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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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Archive for the ‘Book Printing’ Category

Why You Should Outsource Online Flyer Printing

Saturday, April 10th, 2021

Flyers are small but good looking printed materials that are very useful in printing businesses. Although they can be printed online, they are used on a physical basis. Handing these over to newspaper and magazine vendors is extremely helpful in carrying out marketing promotions. There are many companies which can carry out online flyer printing in bulk, and their contacts are available online. However, to be able to get through to a wide variety of companies, it would be suitable to look for a reliable print coordinator first, who can make the necessary links.

How Does The Print Coordinator Work?

The Print Coordinator has a specific network for all the online flyer printing companies present in different parts of the world. Print Buyers do not have to pay them for searches, as the member companies already pay them. These printing services are part of win-win propositions for all since Print Buyers get good quality work done at reasonable rates and print companies receive repeat business. Since printing is an integral part of several businesses, many of them are able to provide print designs as well.

There are very few companies that will provide only flyer printing services. In addition to these, they will have solutions for printing cards, posters, and more. Clients need to check the profiles of different companies before choosing one, but the best bet would be to check the coordinator’s suggestions and choose accordingly. Most often than not, a balance between price, quality and service is very important.

Using Flyers

Flyers can be beautifully printed and used for the following purposes:

  • Showcasing new price lists
  • Product sheet preparation
  • Preparing marketing collaterals
  • Printing different kinds of data sheets
  • Providing handouts at trade shows
  • Giving home descriptions to clients
  • Latest car schemes
  • Preparation of Media Kits
  • Printing new takeaway restaurant menus for localities

The text present in a flyer is always composed by copywriters. Content is put down in a way such that is grasps customers’ attentions easily in a short period of time. Those interested to know more will read further to find relevant information about products or services. It takes 5-10 seconds for a customer on an average to decide whether he or she will proceed or not.

How Should Flyers be Designed?

Certain tips are necessary to ensure that companies are able to gain maximum advantage from flyers. They are as follows:

  • Do not forget to put the company’s brand logo on the flyer. It is a symbol for the customer to link products and services.
  • The use of color images is likely to create a greater impact than black and white images. Therefore, a suitable budget must be available for this print.
  • Catchy messages are absolutely necessary in the flyers, motivating customers to pick them up. At the same time, there should not be any spelling errors. Even a small spelling error is likely to create a negative impression of the company in question.

Outsourcing print jobs to another company is most helpful since it frees up time for other jobs.

A Commercial Printing Match Made in Heaven

Monday, April 5th, 2021

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A professional relationship with your key custom printing suppliers can and should be like a marriage, a non-zero-sum game in which both partners win (rather than having one win at the expense of the other).

Checking the Bill for a Direct Reprint of My Client’s Print Book

Here’s an example of a good vendor relationship. I recently received an invoice for a print brokering client’s job for approval prior to my forwarding it to her for payment. She and her husband, a publishing team, had just completed a 1,500-copy run of a print book and had immediately ordered a direct reprint of the text with an updated cover. It’s a 5.5” x 8.5” book of poetry, perfect bound with French flaps. She and her husband had ordered 500 more digital copies.

As is my habit, I checked the base price on the bill, about $2,100 for 500 copies, or $4.20 each. That part was correct, along with the 5 percent overage at the same per-unit rate. The unit cost was about $.50 higher than in the first print run, but that didn’t surprise me. After all, the preparation work amortized over a 500-copy press run vs. the initial 1,500-copy press run would explain the higher unit cost.

The overage didn’t surprise me either, since I know that up to 10 percent is industry standard, so I thought that 5 percent (or 25 extra copies) was very reasonable.

However, the next line item confused me. There was a $145.00 line item for cover corrections. Now I knew that my client had uploaded a revised cover for this print book, but it seemed that this cost would have been included in the quoted base price. Why? Because when asking for the initial reprint cost, I had stated that the text would be a direct reprint and the cover would have one alteration. So seeing a separate line item for the cover made me wonder.

In addition, the shipping cost on the bill noted a single delivery to my client’s print book distributor. That made sense, but the bill also noted that 895 copies would be shipped to the book distributor, and the total press run for the reprint was only 500 copies (plus or minus overage/underage). My assumption was that the printer had used the invoice from the original book print run (as a template) and had typed in changes for the reprint of the same book, forgetting to update the number of copies shipped. Furthermore, I assumed the $180.00 for shipping 895 copies of the first run and the same total of $180.00 for shipping 525 copies of the second (reprinted) run just reflected a minimum shipping/handling cost.

But since I don’t believe in making assumptions, I queried all of these concerns.

Now this particular printer has become a go-to vendor over the past several years, so I knew the representative I contacted would research every question and provide an explanation. He did exactly that, and removed the cost for the revised cover. He is still checking into the shipping information and cost. He stepped up.

This is an example of why it pays to nurture a good working partnership with one’s commercial printing vendors.

Interestingly enough, in spite of my client’s having requested a direct reprint of the text, with no text proof needed, the printer sent a PDF copy of the art file from which the first printing of the book had been done. My client actually did find one minor text correction on one page. My client’s book designer uploaded a revised PDF file of the book page, and all was good. Had the printer not provided a text proof, even for this direct reprint, my client would have missed the opportunity to correct an error.

So, again, it doesn’t hurt to have a printer who looks out for a client’s best interest, and this comes from repeat jobs over time. As with a successful marriage, mutual trust develops gradually.

What Can We Learn From This Case Study?

There are a number of object lessons within this simple interaction:

  1. Of course, the largest one is the benefit of developing mutually advantageous working relationships with a handful of vendors who produce the kind of print jobs you need.
  2. Trust, but verify. Look closely at the invoice. If anything looks the least bit odd, ask your printer about it.
  3. Pay particular attention to shipping addresses and costs. Compare these to the printer’s estimates and even consider comparing them to freight estimates from prior, similar jobs.
  4. It’s usually wise to review a proof even for a direct reprint. You want to make sure the printer is working from the most recent, most accurate version of your art files.
  5. As you can see, if you develop a working relationship with your print vendors, they will look out for your best interests as well as their own. A good printer can often bring to your attention something you would have otherwise missed.

Round Two: Another Example with the Same Book Printer

Immediately after this particular print brokering client had taken delivery of the first printing of the book I described and had ordered the 500-copy reprint, they (the husband and wife publishing team) requested pricing and a schedule for a new print book. The specifications were to be the same (a 5.5” x 8.5” perfect-bound book with French flaps) except for the page count and press run (longer book; longer press run).

Due to their book distributor’s schedule and the date the books would need to be delivered to the fulfillment house, the schedule was as important as the price and quality of the new print book.

The printer provided pricing that was commensurate with prior book estimates (as a baseline, I compared the total costs and unit costs to other, similar books my clients had produced with similar press runs and page counts). These new books were to be produced via web-offset lithography.

That said, the printer did not confirm the schedule I had requested. So I asked again. A few weeks passed, and the projected deadline for submitting the art files was approaching (I had drafted my own projected schedule based on the 5-week print window for the most recent book printing).

When I finally heard back from the printer, I learned that due to the increased workload (and Covid-19), the 5-week schedule had increased to 8.5 weeks. I knew this would create problems for my client, since their book distributor had strict requirements for delivery schedules.

Again, based on this particular printer’s long-standing professional relationship with my client, he offered a potential solution: printing the book via sheetfed offset lithography rather than web-fed offset lithography. He also provided prices for sheetfed work. They were higher than for web-based offset, but the printer could meet the schedule. Moreover, they were still better prices than any of the other printers I work with could offer.

Now my clients have two book printing options from which to choose (sheetfed vs. web-fed offset), and they understand the pricing ramifications. I even asked my client whether the schedule for delivery to the print book distributor could be renegotiated or whether the art file could be uploaded earlier. My client is considering these options as well.

What Can We Learn From This Case Study?

Here are a few more object lessons:

  1. Don’t make assumptions about print schedules. The date the custom printing project will be delivered is as important as the price and quality of the job. Tell the printer your required delivery date early, preferably when you request a bid for the print job. You can also provide your own projected schedule (based on prior work with the same vendor) and ask for feedback. However, don’t assume a printer will be busier or less busy than before (as in my client’s case of 5 weeks vs. 8.5 weeks).
  2. Consider sheetfed vs. web-fed offset lithography. Depending on the equipment your printer has on the pressroom floor, the schedules might well be different. Sheetfed usually provides better quality. It may also be more expensive. So don’t make assumptions, but do ask your printer about these options and their pricing and scheduling ramifications.
  3. All of this works better when you have developed a good working relationship with your print vendor over time. Your supplier will be far more likely to suggest alternatives.

A good printer seeks to understand your commercial printing needs, quality expectations, budget, and scheduling requirements, and to help you get exactly what you want and expect. This kind of working relationship develops over time. A printer like this is a “keeper.”

Book Printing: Play to the Strengths of the Print Book

Thursday, February 18th, 2021

Photo purchased from …

On one of our almost daily trips to our favorite thrift store, my fiancee found a print book she liked about “chalk paint.” It is called Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint Workbook. I didn’t look at the book closely at first, but over the next few days at her suggestion I delved deeply into its content and production values. The book designer and publisher had included multiple design and production qualities and techniques that set this do-it-yourself text far beyond any presentation a digital book could offer.

Overview of Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint Workbook

First of all, what is Chalk Paint? Chalk Paint is a brand of ultra-matte paint created by Annie Sloan. It is ideal for giving a chalky appearance and feel to furniture, and it can be easily distressed (intentionally beaten up to provide an aged, bohemian look to the furniture).

The print book itself is presented in an 8” x 10” hard-cover format. Moreover, it is Wire-O bound within the case binding. That is, the endsheets are punched, inside the book at the spine, to accept the rungs of the wire hoops. The book is “quarter-bound” (the brown, uncoated stock extends beyond the spine about an inch onto the front and back covers, and the remainder of the front and back covers consists of multi-level, somewhat Victorian-looking photos reminiscent of scrapbook pages).

The cover photo includes bits of handwriting (the author’s name), distressed type (a chalky appearance to the title in a bold, sans serif typeface), hand drawings, painted areas, and scraps of fabric. The background of the photo is a textured and mottled press sheet, which appears to be a photo of watercolor paper, with all of these drawn, painted, and photographed images on top. Across the bottom of the print book is a banner, with faux torn edges and a description of the book printed in red across the banner. All of this provides a unified collage with a very shallow depth.

(The artistic term for this collage treatment is “trompe l’oeil,” which means “to fool the eye.” You can find a lot of paintings like this online. They look incredibly real. Often they include stamps or postcards pinned to a background that appears to be right below the surface of the painting.)

So this is how the covers are laid out. They are also coated with a soft-touch, matte film laminate, and they are slightly padded under the printed litho paper that is glued to the heavier than usual binder boards.

Here is why all of this is relevant:

The matte coating and distressed sans serif book title, along with the cream (as opposed to bright white) background paper provide a textured, natural, “crunchy-granola” feel to the print book from the onset, beginning with the front cover. This is congruent with both the matte “feel” of Chalk Paint and the bohemian ethos of do-it-yourself furniture embellishment. Another way to say this is that the design (the visuals and the print production values) is congruent with the book’s subject matter.

Let’s Go Inside

An overall print book design, unlike a painting or any other flat work of art, implies the passage of time. You see and respond to the front cover. Then you turn the pages to absorb a progression of ideas, over time, from the images and the text.

In this particular book, when you open the cover to read the text, you immediately see a continuation of the front cover’s paper color and finish. The text sheet is an uncoated matte stock. Handwriting is used throughout the book for headlines and for fill-in-the-blank journal pages. (This is an artist’s sketchbook of sorts, for practicing images you plan to later paint directly on the furniture.) The handwriting is also balanced against small drawings (appearing as pen and watercolor art) that enhance the overall do-it-yourself tone of the book.

In addition to the descriptive text (a simple serif typeface for introductions paired with a simple sans serif typeface for accompanying lists) and handwritten sections inviting the reader to add her/his own notes and drawings, the text includes sketches, color swatches that look like brush strokes, and 4-color photos.

One of the things that I appreciate, in particular, is that in spite of being printed on an absorbent, uncoated yellow-white (natural) press sheet, the photos are crisp and unmuddied. The printer held the detail in the highlights, midtones, and shadows. This reflects his skill, and it also contributes to the artistic quality of the print book. Its purpose may be to teach people to use Chalk Paint, but it treats the whole process (both the learning and the practice) with an eye towards beauty and nuance.

I had mentioned earlier that the book is a case-bound, Wire-O product. Wire-O binding, unlike spiral binding (both metal and plastic), allows facing pages to lie exactly side by side. (Given the nature of a spiral, facing pages of a spiral-bound book are slightly mismatched.) In addition to allowing the book to lie completely flat when open (a boon for crafters who need both hands to do their work), the slightly off-white metal spiral goes nicely with the natural paper tone. This balance is enhanced by the full-bleed images scattered throughout the text.

More specifically, these full-bleed photos are most often used for the divider pages, which are printed on a heavy uncoated cover stock and are folded over into pockets. The reader can slip photos, notes, or anything else into these pockets. Furthermore, a portion of each divider is diecut out of the paper, creating somewhat of an “L” shape in the pocket and exposing its contents. Finally, a thumb tab is diecut and then folded out of each divider page.

Book Structure

All six of these divider pages (breaking the book into multiple sections and thereby giving the print book a formal structure) are printed on “faux-duplex” paper. In addition to being thicker than the text paper (because of the base cover stock and folded-over nature of the pockets), they are also quite intriguing, with one side of the sheet printed in one color and the reverse side printed in another. Throughout the book all of these colors change (two each for six dividers or twelve colors total). All of the tones of the background screens are somewhat muted, given the uncoated, absorbent nature of the paper. And this enhances the understated, artistic tone of the print book.

At the end of the book Annie Sloan included a series of note pages with copious space for reader drawings and notes.

Finally, around the back cover of the case-bound Wire-O book is a belly band (vertical, though, as opposed to the customarily horizontal orientation of most belly bands). It is about three inches wide, and it wraps vertically around the back cover (increasing the already thick feel of the binder’s board). The band is printed to look like uncoated kraft paper, although closer examination with a 12x printer’s loupe shows this to be white paper tinted brown with ink. The simple drawings and text on the belly band (with extra leading to make the text appear light and airy) echo the natural feel of the cover paper (which, interestingly enough, upon closer inspection with a printer’s loupe, is also augmented with a light 4-color process screen to add visual texture).

Finally, the piece de resistance. There is a vertical elastic band, dyed a rich, deep purple, which goes vertically around the back cover (through two drill holes). This elastic band can be pulled up and across the front cover, binding both covers together and (presumably) keeping any reader-added inserts from falling out of the divider-page pockets. So this is a functional addition, and functionality is consistent with a do-it-yourself book.

What Can We Learn from This Book?

So what can we learn from Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint Workbook? What makes it so appealing? Here are some thoughts:

  1. All of the physical characteristics of the print book–the paper tints, weights, and textures, as well as the cover coating (and even the thickness and texture of the strategically placed divider pages)–appeal to the sense of touch as well as the eye. None of this could have been achieved with a digital book. The designer has played to the strengths of a physical, as opposed to virtual, book.
  2. The book has structure: everything from the diecut divider pages/pockets to the informational, vertical belly band and elastic closure. These physical book manufacturing elements break down the book into a manageable series of chunks for the reader to absorb.
  3. The book invites reader participation in response to the notes pages, pocket divider pages, and even the pen and ink drawings with the faux watercolor washes (simulated with printer’s ink). Again, form follows function.

When all design elements, from the paper stock to the binding choices (the lay-flat nature of a case-bound Wire-O book) reflect and enhance its intended use, and when these manufacturing choices extend into the visuals and even the text treatments (typeface choices, handwriting, drawings), then the overall design of a print book is supremely successful. Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint Workbook definitely meets all of these criteria.

Book Printing: A Captivating Print Book About Cleopatra

Sunday, January 31st, 2021

Photo purchased from …

My fiancee and I were recently looking for new art projects for our art therapy work with the autistic. Since we had found a plastic mummy kit in the thrift store for educating kids in the religion, mythology, and embalming processes that ensured ancient Egyptians a safe passage to the next life, we decided to have our students build and decorate a cardboard sarcophagus (essentially a mummy case).

Along with our art projects for the autistic, we like to provide visual aids and background information to educate/interest the members, their aides, and their parents. In that light, I dug around in our stash of thrift store print books and found a beautiful book about Cleopatra to share along with the little plastic mummy kit.

And that is what I want to share with you, because the print book is gorgeous, and it reflects qualities and techniques you won’t see in an ebook.

As I always say when addressing design issues in these PIE Blog articles, if you like a design, be able to articulate why it works. There’s no better way to learn design (which I consider a lifelong process). So taking my own advice, here is a description of the book about Cleopatra and my analysis of why its design is superb.

The Overall Print-Book Format

This is a perfect-bound book designed by the National Geographic Society as a companion to an exhibit on Cleopatra. It is 8” x 10”, printed on a dull, bright-white paper stock.

Unlike many other books, Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt has French flaps partially covering (and partially revealing) a full-bleed, gold Egyptian pattern on the inside front and back book covers. The gold coloration (metallic printing ink) along with the French flaps and the thick paper (probably 100# white gloss text) adds an air of opulence to the book. Clearly this is an appropriate tone, given the wealth and power Cleopatra commanded. (Again, as I always say in the PIE Blog articles, when you design anything, make sure the form reflects or supports the tone and content of the print book or any other printed product.)

Although the text paper is a bright, blue-white, dull stock, which makes reading easier, the designer has also gloss varnished the images. This is particularly effective in creating contrast (i.e., making the photos “pop”).

The backgrounds of many of the pages are black, with full-color images of Egyptian coins and statuary and captions set in reverse type in a simple, easy-to-read-at-any size, sans serif type. These pages are often facing other pages with white backgrounds and black text for captions. This shift from black to white to black sets up a nice visual rhythm. So the print book is comfortable (the book’s size and format–as well as its light weight–plus the qualities of the paper stock) and interesting to read. It would still be so even if I couldn’t read the language, simply because it is attractive and easy on the eyes.

Achieving a Visual Rhythm

All of the design niceties I have mentioned pertain more to the design of a page or page spread (and the readability of the type) than to the overall print book design.

However, what sets this book above most others is that the designer approached the organization of the book (as well as the “look” of the page spreads) as a design challenge. Between the two covers (and their opulent French flaps and gold-patterned printing), thought has gone into crafting a design grid that allows for the reader’s immediate recognition of what she/he is reading. This the designer achieved by using only a limited number of different page grids.

The chapter dividers include a large, all-caps treatment, sans-serif type that has been letter-spaced (spread out slightly). These are one- or a-few-word titles surrounded by a thin rule, above which is the chapter number spelled out (i.e., “CHAPTER FOUR”), again in all caps but in a contrasting serif typeface. The type on each divider-page spread is white, reversed out of the richly colored background photo. Even with the type’s thin letterforms, the all-cap headlines are graceful but powerful (perhaps a little like Cleopatra herself). Finally, there is a white border (about 3/4”) all the way around the double-page photo.

Over the course of the multiple chapters, these divider pages set up a rhythm, an expectation in the mind of the reader, which allows her/him to group the pages of the book into digestible chunks. Moreover, this visual “look” is also carried consistently through the four-page chapter introductions. These have one large column of text on each page, placed toward the center of the book with a “scholar’s margin” on the outside left and right.

Consistent with the divider pages, these chapter intros have a white border running around the perimeter of the double-page spread. In this case a dark brownish-red rule (the same thickness as the white rules on the divider pages) surrounds the text columns, crossing over from the left page to the right.

In line with the letter-spaced type on the divider pages, the headlines on the intro pages are also spread out slightly. They are set in the same sans-serif type as headlines on the divider pages, and the body copy is set in the same serif face as the all-caps chapter numbers on the divider pages.

The wide columns of body copy in the intros have extra leading (space between lines), which makes reading them easier. In addition, setting the heads in thin, letter-spaced type while also spreading out the leading between lines of type adds to the sense of luxury and opulence in the book. This is fully consistent with the character of the book’s subject, Cleopatra.

To begin the initial paragraph in each chapter introduction, there is also a drop-capital letter, in gray, extending five lines deep.

To highlight the headlines (both main heads and subheads), the designer printed these in the same brownish red color, which goes nicely with the rich gold and black tones throughout the print book. This brown is also used for the large pull-quotes, which are set in italics and nestled into mortises cut out of the single text column on these intro pages. (These quotations also extend into the scholars’ margins.)

Maintaining the Visual Rhythm

The long and short of this is that the designer has set up a visual rhythm. This fosters the reader’s expectation of what is to come and shows how each element relates to everything else.

Good visual rhythm works best when it has a counterpoint every so often, something to contrast what could otherwise become visually monotonous. In this case, there are the pages following the introductions that include a catalog of images (everything from coins to silhouettes of small statues).

There’s a lot of varnished gold ink on these pages, which, as noted before, alternate between having a white or black background. Occasionally, there are also “text” pages reversed out of a black background along with a silhouetted full-color image. These have three-line drop caps, printed in red, as well as a thin vertical line (in red ink) running the length of the text block between the two narrow columns (for consistency with the thin rules on the divider pages and intro pages).

Of course, the interior of the print book is sandwiched between front matter (table of contents and such) and back matter (index and such), followed by the interior back cover page with its opulent gold pattern slightly covered by a French flap.

All of this is like a frame, presenting the lush imagery inside the book as well as the content of the text. A frame should never detract from the painting it showcases, but a structured scaffolding, if you will, of thoughtful design, can make reading a print book a more fluid and enjoyable experience.

In this case, the designer knew how to use the elements of design to highlight and showcase the substance of the book.

What We Can Learn

Here are some quick thoughts:

  1. Good design breaks an otherwise undifferentiated mass of content (photos and words) into manageable chunks of information, which can be seen as related to one another in a particular way and a particular order of importance.
  2. Good design (as evidenced in the designer’s use of color, typeface, column grids, etc.) should reflect the tone and content of the book.
  3. Good design should structure the content without calling attention to itself. The frame is not more important than the picture.
  4. Readability is the prime goal. Every element of design should guide the reader through the reading experience. If the reader gets tired or loses interest, you’ve lost your audience.

Book Printing: But There’s Only One Bleed in the Book

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

To be perfectly fair, my book printing client did know enough to ask me about the potential cost increase for bleeding a halftone off an interior page of the print book she was designing.

We had discussed pricing for her client’s book for about six months, and all of the estimates I had requested from the printer had specified no bleed for the text and full bleed for the cover.

To give you some context for this book, it is now a 5.5” x 8.5” perfect-bound book with a page count of 480 pages, a press run of 1,000 copies, and a 12pt. C2S (coated 2 sides) cover with 60# white offset text stock. The cover will be gloss film laminated, and there will be a press score parallel to the spine.

So it’s a straightforward treatment of a trade paperback with no special features. Anything spectacular in the print book design will depend on the cover art (which is actually quite dramatic).

Interestingly enough, the cover is so powerful that my client repeated the cover art inside on the title page (in black ink only as a gray halftone, which, like the cover image, bleeds on all sides). It’s a good design decision. It makes use of the dramatic cover photo twice, in two slightly different ways (4-color vs. black and white).

However, it may require a different approach than that reflected in the initial specifications, and this might affect the price.

A Potentially Higher Price

First of all, here’s why it might cost more. It’s easy to make design decisions without thinking about financial ramifications, so in your own print buying career or print book design career, you might do well to consider bleeds early in the design process.

Next, exactly what is a bleed? My client is producing a 5.5” x 8.5” perfect-bound book. Without a bleed, each page would be exactly this size. With a bleed, my client would need to add a 1/8” extension to the page in all directions to allow the press to print ink beyond the final trim size. My client’s dramatic image that bleeds on page 3 will extend beyond the trim size and then be trimmed down to the final format after printing. At that point it will look like the image extends off the page.

The same process is used for a full-bleed cover. However, my client’s full-bleed cover had already been factored into the (approved) price by the printer’s estimator.

Here’s why this change (for even one page) might be problematic: Because a print book is composed of press signatures (so many pages lined up–known as the “imposition” of the press signature—above or below each other on the press sheet). The same number of pages will be on the back of the press sheet. When the finishing equipment folds the press sheet, it delivers a “booklet” consisting of the number of pages within the particular signature (4, 8, 16, or 32, for instance). Once the head (top), foot (bottom), and face (opposite the bind edge) have been trimmed to size, you have a little booklet with the proper pages in the proper order held together at the spine. If you’re producing a saddle-stitched product, the press signatures are then nested, each inside the next. If you’re producing a perfect-bound book, the press signatures are then stacked (aligned side by side).

The actual process is mechanized, with the flat sheet being folded into a signature, then collected and inserted into the multiple pockets of the binder (one signature per pocket), then bound, and then finally trimmed to size.

Potentially, you could fit a 32-page signature (16 pages per side) onto a 25” x 38” press sheet when the book page size (or trim size, or format) is 5.5” x 8.5”. This is a common press sheet size (25” x 38”) of a ream of paper ordered by printers from paper mills. Presumably, such a press sheet could be printed on a 40” offset lithographic book printing press.

To get a picture of this in your minds eye, think of four 5.5” x 8.5” pages printed across the 25” dimension of the press sheet. Side by side they would equal 22” of the 25” available inches on the short side of the press sheet (assuming the paper grain is parallel to the long side of the sheet).

Going the other way (the 38” dimension), picture three more rows of four pages, each with a height of 8.5”. So you have four rows of four pages. The depth would be 4 x 8.5”, or 34”, out of a potential 38” dimension of the 25” x 38” press sheet.

So far, so good?

Sixteen pages on one side of the sheet. Sixteen pages on the other. That would make exactly 15 press signatures (15 x 32 pages) in the 480-page trade paperback. This is ideal. Only 15 press runs (compared to producing the print book with 16-page signatures, which would necessitate double the press runs).

However, here’s the rub. If you add a bleed to the text block of the book (even one page), you need more room around the pages to allow for the bleed image to extend past the edge of the page and then be trimmed off. (Actually, you also need room for printer’s marks and the gripper, which pulls the press sheet through the press.)

Why the Print Book Might Actually Cost the Same With or Without a Text Bleed

To recap our computations, if you look at the short dimension of the press sheet (25”), you can fit four 5.5” pages across within a space of 22”. That leaves 3” for printer’s marks and the 1/8” bleed on all sides.

And going the other direction (the 38” dimension), the four-rows down layout takes up only 34” of the 38” of available space. That leaves 4” in this direction for printer’s marks, gripper margin (since the leading edge of the page is where the gripper grabs the paper, and since presumably the 38” dimension of the paper would be entering the 40” press first).

So if you put aside the math for a moment, it looks to me like everything should work (i.e., fit on the press sheet), and there should be no upcharge. This will probably be the case with my client’s print book, but to be sure I have asked for the book printer’s confirmation (in writing, on a revised estimate).

What Would Happen If I’m Wrong?

Let’s say the printer needs more room or is doing things differently, has a smaller press, or whatever.

If the printer needs more room, the job might need to be produced on a larger press. A larger press usually is billed at a higher hourly rate (than whatever press you’re using before you add bleeds). So the overall price might go up.

Another thing that can happen is, if the printer doesn’t have a larger press (maybe a 50” press dedicated to printing long signatures of print book texts), your job will need to be produced on a smaller press. Instead of being composed of 15 32-page signatures, your book might now be composed of 30 16-page signatures. Even at a lower hourly rate (since it’s a smaller press), your increased number of press runs could raise the overall book printing cost significantly.

So What Can You Do?

My book printing client is pretty savvy. She told me that since she didn’t want the cost of the book to rise, if there was an upcharge (based on the explanation above), instead of bleeding the page she would end the screen (or photo) before the 5.5” x 8.5” trim. So the photo on page 3 would have an unprinted border all the way around. To me this looks like a work-around. It’s an inexpensive solution, granted. But the photo won’t have the expansive quality a full bleed provides (the photo looks so much larger than the page because it seems to extend in all directions). Moreover, if my client has to provide a .5” margin on all sides, the photo on page 3 will no longer have the same look or feel as the cover photo, which does bleed off the page.

We’ll have to wait and see. I look forward to reviewing the updated book printing estimate.

What Can You Learn From This Case Study?

The short answer is that you should plan ahead for bleeds. If you’re unsure of what you want to do with your design, ask the printer to bid on both a text-bleed version and a non-bleed version.

The prices may be the same (depending on your printer’s press size and the size of the press sheet you’re using). But if it’s more expensive to bleed the text pages, it’s better to know early in the process than to make a quick design decision at the end of the process.

Book Printing: Trends in Print Buying (An Anecdote)

Saturday, January 16th, 2021

I’ve been noting the direction the wind has been blowing in my own commercial printing work recently. Granted, this is anecdotal evidence, and it only relates to print books, and only to a few of my clients at that, but I’m finding it instructive.

Government Textbooks for an Educational Foundation

For many years I have been brokering the printing for a 6” x 9”, perfect-bound textbook for an educational foundation that brings students to Washington, DC, to learn about government by interacting with congressmen, senators, and other policymakers. It’s a great organization. I worked there for 17 years starting in the early 1980s.

Once a year, my client prints about 3,000 copies of this book. Since the textbook is popular, she usually comes back to me for a reprint of 300 to 400 copies about nine months later, to tide her over for the remaining three months. The offset printing costs about $3.50 a book, and the digital reprint costs about $10.00 a book, but the final cost of the offset job is about $13,500.00, while the final cost of the digital job is about $3,500.00. Another way of looking at this is that my client pays a premium for the digital printing on a unit-cost basis, but the overall cost is less than an offset run. In addition, since she only needs about a tenth of the initial run, it’s much cheaper to produce the second set of print books digitally (since there’s minimal make-ready when compared to offset printing).

This year she let me know that the educational foundation had put a lot of money into a new online service. They plan to print a small number of books, but nowhere near as many as in prior years.

What Can We Learn from This Experience?

  1. The first thing I’m learning is that many of my book printing clients have been shortening their print runs. I think some of this is based on budget cuts. They have a good reason to do so because book printing consumes a lot of paper, so overall it is an expensive prospect. In addition, print books cost a lot to ship. Providing books to students in a primarily online format sidesteps both of these costs.
  2. Overall, digital printing is a good option for short press runs. Moreover, it is a good option for just-in-time printing. My digital printing clients don’t need to store inventory. They also don’t need to estimate exactly how many copies they will need for the upcoming year. If they run out of books, they can always reprint a short press run for a reasonable overall (as opposed to unit) price. This saves money in storage and inventory tracking. Of course, it would be ideal to exactly estimate the number of books needed each year, but this usually can’t be done. At least with digital printing, there’s an alternative.
  3. Since my client’s books have a 4-color cover and black-only text, the covers can be printed via offset lithography for a minimal amount (approximately 350 copies plus spoilage for this client’s reprinted version), and the text blocks of the 264-page print books can be digitally produced and still be of high quality. Once printed, the offset-printed covers and digitally printed text blocks can be bound together.
  4. Given how long this particular client has been printing 3,000 or more copies (I think I printed about 50,000 copies in the 1980s, when I worked at her educational foundation), there still is a need for physical printed textbooks–just not as many as before, and with a mixture of offset-printed, digitally printed, and on-screen versions as options.

Poetry and Fiction Books for a University

A second client of mine is producing a book of poetry and fiction incorporating the works of her creative writing students. She is a university professor. The book will be 6” x 9”, about 100 pages, with a press run of 40 copies. It will be perfect bound, due to its length, and it will have a nice soft-touch film laminate on the covers.

I have one vendor I work with who can produce the whole job in-house for a little over $300.00. That’s a great price. Even though the unit cost is comparatively high for 40 copies, you can’t touch this overall price for an offset print job—even for a print run of brochures, let alone a perfect-bound book with press scores and laminated covers.

This vendor came in with a price almost $200.00 lower than the nearest competitor’s because he has in-house perfect binding capabilities. Many printers do not. This will not only make the vendor with the lower bid less expensive to work with, but he will be able to do the job faster and have more control over the final product, since he already has the binding equipment on his pressroom floor.

My client has also been asked to look into online-only printers, such as Amazon.

In speaking with my client, I learned a lot about her job but also about her university’s approach to print books (as well as her own views and her students’ views).

For instance, since the production budget is very tight, she has been asked to consider publishing the book of poems and fiction online using WordPress. My client doesn’t think this would provide the same experience as the hard-copy version. She thinks the readers will appreciate a physical book to read more than a web page to visit. It will be a more personal, tactile experience.

My client also noted that students as a rule seem to prefer physical textbooks, in spite of the initial surge of interest in ebooks. After all, they can underline passages in the print books and write notes in the margins. It still appears to be a more comfortable way for her students to learn. Granted, this is just anecdotal evidence, but it is still interesting to hear.

What Can We Learn from This Experience?

  1. My client has been given an exceptionally tight budget. She plans to pay for about half of the cost herself in order to have a physical book for her students. That says a lot about her commitment, but it also says a lot about her students’ (and other people’s) desire to still read print books. Granted, it also says that university administrations must balance their students’ needs and desires with their own need to meet their tight budgets.
  2. When I think about how many of my clients have been reducing the press runs for their books—or moving them to an online option only–I have to pause. On the positive side, I see an increasing number of other clients self-publishing their work. Because of this I have been getting lots of bids from lots of printers who want to compete with online book printers like Amazon. The brick-and-mortar printers I frequent have been lowering their prices to get more work. Granted, in some cases this has meant reducing the number of options. A commercial printing vendor offering digital books might only provide a limited number of paper options. Or, perhaps they can do case binding of digital books but only using certain papers and not book binding cloth. By doing this they can offer pricing that lets them compete with online-only vendors.
  3. Self-publishing clients are using their own money. Therefore, press runs are exceedingly small. I call them micro-runs. And overall prices have to be minimal as well. So the total “spend” per client seems to be going down further and further. In spite of this, people still seem to want print books of high quality (with thick paper, smooth cover coatings, French flaps, etc.). They definitely like the tactile experience. It’s just very different working with an individual creating books for friends and colleagues than working with an educational foundation cranking out textbooks.

Importance of choosing the best book printing services

Friday, January 8th, 2021

Most readers consider book printing to be an unimportant part, but it is quite important for a publisher as it is one of the deciding factors for the success of a book. The need for the best book printing services is the first thing that comes to a writer’s mind before publishing a novel. Similarly, if a company wants to print a magazine for office uses or schools and universities, the best book printing service matters a lot. Book printing is an art that has been practiced by a few printing service providers. It is, therefore, important that you only have the best men at work.

If you follow these basic steps for book printing, it will help you find the best book printing services and get books printed at an affordable price.

  • Finding a reliable printer – You have to be vigilant from the first point if you want the result to be successful. It isn’t easy to locate a trusted book printing company, but it will save the expense and time of production if you have one. Look at the comments of the various customers.
  • Follow guides – Ensure you have read essential guides before offering your printing book and are familiar with the fundamental rules. This is critical when selling books to prevent any problems.
  • Front cover – In readers’ eyes, the book’s front page provides the first glimpse of the book. Everybody would prefer your book at least once if the front cover is attractive. On the front page, colors and pictures must complement the content.
  • Design of the book– Nearly all book printing companies have talented designers who come up with creative and attractive ideas for books, so no one knows what’s right for your content. Speak to experts about just what you want and in what way. This will help them build a design that complements your content.
  • Number of books – Before submitting your book for printing, it is necessary to determine how many copies you need. This is because it adds up to the cost of production. Go for the POD alternative that is print on demand, if necessary. Here you may order more copies of your printer as and when needed.
  • Proper preparation – Take enough time to print the book and prepare every move carefully. After all, with this printing, all the writing endeavors are at stake. Take choices carefully and keep the readers in mind at all times. This will allow you to make an appropriate decision.
  • . Output expense –A huge number of enterprises have begun printing services these days. Therefore, do not opt for the higher production cost simply by considering that it would be best. You can find companies providing professional facilities at competitive prices. Find the cost-effective printing equipment best suited for your printing project.

If you’re a novelist, having the first novel printed or have the company’s latest coffee table book, finding the best book printing services is of the utmost importance. Consider the above facts while choosing a book printing service.

Book Printing: Perfect Binding and Saddle Stitching

Monday, November 9th, 2020

Once you move from single-sheet print jobs such as flyers, brochures, multi-panel mailers, and posters to multi-page print jobs, you are faced with a number of binding options. How do you choose?

Here are some of your options and some of the considerations you might need to address. I will primarily focus on two of these (perfect binding and saddle stitching), but first here is a list of some of the remaining bindery technologies:

Case Binding: This is hardcover book binding. You see these print books in libraries (often covered in fabric, with and without dust jackets). You also see them in bookstores. They are high quality and expensive. If you go back a little ways historically, you even see hardcover books bound in leather (rather than in paper or fabric). These are durable (some are well over a hundred years old) and are made with strong binder boards. They are crafted for use and made to last.

Mechanical Binding: This includes double-wire (or Wire-O), spiral wire, screw and post, plastic coil, GBC or comb binding, tape binding, ring-binders, plastic grip, and VeloBinding (a narrow strip of plastic on the top of the book and one on the bottom, connected through the pages by plastic tines).

Mechanical binding usually involves hand work. It is expensive. That said, it is ideal for very low run projects (maybe a dozen to a hundred, or more, reports for distribution at a convention). In a few cases you can even add pages to, or remove pages from, mechanically bound print books.

Now for the workhorses of the binding world: perfect binding and saddle stitching.

Perfect Binding Options

Perfect binding is used for longer paperback books. Unlike a saddle stitched book, a perfect-bound book has a spine. The benefit of a spine is that you can print the title of the book on it. Without a spine, a saddle stitched print book will be less visible on the bookshelf.

Perfect bound books come in a number of different flavors. They can be lay-flat bound, in which the printed, folded, and gathered press signatures are attached to the edges of the front and back book covers. More specifically, the book block is glued to the covers at the front and back fold but is not actually attached to the spine. This is very similar to the process used for case binding. The book block is essentially “hung” on the folds between the covers and the spine. This allows the book to lie flat on a table. For a cookbook or manual, this can be very helpful.

Another perfect binding option is the original method, in which the stacked press signatures are ground off at the folds of the signatures, then slathered with liquid glue or hot-melt glue, and then set into the paper covers (a single piece: back cover, spine, and front cover). What makes this different from the next option (burst perfect binding) is that once the folded edges of the press signatures have been ground down, the pages are essentially glued against the spine as single sheets of paper (not as folded, connected press signatures). Therefore, it’s easier for individual pages to get pulled out than in the burst perfect binding method.

In contrast, burst perfect binding leaves the folds of the press signatures in place. Instead of grinding off these folds, the equipment cuts notches into the fold edges of the signatures. Hot melt glue or liquid glue can then be slathered into the binding side of the press signatures, and the glue will have more surface area of the paper to which it can adhere. (And the pages are still connected at the folds, decreasing the chance that individual pages can be easily pulled out.)

Here are two things to consider if you’re looking at perfect binding your print book. First of all, the process is expensive and time consuming. Your book printer may have to subcontract out this work.

The second consideration involves the length of the print book. I have been involved in printing some perfect bound books comprising only 64 pages. Other books have been hundreds of pages in length. If you’re designing a very short book (maybe 28 pages), there’s really not much room for a printed spine. Granted, you can leave the spine blank. Talk with your printer about the minimum page count his binding equipment will handle.

Side Stitching and Saddle Stitching

Before I address traditional saddle stitching, there’s an alternate option called side stitching in which the individual press signatures are first stacked. A powerful stapler (essentially) then secures these pages (the tines of the stitching wire go down vertically through all the pages and are crimped at the bottom). This kind of binding is remarkably sturdy. When I was growing up, my National Geographic magazines arrived this way. (Or, more specifically, they were first stitched in this way and then covered with an additional paper cover to hide the side stitches.) That said, side stitched books will not lie flat.

In contrast, saddle stitching, the other bindery workhorse (along with perfect binding), involves first nesting the press signatures (sliding one folded press signature into another, as opposed to stacking them on top of one another as is done in perfect binding).

Saddle-stitching wire (like side stitching wire) then goes through the open books at the fold (the trimmed wire stitches look just like staples), and then the print book is folded shut.

Saddle stitched books have no spines. However, almost any commercial printer or book printer can do this binding work in-house. Therefore, it’s cheaper and faster than the (often) subcontracted perfect binding work. You will usually see this kind of binding used for short magazines.

But here are some things to consider that make saddle stitching less than ideal.

First, the book has to be short. I’ve participated in the saddle stitching of magazines that exceeded 64 pages. That said, the paper was thin, and occasionally the center spread of the magazines would pull out easily. To avoid this, in most cases I would advise clients to perfect bind such a print book or magazine. But, to be sure, ask your book printer how many pages he can safely accommodate in saddle stitching without risking the loss (or loosening) of the center pages.

Second, there’s a risk of “creep” or “push-out,” as the saddle stitched books start to get very long. As noted before (and unlike perfect-bound books), the 4-, 8-, 16-, or 32-page press signatures are nested (one slid into the center of the other), not stacked. What this means is that pages closer to the center of the book stick out further than pages in the front or back of the book. Therefore, these center pages are actually trimmed slightly shorter than pages near the front and back of the book.

If your page numbers (folios) are close to the trim edge initially, they may wind up even more painfully close to the edge after trimming. (The process of trimming is not as precise as one might like.) In fact, the trimming blade could even cut through the folios. To avoid this, ask your printer about the possibility of creep or push out and ways to avoid it. (You may even need to adjust the page design ever so slightly in the center signature(s) to compensate for this.)

The good news is that saddle-stitched print books will lie flat on the table.

What You Can Learn From This Discussion

  1. You have many options.
  2. When it comes to mechanical binding, you are often paying a premium (for hand work) for a less professional looking product. If you’re producing a cookbook, this may be ok or even desirable. (Consider GBC, plastic coil, Wire-O, or spiral wire.)
  3. Your best options are often perfect binding and saddle stitching. In either case, consider your budget, the need to have a spine you can print on, and the length of the print book. Involve your printer early. Ask about the best book length (page count) for each option.
  4. If you’re considering perfect binding and want a book that will lie flat, ask about “lay-flat” binding or Otabind (the brand name for this process).
  5. If your book needs to be durable and highly attractive, consider case binding. You may even consider adding a dust jacket, or you may choose a special binding cloth, or even leather, to cover the binding boards. But expect this to be expensive and time consuming work.

3 Benefits of Using Electronic Book Services

Saturday, September 5th, 2020

The E-book industry has gained a lot of popularity in the past few years, and its demand is only rising. Today, the world has upgraded in terms of technology and gadgets. You will find entertainment, education, information and shopping, everything on the internet—another popular addition to the digital world books. E-books are getting increasingly popular and have doubled its reach. There are many electronic book services that can help an author publish their e-book on a particular platform so that it is reachable to everyone. The printed books industry will not die out, but the e-books also have a lot of benefits. If you are a staunch book lover, you will love to use e-books along with your regular reading dose. Also, it is a good chance for authors to publish their books online and make it easily available for the readers. Let’s look at some advantages of e-books for the authors.

  1. It is Cost-Effective

When you as an author, want to publish your book the traditional way, you will have to bear the cost of the publishing house. Right from printing to making the design cover and then distributing it to stores all over the world, you need to incur a lot of expenses. On the other hand, if you use electronic book services, you need not bear so many expenses. Publishing an e-book saves your printing cost and also widens your global reach. It is the best way to save your costs if you are on a limited budget. You only have to invest in the essentials of publishing your e-book, and it will be easily reachable to millions of users around the world. You may only have to pay a royalty to the publisher after your books are sold. It is different for every publishing house, and you also have a chance to self-publish your book.

  1. It has a Global Reach

If someone publishes a book in the USA, how do you think will be its reach in India or other eastern countries? Well, it’s not necessary that the books will be available worldwide in all the stores. In that case, you will be missing out on your reading audience in other parts of the world due to lack of copies or additional cost. But, when you publish an e-book, any reader across the world can download or buy your copy in just a few seconds. It is quite an effective way to reach out to a larger audience in a short span of time. Your fans need not wait for your hard copy to reach them.

  1. You Get Instant Gratification

If you are selling your e-book on one of the popular platforms, you can get instant comments from your readers. Whether they liked the book or disliked it, they will post their reactions, and you can easily have access to their comments. But, with a printed version, they would not know whom to reach out to and sometimes their messages won’t reach you on time.

Book Printing: Short-Run Digital Case-Bound Books

Monday, June 8th, 2020

For the most part, the title of this blog post is an oxymoron: “short run digital” usually doesn’t mesh with “case binding.” That’s because of the complexity of case binding, the make-ready process, the skill level involved, and the post-press finishing equipment needed. The list goes on. Short of binding the books one at a time by hand, the elusive goal of a short press run of case-bound books seems more akin to the proverbial unicorn everyone seems to be seeking.

But my client needs this. And you may, too, at some point when buying book printing. This is how I’m going about the task.

First the Book Specifications

First of all, the book is 8 1/2” X 10 7/8”, with a quantity of 300 vs. 350 copies, 302 pages plus hard cover. The text paper is 60# white offset. Endsheets are 80# Rainbow Oatmeal Antique. And the dust jacket is 100# C1S, with gloss film lamination.

Interior press work involves K/K ink only, with no bleeds. And the dust jacket prints 4/0.

Finishing is more complex. The book requires adhesive case binding with .098″ boards, with colored endsheets, and a flat back (with board in spine). The wrapping material is Arrestox B (Fern L535). The printer must stamp the spine, back, and front cover with one impression of gold foil, from printer furnished dies. Then the printer will wrap the dust jackets around the print books, possibly shrink wrap them individually, and then carton pack them.

A Quandry

While all of these specs sound reasonable enough, they reflect some potentially conflicting client requirements (although they can still be remedied by the right book printer).

First of all, the book is long enough (302 pages) that in past editions it would have been printed either by sheetfed lithography or more usually by web-fed lithography (i.e., a web press or roll-fed press). This was back when the book (a yearly title for this particular textbook-printing client) was 600 pages in length with a press run of 1,000 copies. Those specs more closely matched a web printer I used to work with many years ago. In fact, that particular vendor might consider a short-run book (and probably would be competitive), but their minimum order is 1,000 copies, not 300 or 350 copies.

Moreover, this particular vendor could conceivably send the book to their digital plant (note that this printer has multiple book plants, with digital capabilities as well as sheetfed and web-fed offset presses on their pressroom floor). But to remain competitive, this printer has only limited materials for their digital books. Their covers, for instance, are produced with a few generic paper stock options laminated over binders boards (i.e., not fabric). Basically, they tell you what you can have. Since their prices are spectacular, their limits are reasonable. This is particularly true when you consider that this book printer only has such good prices because they buy a massive amount of only a few brands of printing and binding materials. In my client’s case, if this particular printer produced a short-run case bound book, it would not be bound in Arrestox B (Fern L535) casing fabric. Rather it would be bound in whatever the printer was offering to keep the prices down.

Since my client has been printing and selling this book (at a premium) for decades, it’s important for the final product to look as close to the older versions (produced on a web offset press and bound with high-end bindery materials) as possible. So this particular vendor is not an option.

Two Alternatives

I have approached two other vendors. Plus, I have put the specs up on the Printing Industry Exchange website to see if any new printers might show interest.

One of the two book printers promotes itself as offering prices close to those of Asian printers without the risk. I have found this to be true for the most part. This particular printer is actually a representative for two different dedicated book printers, one on the East Coast and one in the Midwest. One of the printers specializes in black-text-only printing. The other does primarily 4-color work. But what both printers have in common is that they focus almost exclusively on print books. Therefore, they have all of the printing and finishing equipment anyone could need for book production.

To clarify this, I have found over the last forty years that most printers have on-site saddle-stitching equipment. Some but not all have perfect-binding equipment. And only a limited number have case-binding equipment. This makes sense. The goal is to keep all printing and finishing equipment running all the time. Since most printers would not need to run perfect-binding and case-binding equipment all the time, they don’t buy it. Instead, they farm out this work to other printers who do have this specialized equipment. Or they go to companies that only do binding.

But dedicated book printers are a different breed. And I have two vendors in mind (accessible through one representative, who is not quite a broker because he represents the printers rather than the clients, as I do). His two printers have all of this equipment. Therefore, their prices will be lower (i.e., I’ll be more likely to win my client’s bid), and the turn around will be faster (subcontracting not only costs more but takes longer, too).

But I also have one more option: the printer who has produced this book as page counts and press runs have declined from 600+ pages to 300+ pages, and from 1,000 copies to 300 copies. This book printer has done the job for many years (they are motivated to keep it). They are a dedicated book printer, so they have all equipment needed to produce it onsite. (In fact, if they determine that the combination of page count and press run would be more economical on a digital press, they can print the book this way; and, if they determine that web-fed offset, even for this short a run, works better financially as well as in their schedule, they can print the job via offset lithography.)

In most cases, printers with this much equipment are “consolidators.” They buy up multiple printing plants and offer everything to all clients. When work comes in, they send each job to the appropriate plant (like the printer noted earlier in this article). But in this particular case, the printer is smaller, not a consolidator, still has all the equipment in-house, and has provided aggressive pricing for years (and doesn’t want to lose the client). In short, it’s a perfect fit (hopefully my client will agree).

And there’s one other reason the printer has lower prices. It’s in the Midwest in a location that has a lower pay scale than here on the East Coast (for good or ill, this does make a difference).

What You Can Learn from This Case Study

  1. Keep an open mind. A printer halfway across the country might be the perfect match. If you like their pricing, ask for an equipment list. You may see why their prices are lower based on what printing and finishing equipment they have in-house. That said, since you can’t necessarily visit the printer if something goes wrong, it’s very important to perform all due diligence. Get printed samples. Talk with references. Do careful research.
  2. Think about what kind of technology is most appropriate for your book-printing job. If you’re not sure where the sweet spot is for short-run digital work based on your page count and press run, ask your printer.
  3. Some book printers have tabletop binding equipment. They can be competitive on smaller press runs because they don’t necessarily have to cover the cost of large and expensive equipment (at least for the short-run print books).
  4. Ask colleagues. A lot of the information you need will be in the printers’ equipment lists, but nothing is better than one printer’s recommendation of another vendor who might be more appropriate based on your printing needs.
  5. Large printers with multiple plants may not be as attuned to your particular job needs. In fact, to keep their materials costs down, they may offer only limited options for printing or binding styles. Sometimes a smaller printer who really needs you to be happy is a better choice.
  6. Keep in mind that, across the country, the press runs and page counts of book printing jobs are declining. That said, print books are not going away. Readers and publishers still want a high-quality product for a good price. And the market drives vendors’ offerings. So it is quite possible to find vendors who will print short-run, multi-page books and bind them to your specifications. You don’t need a lot of vendors. You just need to find one or a few.

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