how thick your book will be. If your custom printing vendor will be mailing the book, its weight may be an issue.
  3. If you have any doubts at all, have the book printer request a paper dummy from the paper merchant. You will see immediately how much the print book will weigh, how thick it will be, and how the cover and text pages will feel if you specify a thicker paper stock.

How the Files Will Be Supplied to the Printer

My client has produced a prototype of the book in Photoshop. I am a bit concerned, and I have suggested that the text pages be recreated in InDesign. The collages that comprise the visual imagery of the book will be fine, since they can be placed in picture boxes in an InDesign book file. The resolution of the photo collages will be acceptable as long as they are 300 dpi. The text within the images should be fine as well, for two reasons. The text is part of a collage and hence artistic in nature. It is also large type, and at 300 dpi it should not show any pixellation.

That said, text for the non-image areas of the book would be better prepared in InDesign, since the type will then render at the highest resolution of the commercial printer’s imagesetter or platesetter.

What can you learn from this?

  1. Create images in a bitmap editor like Photoshop, and do your page design with page-composition software. It is possible to do single page documents in Photoshop, or even Illustrator, but for multi-page documents in which text needs to be crisp and precise, InDesign is the preferred software package.
  2. If you have collages in your book incorporating text and images, do these in Photoshop. Use the vector type layers for the text to maintain its high resolution. Do keep in mind, though, that the file may need to be flattened (all the layers merged into the background layer) before rasterizing the file for the book printer’s imagesetter or platesetter.

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