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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.

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Book Printing: Thinner Paper, But Still “In-Spec”

Oops. The printer called me today and said the paper he had ordered for my client’s hard-cover print book had arrived, but it was slightly thinner than had been requested.

I was concerned at first, but the book printer explained that the caliper of the paper was thinner by only .000235-inch per sheet. From prior experience and study, I knew that this happened from time to time. Products manufactured by paper mills vary slightly from roll to roll. This is normal.

After all, uncoated book paper (which was to be used for the hardback book’s text stock) is an organic substance. It is made on a Fourdrinier machine, which starts with essentially a liquid syrup and ends with a flat (but porous and slightly uneven) paper surface, even after the custom printing stock has been fed through numerous sets of metal rollers.

The gist of this is that I couldn’t just say, “Send it back.” The paper was still “within spec” and perfectly acceptable by commercial printing industry standards.

Would the Client See the Difference?

One would think that a .000235-inch difference from the normal paper thickness of 60# Finch Opaque Text stock would be unnoticeable. And in many ways this is true.

I asked the book printer whether my client would notice a difference in the following characteristics of the custom printing sheet:

  1. Thickness, or bulk of an individual sheet
  2. The overall thickness of the book (it was to be 552 pages in length)
  3. The opacity of the paper

I wanted to make sure my client would not feel a difference when turning pages. I also wanted to ensure that she would not find the bound print book to be thinner overall than expected (since the book is produced yearly, and subscribers might not accept any semblance of cheaper materials).

I also wanted to make sure the book pages would have opacity (or light stopping power) equal to last year’s edition. It would not be acceptable for screens, heavy type, and photos on the front of a page to be visible through the back of a page.

The book printer confirmed that my client would experience no difference.

What Needed to Be Changed?

But there was a caveat. Over the course of the 552 pages, the book would be about 1/8” thinner than expected, and this would throw off the centered artwork on the spine of the dust jacket. The solid ink coverage of a PMS color that would cover the spine and end exactly at the folds (at the front and back of the dust jacket) was no longer accurately positioned in the art file. My client’s graphic designer would need to adjust the dust jacket artwork to compensate.

What About the Foil Stamping Dies?

There was a happy accident. I was immediately concerned about the metal stamping dies that the book printer had already sent out to be created. The front cover, back cover, and spine of the cloth-bound book included the book title and other text in gold foil on the green fabric. As with the dust cover, this type had to land precisely in the center of the spine as well as the front and back covers. I feared that the metal dies would need to be remade.

Fortunately I was wrong. Since the artwork for the spine did not extend to the folds (as the dust cover artwork did), the metal dies could be positioned to compensate. The front cover, back cover, and spine art (which consisted only of words and line art) could be moved separately from one another to account for the difference in the overall book thickness. In contrast, the art for the dust jacket was all of one piece and could not be separated. And the art for the spine extended to the edge of the spine (to the folds) and therefore would be unforgiving (without adjustment, the solid color would have wrapped onto the front or back cover).

So I learned something, the designer adjusted the artwork for the dust jacket, and everyone was happy that the cover foil stamping dies would be just fine and didn’t need to be remade.

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