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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: Specifying Hardcover Books vs. Galley Proof Books

A print brokering client just came to me by referral. She has a prominent consultancy, and she wants pricing on a hardcover print book. We discussed the specifications today over the phone. She also mentioned needing a galley proof (a lesser quality print book for reader’s comments and edits prior to the final hardcover book printing).

So, basically, we were discussing two jobs with completely different goals. The hardcover book is to be a 6.5” x 9.5” product with a dust cover and a “three-piece case binding.” (This is also called a “quarter-binding.” In high-end print books this involves wrapping an additional piece of leather around the spine to strengthen the binding. In less expensive volumes, it is done with an extra sheet of fabric wrapped around the spine and extending about two inches onto the front and back covers.)

The hardcover version will have a laminated, four-color dust jacket, head and foot bands (little pieces of multi-colored fabric covering the folds of the book signatures where they are glued into the spine). The paper will be a high-quality opaque sheet (probably Finch Opaque Vellum Book), and the book will have a reasonably long press run (5,000 to 10,000 copies of a 600-plus-page book). It will also include two 16-page signatures of photos printed on 70# gloss text stock.

The Goal of The Hardcover Book

My client’s consultancy will have this book produced for a prestigious university, so it will have to look spectacular. It will need to exude all the tactile qualities that make people choose certain print books over ebooks.

The Goals of the Galley Proof

In contrast, the galley of the same book will be a “reader’s proof.” Back in the 1970s, when I started in the field of publications, galley proofs were bound volumes, but they had the lowest possible production values since their only goal was to be read by reviewers and marked up with corrections for the author.

In my client’s particular case, this galley proof will only have a short run, maybe 50 or 100 copies. When I brokered a job like this for another client (albeit for a shorter print book), I was able to get a price of under $1,000 (as opposed to the $10K to $20K for the final press run). So the goal is twofold: make it readable, and make it inexpensive.

What I Plan to Suggest to My Client

First of all, since the hardcover book will have a 5,000- to 10,000-copy press run, I’m thinking of taking this book to a web offset printer. It’s a 600-page book with black-only text. A web press will save a lot of money while producing a quality product.

In contrast, the 50- to 100-copy galley will lend itself to a digital print run. It will be expensive, since it will be 600 pages, but it will be far less expensive as a digital job than as a sheetfed offset or web offset print job. In fact, since the only goal is to make it readable, I’m thinking of having it printed on a lower-end digital machine rather than a high-end HP Indigo.

If the photos are critical, I can always have the two 16-page photo signatures produced on an Indigo. If they’re just for position, I can even have the photo signatures printed on an offset text sheet. In fact, it would save money to print the entire book on 60# white offset rather than 60# Finch Opaque Vellum Book (which, as mentioned earlier, is my suggestion for the text of the hardcover version).

The galley proof would not be case bound. It would be perfect bound on the 9.5” dimension with a cover printed on a 10pt. press sheet. I wouldn’t even laminate the cover (as I would laminate the dust jacket for the hardcover version). For the galley, a press varnish on the cover will provide adequate scuff protection. After all, the hardcover book will be a permanent addition to the reader’s personal library. In contrast, the galley proof will be nothing more than an editorial tool.

A Different Approach for Each Job

The take-away from this case study is that you should choose an appropriate printing technology and appropriate production materials based on the intended use of the final printed product.

For a short-run job, consider digital processes (and select the level of quality needed for your product). For longer runs, choose offset lithography (sheetfed or web). If you’re unsure of the cutoff point for making this decision, consult your book printing supplier.

Once you have chosen the technology, select materials that will either have a long or short lifespan depending on your client’s design goals. For a brochure, newsletter, or newspaper, you might choose more disposable materials, since the product will be read and discarded. In contrast, for a product you want your reader to keep forever, you would choose the highest quality paper, binding materials, and paper coatings.

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