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Paper and the Environment: Part 2

Reducing Consumption

Given the ubiquity of computers, consider producing an electronic-only publication. Of course, in many cases this will not be acceptable. Sales literature, for instance, has a far greater appeal when you can hold it in your hands and turn the pages. Most books would also be inappropriate for this medium until we can comfortably take a computer to the beach. However, a publication such as an automotive catalog would be an ideal candidate for electronic publishing. The search capabilities of PDF files could greatly simplify the process of culling through vast amounts of dry material for specific information. In addition, postage—as well as trees—can be saved by not mailing these catalogs to all your customers. Another publication well suited for electronic-only format would be a manual. For instance, many software manufacturers publish their computer manuals only on CD. The reader can print out those pages relevant to the task at hand after searching for the precise information needed using the “search”or “find” function.

One thing to keep in mind is that offset printing and electronic publishing need not compete. Your sales literature can point a prospective buyer toward your website or to an electronic version of a publication. The website can offer to mail customers a hard-copy volume if they prefer; such a book could be digitally printed upon request in loose-leaf or bound form. Or, a customer could simply download the book onto his or her own computer and then print out sections as needed. Tracking the number of books downloaded or requested in digital form can help a publisher decide whether to continue to produce copies digitally one at a time or to pay for a long press run of offset-printed texts.

Producing a publication a copy at a time as it is purchased is called printing on demand. This approach saves warehousing space, since there is no inventory. (After all, each unit is produced only after it has been requested.) In addition, printing on demand allows the publisher to update the book at regular intervals prior to printing customer copies. Old copies never need to be destroyed before printing an updated version. In fact, a publisher can even tailor publications to fit each group of customers, varying the content to match the interests of the group. Such an approach combines the concepts of targeting, one-to-one marketing, and versioning, and is a major benefit of digital printing. Offset printing produces duplicates of one master copy; digital printing, on the other hand, allows the publisher to alter or update one or more copies within a press run.

Tabs, Wafer Seals Vs. Fugitive Glue

To allow folded brochures to pass through U.S. Post Office processing machinery (which will save on postage), tab- or wafer-seals have been required for years. These sealing devices are available in clear and opaque versions, in paper and plastic, with and without perforations. However, they all run the risk of tearing the brochure when removed.

An alternative you might consider for sealing your folded brochures prior to mailing is “fugitive glue.” Resembling rubber cement, this tacky substance can be machine applied or affixed by hand as positionable dots of glue. When recipients open the brochure, they can easily rub the glue off, leaving an unmarred surface.

Envelope Specs

Design your insert after you choose an appropriate envelope size. To do the reverse, and request an off-size envelope to fit an insert, can be costly. Standard sizes are always cheaper and more readily available from your printer.

When determining measurements, designers tend to “crowd” the insert. Leave 1/4" on either side of your insert (i.e., make sure the envelope is 1/2" longer than the long dimension of your insert). Leaving 1/4" between the top of the insert and the opening of the envelope should provide adequate space along this dimension. However, if your insert is thick, leave more space than usual. If it is very thin, you can usually get away with 1/8” leeway on all sides. It’s always best to make an accurate mock-up and try it out before you proceed.

All envelopes must be rectangular. Non-standard shapes are usually not mailable (there are some exceptions to this rule, although irregular shapes cannot be machine processed). Check with your postal representative to determine the proper aspect ratio (ratio of length to height) for envelopes.

Deciding whether to use “open end” (flap on the short dimension) or “open side” (flap on the long dimension) envelopes can be tricky. If your mailing materials will be inserted into the envelopes by machine, choose open side. If your materials will be hand inserted, you can choose either option.


[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He 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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