In the print industry, we have six common pitfalls for job rejections. These are:
  • Incorrect instructions to the printer - 39%
  • Colour mismatch - 30%
  • Improper converting - 20%
  • Breakdown in customer contact - 5%
  • Layout issues - 4%
  • Fonts - 2%

Incorrect instructions have wrecked many books. A few examples of errors made while planning:
  • Books that are to be perfect bound, stripped for saddle stitching
  • Thread sewn books provided with more gutter space for grind-off (back milling)
  • Trim margins that are either too low or too high.

Bookbinders are often left with little or no maneuverability when a print job arrives on our shop floor. In the race to do additional jobs, one might be tempted to accept the job with its entire shortcomings – only to lose the client once the binding fails. My advice is: caution the customer; provide him with a list of “to do” things. One needs to make an extra effort in making the client understand that ‘there is huge saving for him / her’ in a job, well planned.

Given below are a series of instructions that a bookbinder should communicate to the print buyer or planner.

  1. Provide the publisher or the printer various folding impositions that your machines support. Ask him/her to call you “when in doubt”.

  2. Insist on using stepped/numbered spine markers to assist in proper signature collation.

  3. Trim allowance for the signatures – they should provide at least 3mm on the head, tail and   fore-edge. The untrimmed covers of thread sewn or perfect bound paperback books should be 3mm longer at the head and tail. In addition to this, if the end papers are to be glued solid to the covers, then insist on the cover being at least 3mm wider (binding edge to fore-edge) than the untrimmed signatures.

  4. Head margins for all pages must be the same to ensure proper registration. This includes inserts that may be trimmed for tipping or wrapping as well as signatures and covers. Printed endpaper should bleed to the untrimmed signature size.

  5. All signatures for Smyth sewn books must be the same size. Uneven signature lengths will require pre-trimming and you must charge for it.

  6. There should be grind off allowance provided for perfect bound books. This is normally about 3 mm. There is absolutely no grind off allowance on Smyth/thread sewn books.

  7. Printed cover stock for hard bound books: Allow 15 mm turn-in on all four sides when printing cover stock for hard cover binding. This cover buffer enables the bindery to turn the cover stock over the board, onto the inside surface of the cover. Remember that the trim size of the book is smaller than the size of the cover. It is advisable for you to produce a binding dummy to ensure correct stripping once you’re supplied with materials and information. Suggest that the paper cover stock be film laminated for strength.

  8. We need to ensure that crop marks and colour bars are removed by trimming. The signature marks are hidden by folding and sewing. For this all marks should be left at least 3 mm (preferably more) outside the final trim area.

  9. For cross-over, strip copy about 1.6mm short of grind‑off area (grind-off margin + 1.6mm). Cross-over should appear to meet at the spine. As the accuracy of folding required is very high, insist on folding at your bindery. As for cross-over images, you cannot be responsible for alignment if you are not involved at the planning stage

  10. When printing books with bleeds that run into the binding margin, as with art or photography books, please leave 3 mm unprinted and unvarnished glue trap (blank, non printed area) in the gutter between signatures. Without the glue trap, you cannot guarantee that the adhesives will penetrate into the paper fibres. This will also prevent solvents from printing ink migrating into the glued area.

  11. If the job involves thread sewing and if the paper is not heavy, then you may have to insert an 8 page into another 8 page to make 16 page signatures for sewing. The planning has to bear this in mind.

  12. If the job has odd signatures, 2, 4 or 8 pages, then it will involve either tipping or wrapping. Never have them at the beginning or the end of the book.
  • 2 page: Tip it to outside of back (rather than front) of any signature other than the last signature.
  • 4 page: Wrap around any signature (in case of automatic thread sewing) or insert into a signature (in case of perfect binding).
  • 8 page: Collate with other signatures but never place them at the end of the book as this will cause problems.

You may be wondering: will my customer run off, if confronted with such a big list of “do this and don’t do that”? Perhaps some of them may scorn you; but try and reason about the benefits and the gains. Every process or step or instruction will result in
  • Reduction in raw material consumption
  • Lower wastage and
  • A stronger, durable book.

You might take more time in convincing the customer about the benefits of job planning, but in the end the customer will remain – happy and satisfied.

Paul Parisi is president of Acme Bookbinding, the Massachusetts-based, oldest continuously operated book bindery in the world.

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