Printing and Binding

When a book is ‘sent to the printer’, it will be printed and bound, but not necessarily in the same building. Please review the printing and binding sections below and feel free to contact us if you have any questions. There is a lot to learn about printing and binding a book, and you probably don’t need to know it all, but it is important to have a basic understanding, and to work with people whom you trust.

Printing

It is now 2021. It has been several years since Webb Publishing has worked with a traditional (non-digital) printer. At this point in the publishing game, 99% of books are printed using digital printers.

If the above terminology confuses you, you’re not alone. In simplest terms, the reason that publishing has become so accessible over the past few years is that digital printing technology (computer technology) has advanced sufficiently that we are now able to print single copies of books on high quality digital printers (commercial-grade laser printers — think ‘a fancy photocopier’). Gone are the days of having to invest thousands of dollars to print enough books to warrant using a traditional printer.

Traditional Printing

A traditional printer is the type of printing process used by newspapers. There were a few types of printing presses but basically, printing used to require the process of developing negatives (pictures of each page), then using plates, inks and skilled personnel to use large, expensive printing presses to apply inks to paper. You may have heard the term off-set web press, lithograph, etc. The cost to print a small quantity of books via traditional press is prohibitive. It was only cost effective (and still is) when printing a large run of books. The quality of a traditional press is arguably superior to its digital successor. In this type of printing, inks are soaked into the paper, providing a more durable and finer finish than is possible with digital printing (though this point is very debatable).

Digital Printing

Digital printing, laser printing, print on-demand…. these are terms that refer to high quality commercial grade laser printers. Think ‘a $100,00 version of my home printer’.

So how much does it cost to print a book? A very gross estimate is that a 100 page perfect-bound book with black & white interior pages, and a colour cover coated with UV protection, costs approximately $10 to print. Prices are dependent on the prices of paper, which change with the markets, along with many other factors.

Printing terminology and options

Paper
Typically we use 20lb bond paper (standard, copy-quality paper) to print interior pages, along with a higher quality (thicker) paper for the cover. We find that the higher quality cover ‘stock’ (which is just another word for paper) handles laser inks better. Estimates for higher quality papers are available upon request. Samples are available for your review.
If photographs are a significant feature of a book, we prefer to use a higher quality paper for the interior pages. This type of paper often has a smoother finish, which provides greater clarity of the images.

UV Coating; Lamination
Books covers may need to be coated with either laminate or UV coating (a sprayed-on product) to prevent the cracking of solid inks along the spine and folds of digitally-printed books. Virtually all book printers use one or the other product. We prefer UV coating, as lamination has been known to peel off of cover and/or bend covers.

Binding

Webb Publishing is pleased to provide quotes on both soft cover and hard cover book-binding. We will attempt to explain the most common varieties of binding available.

Perfect-Bound
The term perfect-bound refers to what the book industry calls a ‘quality trade paperback’. This quality of binding is somewhat better than the average ‘paperback’ style of binding. It is the most common form of binding today, with probably 95% of all Webb Publishing titles using this technique. The spine of a perfect-bound book is scored, hot glue is applied, then a premium-quality book cover is wrapped around the spine. The minimum number of pages required to perfect-bind a book is approximately 60 pages. There is usually a set-up fee included in the binding price, therefore the unit cost of a larger run of books is lower than a smaller number of books (the set-up fee is a flat fee that applies whether you print 2 books or 200).

Coil-Bound: Plastic or Metal
Coil-binding is a terrific way to get a book to lie flat. Often used for cookbooks, manuals, and calendars, coil-binding is a good alternative for books with a lower page-count. The binding materials comes in a variety of colours, in both plastic and metal, and looks professional when used in the right circumstances.

Side-Stitched
This type of binding refers to stapling one edge of a stack of pages. Usually 2 or 3 staples are ‘stitched’ into the left-hand-side of a pile of individual pieces of paper. The main thing to keep in mind is that side-stitching refers to a pile of loose papers stapled together, whereas saddle-stitching refers to…….

Saddle-Stitched
Saddle-stitching refers to stapling together larger pieces of paper in the middle of a 2-page spread, and then folding the stitched product into two pages along its spine. Think of the stitches as ‘saddling’ (or ‘straddling’) the pages. This binding is frequently used for manuals and smaller-page-count children’s books.

Other
There are other types of soft-cover binding available, notably ‘invisible coil binding’, where the book appears to be a regular perfect-bound book, but when it’s open, a coil is visible inside. This binding is being used more frequently in cookbooks.

Hard Cover
Hard cover binding can be 10 times more expensive than perfect-binding (think $2 vs $20 per book). There are a variety of qualities of hard cover binding available. Binding companies tend to specialize in one or two varieties of stitching – some will saddle-stitch together ‘signatures’ (ie: 8, 16 or 32-page inserts) together, and some glue together a stack of individual pages. There are different qualities of ‘board’ used in the process, and there are a variety of qualities of paper, fabrics and leather with which the hard board is covered. Some hard cover books are left plain and covered with dust covers (aka dust jackets), and some hard cover books have the full colour cover glued right onto the hard board. This type of binding is cost-prohibitive and is usually reserved for special editions (ie: re-binding a family Bible, or possibly binding one or two books in this fashion as special gifts).

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“All indies self-publish but not all self-publishers are indie.”

Orna Ross