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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: Producing a Boxed Set of Books

A print brokering client of mine is preparing art for a boxed set of textbooks. The set comprises four original print books with three copies of each placed within a corrugated box sleeve. What makes this particularly interesting is that neither my client nor I produce boxes every day. So it’s a bit of a novelty and a challenge.

To ensure success, there are some things to consider, some specifications to confirm, and some physical characteristics of which to be mindful. In case you also produce boxed sets of print books, you may find this information useful.

First of All, the Books

The books are 6” x 9” translations of government education articles aimed at a high school audience. They will be 48 or 52 pages (two books of each length). The covers will be printed on 12pt. C1S (coated one side) stock, and the text pages of the books will be printed on 80# Finch white opaque text stock. Once printed, the books will be saddle stitched and inserted into the boxes, and the boxes will be shrink wrapped.

First of all, the text and cover pages will be rather thick, which will give a sense of substance to the short books. For longer books, I would have suggested a 70# text stock. Fortunately, the thickness of the paper will make the pages completely opaque, and there will be no show-through from one side of a printed book page to its reverse side.

Now, the Box

Understanding the composition of the books will help in understanding the necessary specifications for the box sleeve. Basically, each box will contain three copies of each of four books, or a total of twelve short, saddle-stitched print books.

Based on the thickness of the cover and text stock, as well as the number of books per boxed set, the book printer has advised my client to create art for a 2.5”-wide slip case. This will allow a little room for the books to be loose (and therefore easily removed from the box).

To make it easy for students and teachers to both remove and replace the books in the box, the front of the box will be only 5” high, and the back will be the full 9” height of the books. This will protect the books but also allow for their easy removal from the box, and the width will allow all twelve books to sit comfortably in the box sleeve.

That said, the book printer also plans to make a paper dummy of both the box and the books to make absolutely certain that everything will fit as planned.

Once the structure of the box has been confirmed, it will be necessary to determine its decoration. The book printer will print 4-color process ink plus one PMS on a 70# gloss litho text sheet, which will be laminated to the white/brown “e-flute” structure of the box (front, back, and sides). The e-flute construction is essentially corrugated board covered with a printed press sheet, so it will be light, durable, and flexible. The printer will also add an aqueous coating to the boxes to protect them, and once the printing and lamination are complete, the printer’s subcontractor (the box converter) will fabricate them into finished boxes. Into these boxes, the printer will then insert the twelve books before shrink wrapping each boxed set and then carton packing it for delivery.


A box is more than a marketing statement. It is a physical product, in and of itself. It has a function that must be taken into consideration. It must contain and protect the books and allow for their easy removal and replacement—numerous times. Therefore, I was pleased to learn that the printer planned to make a dummy of the entire set before having the dies made to cut the boxes out of the laminated e-flute prior to their assembly. To not do this would risk error. Making cutting dies costs a lot of money and takes time. Needing to make a replacement set if something is wrong with the dimensions would compromise both the schedule and the budget.

Another thing to consider is the time needed for the box production and conversion. I’m not absolutely certain which portions of the box manufacturing the printer will need to subcontract (other than the die making, and the diecutting and assembly of the box forms), but this will take extra time. Subcontracting always does, and the printer relinquishes some measure of control over the production process due to the need for subcontracting. But in some cases it’s necessary. Very few commercial printing suppliers can do this kind of work in-house on a profitable basis.

What You Can Learn from This Case Study

  1. For complex jobs that might require specialized work, ask your printing supplier about the need for subcontracted labor. Ask how it will affect the price, schedule, and quality of the job.
  2. For a job as precise as a box for a set of print books, have your printer provide you with the exact dimensions (and a drawing) of the art you will need to prepare. (This is called a die-line.) Then, once you have submitted the art, ask for confirmation that it is accurate.
  3. Make sure your printer creates a paper dummy for a job like this. It’s a red flag if he doesn’t (for his sake and yours). Ask to see the dummy of the box and books to make sure it will meet your needs and expectations.
  4. Proof early and often. I’d suggest that you request physical proofs for a job like this rather than just a virtual, or PDF, proof.

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