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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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Magazine Printing: Be Open to Different Binding Options

I have mentioned in a prior blog posting that I’m brokering a magazine or print book project in the form of a graphic novel. It’s very exciting, but it’s also a study in the art of print book binding.

Backstory for the Book

The magazine, or book, started as a 9” x 12” saddle-stitched product with three gatefolds. After discussing the project with a large custom printing aggregator (an owner of multiple print shops) with printing plants across the country containing every imaginable piece of printing and binding equipment, it became clear that to produce the saddle-stitched product my client desired, the magazine division of this large printer would be more appropriate than the book division. This division had significantly more experience in inserting gatefolds as well.

The printer provided a price for 5,000 copies, saddle-stitched, on 60# gloss text, with 70# gloss text for the gatefolds and a 100# text-weight cover. The format was 8.5” x 10.875” to fit a full-size heatset web press.

(Just as an aside, the text weight for the cover is not a typo. I learned as a consultant at a DC-area political magazine that an excellent pairing of text and cover for a magazine is 100# text for the cover and 60# text for the interior of the magazine. This gives a tactile sense of the difference between the cover of the print book and its interior, but the product feels like a magazine, not a book.)

This printer was comfortable saddle-stitching this product.

A New Printer Added to the Mix

Having secured a reasonably priced estimate for one complete approach to this graphic novel, I opened up the bidding to other vendors.

I chose three magazine printers I had worked with before. I needed vendors I could trust completely. I sent out specification sheets, and when the printers contacted me to discuss the job further, I went into more detail with them. I also made it clear that I was open to their suggestions. I wanted to hear how they would approach the project, particularly considering the three gatefolds it would include.

The second magazine printer to submit a complete estimate declined to bid on a saddle-stitched option. This vendor had increased the paper weight (but will reduce it again to 50# on the revised bid); however, even with 50# text stock for the interior pages and 70# text stock for the gatefolds, the second printer was concerned. The sales rep said that including three gatefolds in a saddle-stitched magazine of 160 pages would be asking to have the pages fall out. The gatefolds would be opened and closed repeatedly, and this would eventually compromise the stitched binding. So this magazine printer provided pricing for a perfect-bound product only.

I did not take this badly. In fact, I was pleased to have an option for perfect binding provided by a vendor who had taken seriously my request for suggestions and advice. Furthermore, I knew that this was an area of concern to keep in mind with any other vendor. In addition, I liked the pricing. It was much lower than the first vendor’s pricing, in spite of the printer’s being two-thirds of the way across the country; i.e., the price was lower even with a huge freight estimate.

An Approach to the Gatefolds

What I found intriguing was the printer’s specificity regarding gatefold placement. The 160-page magazine would be broken down into five 32-page signatures, and the center 32-page signature would be split in half (32—32—16—16—32–32). This would allow for insertion of the center gatefold (dead center in the perfect-bound book). The other two gatefolds would fit between the first two 32-page signatures and the last two 32-page signatures.

Furthermore, the gatefolds would open to the right. If my client wanted them to open to the left, that might be possible. The printer would look into this.

What You Can Learn from This Case Study

I thought this case study would be particularly useful for any of you who produce magazines. Here are some thoughts:

    1. If a printer no-bids a portion of a job (or changes a portion of a job in the estimate), be mindful that this might be a challenging operation for any vendor. The resulting product might not be durable. Or, it might just require specific equipment that only certain print vendors own. Ask for clarification.


    1. Be flexible. Consider different approaches suggested by various custom printing suppliers. Not all vendors will approach the job in the same way. You may learn something new, and you may save money in the process.


  1. Ultimately, it comes down to your level of confidence in, and comfort with, a vendor. Does the vendor have the right equipment, the right expertise, and the right price. Don’t force the printer to do something to which he is resistant. You might be disappointed.

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