Need a Book Printer

theorosendorf's picture

Can anyone recommend a book printer that can do a casebound book with perfect registration? There are bleeding elements at the thumb margin throughout. The printer needs to be able to deliver seamless baseline backup.

We need to go to press ASAP.

Some sample pages are here:

I'll check back here later tonight.

Thank you so much!


jupiterboy's picture

I don’t know what quantity you have, but you might look in this direction.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Is it wise to pre-order your book? I mean is there going to be a different release price? (Sorry to go off-topic)

theorosendorf's picture

That's a great question. I can't represent a response for the publisher, but I don't believe the price will go up as it's already been published at $45. I imagine the price will stay where it is, especially for the people that have already ordered it.

jupiterboy: have you worked with Transcontinental before?

charles ellertson's picture

When you say "casebound" do you mean signatures (either sewn or notch bound)? I don't know of any folding equipment that is "perfect" -- trimming either, for that matter. I think the old standard was 3/64 (inch), but you don't see much even that good these days.

I'd also note that book printers usually specialize into very short run (under, say, 600 copies), short run (under, say, 5,000 copies, sometimes 3,000), and long run. Most of the long-run printers will have binding equipment at their plant, but some of the short-run printers have to sub out casebinding.

If the book is under 5,000 copies, you might make an inquiry of Thomson-Shore

Be sure they know your particular situation; they will likely give you the truth about their capabilities even if they can't do the job.

jupiterboy's picture

I have not worked with them. I have had bids from them on several jobs, and I’ve seen their work for a few museums. They are responsive, can work competitively on small runs. You might ask them about the specifics of your job. I would choose them based on competitive costs as compared with international printers. Most of the fine art (high-line screen) work is printed in Canada, which saves having shipping costs.

will powers's picture

Your web page says it is printed at Sheridan. Is that just placeholder copy?

With today's platemaking/imposition equipment, back-up of pages is generally excellent. But as Charles points out, the folding is the problem. This is the least precise operation in the book printing process. Those big press sheets go through that folder at lightning speed, bumping into the {I'm not sure what the proper term is for this machine part, so I'll call them . . .} "guards" and onto the next fold. So while pages may back up perfectly, the alignment of running heads or first text lines from one signature to the next, and within signatures will be less than perfect.

You do not get perfection from a printer such as Sheridan or Thomson-Shore. You get damn good commercial book printing at good prices and reasonable schedules. But you will not get your casebound book in less than 5 weeks unless you do some special pleading. If you want perfection you'll have to try one of the really top-notch German or Italian printers. Take a big bag of money with you.

I designed and managed production on an Oak Knoll book a few years ago. I was under the impression that they always used Sheridan. The printing on that book came out well. I also work with Transcon: prices not so good as Sheridan or T-S, but the work is good. Also try Friesens in Altona, Manitoba or Maple-Vail, an excellent shop.

I gotta catch a bus. I may have more to add in an hour or so when I get to the salt mine.


charles ellertson's picture

I think all of us who routinely deal with Thomson-Shore, Sheridan, Friesens, Maple Vale, Edwards Brothers, etc. have our favorites. Our reasons are almost never ones that point to a "clearly better" printer.

For example: some have an excellent price, but a relatively untrained person on the preflight program. That can cost you time; in fairness, it can also save you problems in that you get to review EVERYTHING the preflight program kicks out. 90+% of what's raised in preflight is trivial, you'd tell them to run the job, but you'll spend time tracking the thing down. Some printers, like some comps, make reasonable assumptions. That cuts down the number of issues raised, but at a slightly increased risk of miscommunication or error. Etc.

For example: some printers don't publish, or won't work with you, on dotgain. Saying the dotgain is "20%" doesn't tell you much about the shape of the total curve. Yup, it is 20% at 50% black, but the curve is far from a straight or "pre-definable" line. Etc.

For example: some printers routinely stock the paper you want. Etc.

For example, some printers use a slightly grayer ink -- pluses and minuses.


theorosendorf's picture

Thanks guys,

Tiffany: I just found there will be no change in price.

Charles: Smyth-sewn case bound, but if there's a better approach for registration's sake...

Powers: Yes, it says Sheridan and it may still be Sheridan. It started when they wanted to charge for a press check. Then the samples they sent weren't very good (Oak Knoll said). I just found today they're going to send more (different binding) samples to Oak Knoll. Though I'd like to approve everything, my hands are tied. I didn't think it would be necessary to negotiate quality control into my publishing contract.

We're attempting something difficult with these thumb margin bleeds, but someone has to be able to do it. I'm worried about that part more than ink coverage since you'll be able to see it en masse down the foreedge. I'd like to keep those thumb tabs if at all possible.

At this rate, within ten years, American printing's "allowable margin of error" will reach 30%. The equipment will be made entirely of old used up pressman's thumbs and elbows.

Thanks for all the tips,


Miss Tiffany's picture

Thank you for checking on that Theodore.

charles ellertson's picture


What Will and I (& others) are trying to gently say is that what you ask is impossible -- That was my wife's term; she's been involved in book printing even longer than I, and specializes in helping people who lack some area of knowledge in bringing a (book) project to it's end. Sometimes, when the project & budget require it, she winds up making the trip to Europe for a press check, sometimes the need is to deliver 100 copies in a few days for a museum opening, the rest to be printed conventionally for sale. There are all kinds of *perfects*.

As to negotiating quality control in a contract, you first have to know what is possible, then what is reasonable, esp. for a certain cost. I know a lot of people who specify certain composition standards who do not in fact know what is possible with setting a text -- they try to impose limitations on spacebands in H&J along with rules about what can and cannot be hyphenated, number of hyphens in a row, on & on. There are all kinds of tricks I can play if a customer is willing to pay for the handwork, but in the end, you will always have compromises with a text; you reach a point where you either have to set the text as written or rewrite it.

Well, that is composition, where I defer to few. Will Powers has the hands-on expertise in printing, so I'll defer to him there.

As for your current problem with Sheridan, ask what their standard is -- ask what they can hold. If it is 3/64ths, that means your thumbnail bleeds are off by a maximum of a touch over 3 points, & what shows is on the edge away from the binding. Binding & paper have flex, even if it could be perfect imposition, folding & binding, it wouldn't always *appear* that way.

Oak Knoll, like other publishers, use Sheridan for a reason. That reason is price.

theorosendorf's picture

First off, I'd like to mention that Oak Knoll has been great to work with. Sheridan has been great too, but that whole press check thing is annoying. It makes me suspect. For commercial work (business cards, posters, brochures, etc.), I don't do business with anyone that charges for press checks. Do book printers typically charge for press checks?

I learned a while back that nothing is ever perfect with printing. I appreciate everyone listening to my rants. Thanks for the counseling session. I feel better already.

charles ellertson's picture

Just for the fun of it, & since I too was involved with writing a glossary (Glossary of Typesetting Terms, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1994) What do you mean by "press check"? What I call "blues", as opposed to "digital blues"? Or when you're at the plant, see a sample of each sheet as it first comes off the press (after running enough sheets to get the inking right), approve it, or make changes, sometimes meaning a new plate, before running that plate? The latter is what I call a "press check."

Yes, they charge for that. Book printers are getting so they charge for traditional blues, which BTW also delay the book a bit. And the biggest source for error in what you're after would come with machine folding & trimming; even traditional blues won't show that since they are hand-folded.

theorosendorf's picture

Oh! Hello Mr Ellertson, it is a pleasure to be chatting with you. The Glossary of Typesetting Terms is a great book. It was indispensable for fact checking and comparison while writing my book.

Thanks for bringing that to my attention. Thinking down that line, I'm now looking at the thumb tabs on Eckersley's The Telephone Book.

I meant your latter idea of press check: stepping foot in the press room. Make friends with the pressman, break out the loops, get my hands dirty, shoot the shit, and take smoke breaks.

I like your term "digital blues." The first time I received one of those, I thought it was a joke, then I got blue.

I like press rooms. Plants, not so much (but I guess they're necessary for the jumbo jobs). My favorite small shop unfortunately had to close its doors a few years back after the junky pressman went on a bender and never came back. Three different freelance pressmen couldn't get the press running correctly after his departure. They found the press had been fixed, or rather rigged to work by cramming screwdrivers and bubble gum in it.

Fueled by cocaine and smack, my man the junky played that two color Ryobi like a violin. We printed a four color job with flawless registration and sent it off to the binders. In the end, it was masterpiece. I sure do miss him.

will powers's picture

REGISTRATION: Now I see what you are getting at. You have thumb tabs that have to back up since they show on versos and rectos. So, OK: you can get them backed-up well on the sheet. But there will be some variation from page to page in each section the thumb tabs define. That's inevitable because of folding variances. As we've said earlier.

I'm looking right now at a book we published that has two-color thumb tabs (printed on rectos only, on a web press). As soon as the designer came up with the idea, I pointed out that there'd be some variation within the 25-30 pages called out by each thumb tab. Fine with me. I had no problem, and no one else squawked. It was part of a trade-off involving money and time.

PRESS CHECK: Are you sure they did not say they'd charge $400 for a "press test," meaning that they'd print a sample sig for you ahead of the full run so you can make sure the thing will come out as you want it to? That is a common practice; it is what I do when I print a book of duotones in North America: I have them gang lots of the art onto a sheet, with some type, and have them run that. The usual cost is indeed about $400. That's a "press test" in my jargon.

But when I am in the press room with the pressman, checking the first sheets of each sig, that's a "press check." No printer worth its salt should charge for that. In fact, the really good ones will have an apartment with a kitchen stocked with food basics, a wireless set-up, and a good TV available for you over the days you'll be there. At Transcontinental's plant in Beauceville, Quebec, they have a sweet suite right in the printing plant. It make a press check so easy. But I digress.


theorosendorf's picture

I've seen those suites. They look very convenient, though I haven't had to use them.

REGISTRATION: How much was the variation on your tabs? ± 2pts or so? Also, printing web, were the signatures folded and cut on the press? What's your opinion with web vs sheet-fed?



will powers's picture

Registration on the tabs varied by maybe 6 points. & it is very noticeable when you look at the foredge. The book was notch bound, so, yes, sigs were notched and folded as they came off the web. All this is acceptable for this title.

Web is cheaper and faster than sheetfed; that can often be a factor. In general web work is not as good for halftones as sheetfed, but many printers are getting better results on web presses. I do not have a general attitude about whether to print web or sheet. Each book is judged on its own needs.

ALSO: I just checked with my man at Sheridan. They do not charge for "press checks," when you are in the press room while the book is running. They do charge for "press tests" as I described them above. They will help folks get discounts at hotels.

I never do a press check on a single-color book. You are going to have to live with some bounce on the back-up and registration of those thumb tabs if you work with any of the standard North American book printers such as those mentioned earlier in his thread. And a press check will not reveal the extent of the bounce. You will only see that when you see sample bound books.


kentlew's picture

I also did a book once with thumb tabs on the fore-edge. Ours bounced about a 6 point range, like Will's. Also acceptable for our title. Back-up was pretty good, not perfect. This was a 2-color job; I assume sheet-fed, but could have been web, I suppose -- too long ago to recall.

The variance is probably going to be greatest when crossing actual signatures.

The other thing to consider is not to make the tab element too shallow or too narrow. The deeper (i.e., taller) the tab, the less the bounce will seem. Also, if a tab element is too narrow, then you're more likely to notice the variations in edge trim. Binding creep and how many pages in the signature will affect how much variance in trim. I would be prepared for as much as 4–6 points difference there too.

So, for instance don't try to go for exactly half a circle, or you'll only end up disappointed.

-- Kent.

theorosendorf's picture

I apologize for my slow response — work.

Yes, It's bad to set yourself up for disappointment, but good to try to make things better, or at least find better.



theorosendorf's picture

I should have posted when I received my copies of the finished book.
I am very happy with the final product.
I'm Sheridan's newest, biggest fan.


bowerbird's picture

i saw a book with some bleed tabs the other day,
noticed the unavoidable variance due to folding,
and it made me wonder if a gradient on the tab
would make that less prominent. anyone tried it?


will powers's picture

Congratulations. I was just the other day wondering how this book came out. I'm not sure when I'll see one. I rarely go to bookstores and rarely to the design section. Some day if I'm in a really good museum bookstore maybe I'll find it. Or maybe you'll bring a copy to TypeCon.


theorosendorf's picture

Thanks Will. We're almost setup to sell the books at TypeCon's book store.

Bowerbird, one of my favorite bands: Bowerbirds (Sorry for the off topic). I haven't seen gradients running vertically on tabs, but it's an interesting concept. Might look a little diluted though.

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