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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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Print Book Case Study Revisited

This is a continuation of a prior blog article on custom printing and binding a 488-page, 8.5” x 11” perfect-bound book for one of my clients.

She and I have been in almost continuous contact to discuss options for the print book she is producing for a US government agency. Early this week, her clients had some concerns about the binding.

Binding Options for the Government Book

My client asked whether spiral binding would not be cheaper than perfect binding the government book. After confirming this with one of the book printers with whom I work, I noted that spiral binding would in fact be more expensive. First of all, perfect binding is an automated process, and spiral binding would involve handwork, or at least slower mechanical work on a smaller piece of binding equipment.

For longer works such as this 488-page book, it would also be difficult to feed the drilled pages onto the curved plastic or metal spiral wire. Finally, it would allow the book to lie open on a table, but due to the nature of a spiral, the facing pages would not exactly align (for this you would need a Wire-O binding).

Then my client asked about saddle stitching. So I explained that shorter print books are ideal for this method (fewer than 72 pages, or 96, depending on whom you’re asking as well as on the paper weight and caliper). However, a 488-page book would not be appropriate for saddle stitching.

I did, however, mention side stitching, the kind of binding that used to be the hallmark of National Geographic. In this method, the tines of the staples go straight down through the stacked pages of the print book. However, such a book would be difficult to open and would never lie flat (or even close to flat) on a table.

So we went back to perfect binding, which was my preferred method after all.

A Bind-In, Foldover Page

I had mentioned in the last blog article that my client had requested a foldover insert that she had wanted to be bound into the book near the textual reference to this additional piece.

Initially, she had wanted it to be near the reference, and I had explained that it would need to be inserted between printing signatures or at the back of the print book. That said, I had also offered to produce the 11” x 17” folded piece as a freestanding poster that could be hand-inserted into the back of the book. Granted, this would be more expensive than a bind-in.

In addition, I noted that the book printer could perf the foldover insert if she wished. This way, a reader could open the perfect-bound book and easily tear out the poster without disturbing the other pages. Moreover, the process would be inexpensive, since it could probably be done inline. Instead of perforating the page on the finishing equipment, the printer could probably do a “wet-perf” or litho-perf, right inline as the printing process occurred. In this case, the perfing rule could be attached to the printing plate. As the plate revolved, it would perforate the press sheet.

Preferred Vendor Status

One final question arose during my discussions with my client: the ability of each book printer bidding on the job to accept work from the government. Ironically, I had never brokered such a job before.

How does a printer effect a financial transaction with the government, I wondered. I did some research and found that a printer can get on the “preferred provider” list for a particular government agency. Granted, this involves some paperwork, but for recurring work for a government agency, this can be quite lucrative.

Of the four book printers I approached to provide estimates for this 488-page perfect-bound book, three printers had pursued this option and had begun doing work for the government, and one had elected not to pursue such work.

What You Can Learn from This Case Study

  1. First of all, look into various bindery methods when you design a book. Be aware that, in many cases, the book length will determine the binding method. For instance, you would saddle stitch a 48-page book but not a 488-page book.
  2. Mechanical binding involves hand work, so it is more expensive than an automated process such as perfect binding. If you’re producing 400 copies of a book for a convention, you might GBC (plastic comb) bind a 488-page print book (since it’s too long for spiral binding). But for 10,000 copies, you’d opt for perfect binding.
  3. Discuss payment options early in the process. Don’t get blindsided. If you need to find a vendor that works with government contracts, it’s best to find this out earlier rather than later.

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