April 25th, 2017
Posted in Book Printing, Prepress | Comments »
A print brokering client of mine is getting closer to handing off files to the book printer. She has been producing a 550-page cookbook in InDesign, including many hundreds of photos prepared in Photoshop. What makes this a challenge is that she is relatively new to Photoshop.
At the same time, the book printer I’m most comfortable handing her work off to (who is also the low bid) would prefer PDF files rather than native InDesign files. To complicate matters, PDF creation still requires premium quality native InDesign files as a base from which to produce press-ready PDFs, and there are many, many options for creating PDFs. Moreover, these options differ from printer to printer depending on many things, such as their prepress workflow software.
The gist of what I just said above is that it’s easy to hand off a problem file if you don’t do things right.
What Is a PDF File?
PDF stands for portable document format. This format allows you to distill an InDesign file (and all the fonts and images you have used to create the file) into a format easily printable on any computer. If you’re producing low-resolution output on a desktop printer, it’s relatively seamless. But if you’re printing high-resolution images in cyan/magenta/yellow/black on an offset press, you need a more comprehensive approach.
That said, if you can create a successfully preflighted InDesign file that correctly addresses issues of color space, resolution, image usage, font usage, and such, and then distill this into a successfully preflighted PDF, your book printer’s likelihood of producing both a proof and a final print job that meet your expectations is very high. Or, at the very least, you will see the problems early when you review the proof. And you can be confident that a successfully output proof will ensure a successfully printed job.
In addition, since you can embed the fonts in a PDF, you do not need to hand off your fonts to your printer. Also, your printer is less likely to encounter font substitution problems that would adjust (or totally move around) the text on your pages.
However, to be safe, it’s always good to send your printer a hard-copy proof to which he can “reconcile” the PDF and final job (i.e., something physical to match).
Keep in mind that a PDF will not improve anything in your initial InDesign file. If the photos are not of sufficient resolution, the PDF will not sharpen them. It won’t brighten photos or fix anything else. It will only allow for a smoother transition of your art files from your computer to your book printer’s computer.
Now the bad news is also the good news. You can only do limited editing to a PDF file. This means that when you hand off PDF files to your printer, if you find problems on the proof, you will have to correct the files in InDesign, distill them again into revised PDFs, and then hand these off to your printer for revised proofs. The good news is that there is very little that can change in the files you hand off to your printer (compared to native files), so you have almost complete assurance that your proofs will look exactly like your submitted files. (This is not the case when you hand off native files.)
Back to My Client
To get back to my client, all of this is relatively new to her. And there are a lot of options (multiple screens’ worth in InDesign) that need to be addressed in preparing PDFs correctly.
In addition, “correctly” means different things to different printers, since printers often have different prepress workflow software packages (such as Rampage or Prinergy).
In my client’s case, the printer has agreed to accept both PDFs and native files. If there are problems in the PDFs my client supplies, the printer will potentially be able to address them using her native InDesign files (i.e., the original, and editable, art files).
Fortunately, my client can distill PDFs directly from InDesign. Or she could use Acrobat Professional to distill the InDesign files into PDFs (but not the less-complete, but free, Acrobat Reader).
To make things easier, I plan to create for my client (with the book printer’s help) a cheat sheet showing which options to check or uncheck on the screens InDesign presents when you create PDFs. She can then put together a short test document (four or five pages addressing text issues, color issues, and image resolution issues). If the files pass preflight, she can then go ahead and distill the 550-page print book.
Variables/Issues to Consider
Here’s a short list of issues my client will need to consider (and that you may need to address when distilling files from your own InDesign projects). The best way to ensure success is to request the printer’s “guidelines” document for creating PDFs for offset print output. This document will make your life much easier (it will tell you what options to select for your printer’s specific workflow software), and it will make your printer’s life much easier (because your files will work smoothly).
- Document size.
- Bleeds (usually .125” or more).
- Margins. (It’s usually best not to put anything—type or images—closer than .25” from the trim.)
- Color space. (Make sure the job is CMYK or black only, not RGB. Convert spot colors to process colors, or ask your printer how to specify spot colors.)
- Crop marks.
- Transparency (with or without flattening). If this doesn’t make sense, ask your printer.
- Fonts. Embed them in the PDF. If they can’t be embedded (due to font licensing issues), ask your printer for a work-around.
- Image resolution. Use photos that are at least 300 dpi at the final size.
- Number of pages. Send either the whole book as one PDF or as several PDFs with a range of pages for each. Label accordingly. (Discuss with your printer.)
- Unused colors. If you have defined colors and then decided not to use them, delete them from your color palette. Never use “Registration” or “Auto” as a color. These will not output correctly (in some cases all type and imagery may show up on all printing plates).
- Preflight both the native file (before distilling the PDF) and the newly created PDF to catch all errors before submitting the PDF to the book printer.
- Only use “rich blacks” (a combination of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) for solids and area screens, but never for type. (It would be too difficult to closely register four printing plates for small type while holding detail in the type serifs.)
Discuss these issues with your printer. This is only one set of specs I found online. Other printers will have different needs.
Extra Screens to Address
In InDesign, for instance, there are five computer screens of information to address when creating PDF files. In most cases these will involve only a few checkmarks (on-screen) based on your printer’s needs. They are called: “General,” “Compression,” “Marks & Bleeds,” “Output,” and “Advanced.” It is also wise to check “The Appearance of Black” in the Preferences window.
You can do this successfully (and so can my print brokering client). All is takes is study, practice, and communication with your book printer (or commercial printer, for that matter). After you do it once, you’ll know exactly what questions to ask your printer, so you can set up your files in the best way for his particular computer prepress system.
Posted in Book Printing, Prepress | Comments »
April 22nd, 2017
Posted in Book Printing, Photos, Prepress | Comments »
In spite of the promotional literature implying the ease with which one can seamlessly use Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator, there really is a lot to learn. And when you’re using these programs together to prepare large book printing jobs for either offset printing or digital printing, the learning curve is even steeper.
That said, I have three book printing jobs I’m brokering at the moment. They are all close to 8.5” x 11” in format, and their press runs range from 500 copies to 11,000 copies (perfect bound and case bound).
In this particular case, the physical properties of the print books are less important than the preparation of the art files, or, more specifically, the preparation of the images to be placed in the InDesign files.
My “DIY” (Do-It-Yourself) Client
One of my clients has written and designed her book and then has prepared all pages in InDesign. She may also have taken the photographs. But she is somewhat new to Photoshop. To her the images are more important than the words. This is a cookbook, and she wants the images to take the lead.
From a commercial printing standpoint, because of this orientation toward the images, I have suggested that my client select a gloss coated printing stock. But for the custom printing paper to showcase the nuances of the images, the photographs must be correctly prepared prior to being placed in the InDesign file.
One of the things I learned, purely by accident during a discussion with my client, was that she had kept the photos in RGB JPEG format as they had been initially shot. Since she knew she wanted the text of the book (both words and images) to be printed in black ink only, she had merely desaturated the photos in Photoshop (i.e., removed their color but kept them in RGB format).
This had made perfect sense to her (and was a logical approach), but it was not what the offset printer would need in order to produce her book. So I gave my client the following suggestions. I think these would benefit a number of new designers (and designers who had come of age with traditional paste-up and are only now making the shift to computerized design and prepress):
My Suggestions to My Client
- I told my client she needed to convert all photos from RGB JPEGs to Grayscale TIFFs. Some printers can work with JPEGs, but it’s safest to use TIFFs because all printers will accept these.
- If my client had continued to use RGB, the printer would have needed to convert the files himself to CMYK (from Red/Green/Blue, which is used for video monitors, to Cyan/Magenta/Yellow/Black, which is used for ink or toner applied to paper). These color spaces are not the same. A color image mode change from one color space to another can cause color shifts.
- In my client’s case, if she had kept her files in the CMYK mode, the offset printer would have prepared printing plates for all four colors. In essence, even if the computer monitor had given the impression that her images were black and white, they would have been created with all four process colors. Printing the interior text pages of the book in full color would have cost multiple thousands of dollars more than printing a black-only text block. Since this would not have been acceptable, all of her work would have needed to be redone after the first proof, and then a second proof would have been required, further adding to the cost. So understanding how to use Photoshop to change the color mode from RGB to Grayscale was important for my client (as was doing this in a way that optimized the tonal range of the photos: i.e., the detail in highlights, midtones, and shadows).
- I suggested that my client look online for a tutorial on preparing black and white images for commercial printing. I have seen many such tutorials. They are succinct and extremely useful. They discuss everything from image resolution to changing color modes, to optimizing highlights and shadows for offset printing.
- I encouraged my client to make decisions regarding highlights and shadows based on “numbers” in the Photoshop dialog boxes (the “Info” palette, for instance), rather than by looking at the computer monitor. I noted that backlit images on a computer screen will look brighter than the same image files printed with ink or toner on paper. Learning to interpret the “numbers” (the numerical values for the colors and tonal range) would minimize error.
- I suggested that my client prepare a few pages of text and photos and then have the printer run a digital proof of just those pages as an initial test. If they looked too dark or too light, that feedback would help her in preparing the remainder of the book. I suggested that she approach the proofing process as an investment, not an expense.
- I spoke with the printer about providing his prepress department’s checklist for producing optimal, press-ready PDFs, so that once my client had received the initial few test pages and applied what she had learned to the remainder of the book, she would know how to convert her InDesign file into the best possible PDF file. He agreed. (Many printers already have such a PDF creation checklist. The reason this is useful is that different printers have different preferences for the numerous options available in creating a print-ready PDF file.)
- I encouraged my client to request the following proofs: the 3- to 5-page initial test file (plus any revisions needed); a high-resolution digital proof of all photos ganged up onto approximately 100 pages; the overall digital proof of the book (a “contract” quality, digital cover proof such as a Spectrum or Epson, plus laser proofs of all text pages); and folded and gathered book signatures handed off following printing but before binding the book. Overall, this would let my client see every stage of the process. Since this print book is her pride and joy, her “baby,” these multiple proofing stages will help ensure success.
What You Can Learn From This Case Study
You can apply most of the suggestions I gave my client to your own work.
- Find out how your printer needs you to prepare images. Check online for short tutorials that teach you how to prepare Photoshop images for offset printing. They will give you a limited number of steps to follow to ensure your success with offset printed images.
- Consider requesting any or all of the proofs I have suggested. It may cost a little more, but it will help you identify problems before the book has been printed. At minimum, consider a high-res proof of the cover and “for position” proofs of the text. If you have images or tint screens, consider requesting high-res proofs of these pages. The jargon to use is “contract proofs.” These serve as a contract between you and the printer: once you have approved the way they look, he has to match these proofs exactly.
- Ask for your printer’s PDF-creation guidance sheet. Don’t assume one printer’s PDF-creation guide is the same as another’s.
Posted in Book Printing, Photos, Prepress | Comments »
April 14th, 2017
Posted in Book Binding | Comments »
For our rest and relaxation, my fiancee and I spend long hours in thrift stores. She likes the clothes; I like the books. One benefit for my work as a commercial printing broker is that I see how print books age. I see the yellowed paper in the books from the ‘70s and ‘80s and the pristine paper and binding work in books close to 100 years old (i.e., due to their superior materials).
I also see how various bindings hold up: which books are still in good condition twenty years after their publishing date and which books are losing pages.
Three Current Print Brokering Jobs
Three of my current print brokering clients are producing books at the moment. One is entirely case bound (all copies). One is a short-run job: 500 copies of a 488-page paperback book. The final product is a split binding of a 550-page book (2,000 to 10,000 copies paper bound and 1,000 copies case bound). For the most part, all are close to 8.5” x 11” in format. What they all have in common is that their page counts are high. They are all long books.
How does this affect the binding?
Two ways to approach the binding of either a perfect-bound (paperback) or case-bound (hard-cover) book are notch binding (or a similar option that is called burst perfect binding) and Smyth Sewing. With notch and burst binding, you first gather and stack the press signatures (lets say thirty-two 16-page press signatures for a 512-page print book, or sixteen 32-page signatures for the same page count).
Then, if you’re perfect-binding the book you grind off the bind edge, add hot-melt glue to the ground-off spine, and wrap a paper cover around the text block. For a burst-bound job you puncture the signature folds, and for a notch-bound job, you cut notches in the bind edge, apply the glue, and add the paper cover.
In these cases (which are best used for paper-bound books but can also be used for hard-bound books), grinding, piercing, or notching the bind edge before applying the glue just gives the glue more surface area of the paper to grab onto. More surface area allows for better glue adhesion and less likelihood that the pages will fall out.
Unfortunately, all of these print books are very long, as noted before, so the text blocks are heavy, and neither burst binding nor notch binding is as durable as one of the more traditional methods for case binding books: that is, Smyth Sewing.
Enter Smyth Sewing
If you open a case-bound children’s book, you will see a little thread running down the gutter of the book, in and out. You will also see the thread running down the center of a large-format art book at a museum, or a library book, or any other book that costs a lot and is intended to last for decades. Smyth Sewing is a durable way to make sure the pages don’t fall out.
The way Smyth Sewing works is that the stitches run the length of the fold (the folded side of the press signature), and then additional stitches sew together the separate signatures that comprise the entire book. Then the text block bind edge is covered with glue, attached to a liner (called a “crash”) and either set into the case side (i.e., suspended from binder’s boards wrapped with binding cloth and paper) for case binding or wrapped with a paper cover (for perfect binding).
What makes this stronger than notch binding or burst binding is that in addition to the glue seeping into the ground-off or notched bind edge of the gathered press signatures, you have the added holding power of the binding thread.
When the books have been opened and closed hundreds or multiple hundreds of times and they wind up in the thrift stores my fiancee and I frequent, the print books may be banged up a bit, but the pages are still attached firmly into the binding.
Things to Remember
Here are some things to keep in mind when you consider whether to pay extra for Smyth Sewing:
- Two of the three books I’m brokering have close to 500 pages of text. That’s a big, heavy text block. I’m encouraging my clients to choose Smyth Sewing because these books are prime candidates for lost pages. When designing your print books, consider how many pages they will be, how long they must last, and whether they will receive a lot of heavy use. For instance, art books, cookbooks, children’s books, and yearbooks would be prime candidates for Smyth Sewing.
- Remember that Smyth Sewing can be done with both paperbound and hard-cover books. This is especially useful for split bindings. You can save money by preparing all text blocks the same (for the most part) and then adding paper covers or hard covers as needed.
- Not all commercial printing suppliers, or even all book printers, have Smyth Sewing capabilities. In fact, many printers need to subcontract out all perfect binding and case binding. If you find a dedicated book printer, he will often have in-house perfect binding. If he has in-house case binding that’s even better. If he has in-house Smyth Sewing, that’s best of all. If you think you might need these services, ask if your vendor has the equipment in-house. (One vendor I’m seriously considering for the three jobs mentioned above has all of these capabilities. Therefore, Smyth Sewing the entire job will only cost about $300 extra. I can’t imagine the additional cost–and extra time–for Smyth Sewing if I chose a printer who had to subcontract the work.)
- Remember to ask your book printer for samples of printed, bound books (including Smyth Sewn books). You can see how well your printer does this kind of work, and you can show him exactly what you need.
Posted in Book Binding | Comments »
April 7th, 2017
Posted in Book Printing | Comments Off
As with anything else in life, a discount often comes with a cost. Maybe not in cash, but in time, effort, and diligent study.
I’m brokering three jobs for three clients at the moment. All three jobs are books (two case-bound; one perfect-bound). In light of their due dates, I am entertaining the possibility of printing one or more of the jobs abroad, in the Far East. This would be my first time. One of my clients has been printing in China for a number of years, successfully. She gets unbeatable prices.
However, she has voiced a number of considerations, which I want to share with you. While I am not averse to printing any of these three jobs overseas, I think it is prudent to take a long look at these issues and learn as much as I can before venturing into new waters.
In no particular order, here are the areas to consider, as presented by my client. I’m sure there are many other considerations to address. This is just a starting point:
To put this in perspective, one of the US printers I’m considering can ship the job (a case-bound book) 15 to 20 days after proof approval. The books will then take about two days to deliver by truck.
In contrast, my client’s current Chinese vendor can produce the print book within two weeks (10 days) including the case binding work; however, the completed books will then need to travel from Asia to the East Coast of the US.
Another vendor who bid on my client’s print book is in Korea. In his emails to me, this book printer estimates a 25-day ship time from Korea to New York. In addition, this printer says it will take 5 to 7 days for US Customs clearance and ground delivery to my client. All of this is in addition to the print book production schedule in Korea.
So while the Chinese, Korean, and US production end of the schedule is an important aspect of case-bound book manufacturing, delivery of the finished books from the Far East to the US East Coast makes the overall turn-around time (manufacturing plus delivery) much longer than for most US vendors.
My client prints a case-bound book early each year. The Chinese New Year holiday schedule therefore has an impact on when she must submit art files for her book in order to allow sufficient time for both production and delivery. A Korean printer might not have the same Chinese New Year schedule, but he may have other scheduling issues that will affect a job’s submission and delivery date.
In my client’s case, her case-bound book includes a lot of four-color ads. Therefore, presumably the earlier she must upload art files to her current Chinese book printer, the less chance she will have to accommodate those advertisers who might only be able to meet a later ad deadline. In some cases this could be the difference between having, or losing, an advertising client.
Issues Relating to the Importation of Goods
Most or all of these issues involve time, knowledge/attentiveness, or money. My client mentioned Customs (on both ends, Korea or China plus the US), including sea clearance and bond expense/paperwork.
She also mentioned the “Vasis cost,” which she described as having the shipped cartons of books x-rayed in US Customs. This might involve additional fees depending on whether the books are just x-rayed or both x-rayed and physically inspected. With books, many boxes may need to be opened, so there may be additional fees for restacking and repalletizing them. This would be in addition to the basic Vasis fees. This doesn’t happen on each import, but it is a consideration, particularly if a book printing job delivers “LCL” (in less than one shipping container). More than anything, this means you need to be both knowledgeable and on top of the delivery process.
My client also said she has been advised to not have the foreign business in control of getting the product on the ship. She says you should use a US broker with an office in the departure port.
In addition, my client notes that there should be someone on this end to handle Customs clearance and any associated items that might arise, such as port fees, dock fees, and bonds. Also, there is always the possibility of a dock strike. My client notes that in a case like this you can sometimes divert the load to another port, but you really need to be watching the process closely (from your end, in this country) to ensure successful delivery.
A Response from My Client
Prior to completing this blog article, I contacted my client for her input. She noted that in spite of the challenges, she has successfully printed overseas for six years. In that time she has not had any problems dealing directly with the printer.
She had also mentioned challenges with color proofs with one book. She notes that in this case she received immediate and continuing help from her Chinese printer (and even from one of the owners of the printing plant) until all issues had been resolved and there was a plan in place to successfully proceed with printing the book. She was especially pleased with the smooth collaboration.
To quote from my client, Sandy Phillips, an Ocean City, MD, publisher, “While there are a number of moving pieces regarding printing overseas and the potential for things to go wrong, with the number of hands your job passes through, a carefully executed plan can yield excellent results.”
By no means would I encourage you to not print your book in Asia. My personal experience of producing catalogs in Canada was much simpler. At the time the exchange rate was good, and the Canadian printer made the whole process easy. I would be comfortable printing in Canada again.
But Asia is farther away, and there are more areas in which you must become fluent. You need to understand the intricacies of importation (all elements of the process plus the costs) or have a trusted agent to handle these for you.
You need to understand the overall price and the overall schedule, not just the manufacturing price the printer quotes and the production schedule prior to the ship date.
And you need to closely monitor the entire process.
All of this is a completely separate arena of commercial printing that goes far beyond presses and inksets. But it doesn’t really matter how great the custom printing job is if you can’t get the print books to your client in good condition.
In this particular case, the more you know about international trade and the import/export business, the better able you will be to ensure your success.
Posted in Book Printing | Comments Off
April 2nd, 2017
Posted in Label Printing | Comments Off
I just read an article on PackagingDigest.com about textured inks used for package printing. I thought about the times I had picked up books at thrift stores and had been initially attracted not to their content but to the feel of the cover (or more specifically the texture of the coating). I’m especially fond of artfully printed and bound, dull film laminated books. I like the matte feel.
So when I read the article on PackagingDigest.com entitled “Tactile Labels Use Textured Inks to Put Consumers in Direct Touch with Packaging” (by Rick Lingle in Labels, 10/03/16), I was pleased to see that other people also considered the texture of packaging to be a powerful selling point.
Adding Texture Digitally
According to Lingle’s article, “Consumers don’t just use their eyes when making purchasing decisions—they use the sense of touch as well. Research has shown that a brand’s impact increases by 30% when more than one sense is engaged in the packaging design.”
I found this both enlightening and also exciting, since I know that custom labels/packaging is one of the fastest growing sectors of the commercial printing industry.
“Tactile Labels Use Textured Inks to Put Consumers in Direct Touch with Packaging” then goes on to describe a roll-to-roll digital label press manufactured by Domino called the N610i digital UV inkjet label press. Lingle notes that “Textures by Domino,” a unique inkjet capability of the Domino N610i digital UV inkjet label press, allows label printers to produce visually striking, digitally textured labels that enhance shelf presence and make brand owners’ products stand out from the crowd.”
Lingle then goes on to suggest that such a press is particularly well suited to labels for wine and beer, as well as cosmetics and other beauty items because textured labels provide “high visual and ‘feel appeal’ that also help to maximize customer engagement.”
This is powerful stuff. The most relevant part is the assertion (and supporting research) that targeting multiple senses with marketing materials (including custom labels and other packaging) will increase sales.
Lingle’s article notes that “The textured-printed labels not only capture consumer attention, but more importantly encourage them to take the product off the shelf.” Why? Because it feels good in the buyer’s hands.
Moreover, this process is economical. Because the Domino press is printing textured inks onto labels, printers don’t need to stock expensive, textured press sheets.
For instance, as Lingle says, you could create a grainy-feeling label for a beer bottle that suggests the earthy qualities of the product, or you could simulate expensive textured papers digitally when producing high-end wine labels, thus appealing to a premium market.
Some Benefits of the Process
Here are my thoughts on some of the benefits provided by the “Textures by Domino” process on the Domino N610i digital UV inkjet label press:
- First of all, labels and packaging are serious growth engines for the commercial printing industry at the present moment. So the manufacturer’s commitment to textural enhancements that drive sales is noteworthy. It underlines the fact that custom labels are effective sales tools and are therefore highly in demand.
- Anything that can be simulated digitally (like the digital foiling of Scodix or digital die cutting) can avoid costly and time consuming metal die making. In addition, marketers are finding short, targeted print runs to be quite effective, particularly if they allow for personalization. For short to medium runs, this approach can be very cost effective. It can also get a product to market more quickly, because you don’t have to wait for the dies to be made. In the realm of custom labels, if texture sells and if texture can be digitally simulated, the equipment that can do this task will be in great demand.
- The Domino N610i digital UV inkjet label press uses UV inks, by its very design. Although the article does not tout this benefit (except to say that you can print on synthetics), UV curing can allow for inkjet printing on a variety of non-porous substrates (like clear plastic labels, for instance). Furthermore, since the process uses UV light to cure the inks, no drying time is needed. UV ink drying (or curing) is instantaneous, so all subsequent finishing steps can occur without delay.
- For beauty product packaging this can be particularly useful and economical. Instead of using foil stamping to add various textures to the base substrate (playing one texture off another), the Domino N610i digital UV inkjet label press can simulate the textures right on the labels (and, as noted above, without the time or expense of die making).
- Since the process is digital, the Domino N610i digital UV inkjet label press can immediately change from creating one textured surface for a set of labels to creating an entirely different textured effect for another set of labels—presumably ad infinitum.
Posted in Label Printing | Comments Off
March 27th, 2017
Posted in Book Printing | Comments Off
I was very pleased to come upon this article recently: “Kids actually like reading paper books more than screens.” It is from The News and Observer, 3/10/17, and it was written by Teresa Welsh.
Granted, I’m a commercial printing broker, so I have a vested financial interest in liking this sort of thing, but what made it stand out for me was that it challenged my beliefs. In my more cynical moments, I had always thought print would die out once today’s kids grew up. I figured they preferred digital books to print books. Maybe that’s not so true.
Here’s the gist of the article. (It is very short, but it includes a number of links to equally compelling information.)
- Kids who have multiple electronic devices tend to read less.
- Kids who do read a lot tend to not read on electronic devices.
- Electronic devices might be less appealing because of the easy access to games or a website. That is, these easily accessible distractions might provide instant gratification but derail the long-term gratification of reading a book.
- In spite of the proliferation of tablets and e-readers, the sales of print books has been going up, not down.
- Print books actually help young readers focus on the books they are reading.
Background Articles Referenced in The News and Observer Piece
Teresa Welsh’s article in The News and Observer links to some interesting information. First of all, she bases the article on a study done in Australia, and a link in Welsh’s article takes you to an abstract of this research. (Computers & Education, Volume 109, June 2017, Pages 187–196, “The influence of access to eReaders, computers and mobile phones on children’s book reading frequency.”)
This is the study Welsh’s article references: “2016 Western Australian Study in Children’s Book Reading.” The abstract noted above describes the behavior of kids with access to digital reading devices and their choice of print books for their recreational reading (i.e., when it was their choice rather than their teacher’s or parents’ choice as to what they read and how). This study correlates with the findings in Welsh’s article, but it also notes the external pressure on children to use digital reading devices (i.e., the high utilization of electronic reading devices and similar technology in schools, plus parents’ desire to ensure their kids’ digital literacy).
The study also found that increased access to mobile phones (another reading device) correlated with less reading by the children.
A second link in Welsh’s article takes you to “Children prefer to read books on paper rather than screens,” from https://theconversation.com, 3/9/17, by Margaret Kristin Merga and Saiyidi Mat Roni.
This article notes: “… that while some students enjoyed reading books on devices, the majority of students with access to these technologies did not use them regularly for this purpose. Importantly, the most avid book readers did not frequently read books on screens.”
Ironically, the assumption I had made about young people being highly digitally literate and preferring this medium can be traced back to a 2001 article by Marc Prensky in which he used the term “digital natives,” suggesting that young people are not only fluent in digital technology but that they also prefer it for reading. According to Merga and Roni’s article (“Children prefer to read books on paper rather than screens”), this is not necessarily backed up by research. However, it has exerted influence on schools, which in many cases have leaned toward digital reading devices and away from print books in their buying decisions.
According to Merga and Roni’s article, “…by doing this, libraries are actually limiting young people’s access to their preferred reading mode, which in turn could have a detrimental impact on how often they choose to read.”
Merga and Roni’s article then goes on to note that children like print books because they are easier to focus on without the distractions digital reading devices offer. The article then encourages parents and teachers to foster a love of reading in children by doing the following:
- Those who love to read can inspire children to do the same, so make sure the children see that you love reading.
- Provide reading opportunities (ample time and quiet spaces with good light).
- Provide print books.
- Discuss ideas in the books with the children.
- Find out what the children like to read and encourage them to read it.
What You Can Learn from These Articles
This is what I gleaned from all these articles:
- Print books are actually proliferating, not going away. In a world with more and more electronic devices, “paper book sales are increasing. In the first half of 2016, paperback book sales grew 8.8 percent over the first half of 2015, to $1.01 billion. Electronic books were down 20 percent to $579.5 million” (from “Kids actually like reading paper books more than screens,” The News and Observer, 3/10/17).
- We shouldn’t assume that all marketing data reflect actual preferences (even if kids are in fact “digital natives,” they apparently still do prefer print books over e-books).
- Kids model behavior of those they respect. If you are seen to be a reader of print books, and a lover of the tactile nature of print books, your kids will be inspired to do the same.
- As a culture, our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. The immediate gratification of unlimited digital options (access to a game or website when you’re reading a book) detracts from reading. Reading takes commitment (time and attentiveness), but it provides a deep gratification. Multitasking has been proven to be a myth. It just allows you to do a number of things at the same time badly.
- If you are a book designer or printer, don’t lose heart. There’s still room for your skills and knowledge.
- Print books provide a tactile experience. Digital books only provide a virtual experience.
- On the plus side, digital products are interactive in certain ways that print books are not. Some young readers benefit from this difference (an e-reader’s highlighting a part of a word, for instance, may help a particular child learn to read more quickly). Therefore, the ideal approach is to determine whether a print book or a digital book is more appropriate for a specific child and a specific learning task. Both have their place.
Posted in Book Printing | Comments Off
March 22nd, 2017
Posted in Box Printing | Comments Off
My fiancee and I stopped at a local upscale outlet store this week, a number of times, to collect designer shoe boxes for our autistic students. In art therapy we have been creating small shadow boxes (also known as dioramas), or miniature rooms decorated for Halloween. We’ve had our autistic members combine miniature skeletons (some wrapped as mummies), gauze, paint, Halloween stickers, and any other sculptural elements we could find.
All of that aside, my fiancee kept about four of the shoe boxes for herself—just because she liked them. And as a commercial printing broker and student of custom printing, I found her behavior intriguing. I surmised that:
- Product packaging sells product (and is a powerful and persuasive sales force).
- Product packaging sells itself. I think people buy in part because they like the feel of the packaging as well as its look, and as well as the look and feel of the product in the box (in this case, shoes).
- Based on comments my fiancee made, this is especially true for shoe boxes, since a lot of people store their shoes in the boxes after buying them and bringing them home. So unlike a blister pack that you cut or tear away from a product and then discard, shoe boxes can be an ongoing extension of the “brand.”
Sample Box #1
I just went into the art studio in our home and chose four sample boxes that had not yet been used by our students (the art project was so well received that we’ve offered it in four of our classes over the last few weeks).
Under a good light and with access to a printer’s loupe, I see that the first box has been printed on a thick, glossy cover stock prior to being folded and glued into a three-dimensional shoe box. The exterior walls of the box are covered with purple, red, and dark blue squares and other geometric forms. In contrast, the inside has been printed solid orange. It provides simplicity and stark contrast to the exterior.
If you look closely, you can see that the sides of the box are composed of double walls made from the flat, cover-stock press sheet. The box converter assembled the folded press sheets and hot melt glued sections to produce four vertical sides and a bottom. In the same way, the converter created a smaller box cover.
What We Can Learn from This Sample
I’ve said it in earlier blogs, but closely observing how product packaging goes together, how it is “converted” from a flat press sheet into a three-dimensional product (with its own value) is fascinating, and it casts light on a skilled and often overlooked aspect of “finishing,” the activities that occur after the ink has been laid down on the flat press sheet.
In terms of design, this product packaging shows that bright colors and active geometric imagery will appeal to a certain clientele when selling a certain product. The packaging is not sedate. Then again, it shouldn’t be sedate if the shoes in the box are flashy and upscale.
Sample Box #2
The first thing I notice about the second shoe box is that it is composed of thick gloss text paper laminated to fluted cardboard.
In contrast, the first box is composed of just two layers of thick cover stock with a dull coating (perhaps a dull UV coating). The walls of the second box are much thicker than those of the first box, but the two boxes weigh just about the same. This shows one benefit of corrugated board for product packaging: It is light but durable.
However, there is a marked vertical pattern of the fluted ribs visible on all sides of the box (even through the litho printing paper that has been laminated to the fluting). The ribbing is visible through the solid yellow exterior of the box and the yellow, green, and black interior ink.
Like the first box, you can see that the second box started as a flat sheet, was die cut, and then was folded up into a three-dimensional physical product, held together with glue or with folded tabs inserted into slots.
What We Can Learn from This Sample
Like the first box, the second has a simple design. All images are line art, but they didn’t have to be. Since the press sheets that had been converted into both boxes were either laminated to fluted board (in the case of the second box) or converted into a box without fluted board (as in the first box), offset lithography could have been used for either box.
Why? Because no fluted board would have been in direct contact with the heavy pressure of the offset press rollers.
In contrast, printing directly on fluted board must be done with flexography. This process avoids the heavy pressure of the offset press rollers. However, it also requires simpler custom printing designs.
In terms of design, this particular box shows that kinetic artwork combined with intense primary colors (the yellow of the box exterior) will capture the interest of presumably young, fashion-conscious clientele.
Sample Boxes #3 and #4
These are really two variants on the same theme: minimalist boxes produced on brown fluted board. They are simple, but they are actually quite elegant, and they present less of an “in-your-face” style and more of an “earth-friendly” vibe.
Both boxes (in slightly different ways) have been die cut from single printed sheets of fluted cardboard. Then, using folds, tabs, slots, and hot-melt glue, both have been converted into product packaging.
The first has been printed with both white ink and black ink. You can see with a loupe that the ink film is thin (i.e., not custom screen printing but flexography, the other option for adorning fluted cardboard without squashing the ribs of paper). But this doesn’t make the box look any less attractive, just more functional (i.e., “functional chic”). The short side panel of the box is actually a halftone (lightly inked) of a mountain climber (or camper) holding up a sign with the brand name in large letters. For climbing shoes, this is a much more appropriate approach than the heavy ink coverage and glossy look of the first box, produced on cover weight press stock. Overall, the box design underscores the functional nature of the shoes it contains.
Sample #4, the second box produced on unbleached corrugated board, works in exactly the same way. It has even less adornment than Sample #3: just the logo printed on the four vertical exterior walls of the box (in black and a light, transparent yellow over the uncoated, fluted cardboard), plus the impression in black ink—inside the box—of two shoe soles. It looks like the designer had dipped the shoes in black ink and then pressed them against the interior floor of the box.
What We Can Learn from These Two Samples
Humor sells. The interior of the box, which is most of the custom printing, looks like ink has been tracked in on the wearer’s shoes—or mud has been tracked into the house, if you will.
Simplicity also sells in this age of environmentally friendly, sustainable packaging. For practical shoes, this approach works.
Appropriate treatment (in terms of design, as well as the physical substrate used to build the box) makes the biggest difference. Selling shoes for an evening dance in unbleached corrugated board would miss the opportunity for the box to reflect the tone of its contents. Conversely, putting athletic shoes in a frilly box would dilute the brand, confuse the buyer, and miss the opportunity to align the product packaging with the product it contains.
Posted in Box Printing | Comments Off
March 16th, 2017
Posted in Book Printing | Comments Off
I believe in synchronicity, or “meaningful coincidences,” as described by psychologist Carl Jung. Sometimes important things just seem to happen simultaneously, and if I’m aware at the time, I can learn from them.
Within this past few weeks I have had three experiences that have pointed me in the direction of actually producing a client’s print book in the Far East, which for me would be a first. (I’ve always felt more secure contracting work to local commercial printing vendors.)
- The first event was meeting a prospective client who was in the process of producing an important coffee-table print book at a Chinese printer. She seemed very knowledgeable about book printing, and she had produced a number of books in Asia.
- The second was having a Midwest US printer ask me if I and my client wanted them to produce the book in-house or broker it to a Chinese print vendor. On the one hand I was surprised. (I didn’t see a reason, as a broker, to go to another broker.) On the other hand, I was intrigued. I was seeing a pattern.
- The third incident actually involved using the Printing Industry Exchange server. I listed a job on the PIE website, and a number of Asian vendors sent me bids—immediately. Faster than printers in the US. I was starting to open my mind. Granted, seeing prices that were dramatically lower than those of the US vendors made a difference.
The Next Steps
I actually received a number of bids from Asia: one from Korea, the rest from China. One of the things that opened my mind to doing business overseas was the immediate follow-up on a bid from the Korean printer.
I’m a night owl, so curiously enough I found myself emailing the printer and receiving immediate answers at 2:00 a.m. (After all, even though it was 2:00 a.m. here, in Korea it was obviously the middle of the business day.) I liked the printer’s (or in this case the printer’s sales rep’s) attentiveness to my needs and questions.
With an especially attractive bid for my client’s project, an associate’s good words about a Chinese printer she was currently working with, and the customer service of the Korean printer I was becoming acquainted with, I felt comfortable moving forward.
So I asked for printed samples, an equipment list, and references from the Korean printer (all standard practices, just the same as if I were becoming acquainted with a local print shop). I was surprised to receive the sample box two days later, along with real-time messaging of exactly when to expect the delivery.
Even without opening the box, I had learned two things:
- The Korean printer wanted my business enough to spend a significant amount of money to send about twenty pounds of print books to me in two days, all the way from Korea. Moreover, he wanted me to contact him once I had received the samples to give him feedback. In short, I felt he valued my potential business.
- I started to let go of the preconception that Korea was inaccessible, in spite of its being far away. The printer said I would receive all proofs of any live jobs via DHL with the same speed as the samples.
When I opened the box, I saw about ten of the nicest sample print books I had ever seen. The case-bound books were all flawlessly bound. The heavy ink coverage on the pages of the three graphic novels he had sent was beautiful. All of the perfect-bound books looked great (both the printing and binding work). I was very pleased. He even sent Korean copies of Allure and Vogue.
This is what I learned from the samples:
- Any printer that Vogue and Allure will allow to display their branding must be good. Why? First of all, color-critical work usually includes the following: food, beauty, and automotive imagery. Vogue and Allure fit right into the beauty/cosmetics genre. Moreover, magazines are repeat work. Presumably these were not the first and only issues this printer had produced for Vogue and Allure. Finally, the printer had included magazine issues with foil stamping on the cover (primarily type, and small type with serifs to boot).
- The three case-bound graphic novels could have been a mess, given the amount of ink on all pages (four color, full coverage). Instead, they were crisp, evenly inked, gorgeous. And so was the binding.
- The printer’s sales rep was clearly knowledgeable, or he would not have selected these specific printed samples to showcase these specific, and challenging, aspects of commercial printing and finishing. This went a long way with me, since I need to know I’m communicating with someone who understands custom printing—thoroughly and in depth.
Anyone can give a stellar reference, just as anyone can send someone else’s samples. Granted, most people have integrity, but we’re talking about my advising my clients to spend serious money for print book production.
Since I have known the CEO of the Printing Industry Exchange for 25 years, I asked him outright about this book printer. He told me the printer had been a PIE member since 2001 with no complaints. (I guess it’s like checking with the Better Business Bureau and finding an “A” rating.) I felt completely secure.
While I’m not always comfortable with change, I will admit that I have sent work to Canada—successfully. So I’m at least keeping an open mind here. These are the issues I will need to address before I encourage my client to buy her print book from a vendor in the Far East:
- The schedule will be important. Given the kind of product my client wants (a book that is not time sensitive), this may be an appropriate job for printing in Korea. Then again, I’m hearing from other sources that some Far East printers can even come close to the schedules US printers offer.
- Will shipping be prohibitive? Or will it be worth paying more for shipping since I’ll be paying less for printing?
- Will language be a barrier? I’m reading the emails closely to make sure I get the answers I need, and the technical specs my client needs.
- Will I get enough proofs to avoid any surprises? In my client’s case, for this particular print book, I will need to see high quality proofs of the photos as well as the digital book blues and contract-quality cover proof. I’ll also want to see F&Gs (folded and gathered—but not yet bound—book signatures).
What You Can Learn from This Case Study
Here are some thoughts:
- Go slowly. Ask questions. Get samples and references.
- Make sure someone you know well and trust gives you the references. Preferably someone who has been doing multiple jobs in the Far East. Find out what the printer does when problems arise.
- If you can, start with a small job—as you would with any US printer.
- Make sure your job is appropriate for long-distance printing. A print book with no fixed deadline may be ideal. More timely material may not.
As with anything else in life, at some point you have to take a leap of faith. I’m not quite ready yet—but I’m getting very close.
Posted in Book Printing | Comments Off
March 5th, 2017
Posted in 3D Printing | 2 Comments »
I hadn’t done much research into 3D custom printing recently, so I thought I’d check out the current state of the technology. I was pleased to find that it is very much alive and thriving. I found three articles I’d like to share with you.
First of All, What Is 3D Printing?
An inkjet printer’s printheads move from side to side as the paper feeds through the machine producing a two dimensional copy of whatever is in your computer file. In much the same way a 3D printer has printheads that move not only from side to side but also up and down. Such printers use plastic resins (instead of ink) to build up layer upon layer of material to create three-dimensional products.
This approach, also known as additive manufacturing, is a step beyond traditional manufacturing, which involves either grinding down some material into a usable item (or part of an item) or injection molding an item, which involves making a hollow form into which plastic, molten metal, or some other substance is injected. When the mold form is removed, you have your item (or component part of an item).
Injection molding requires making molds, which is slow and expensive. In contrast, if you have a 3D printer and a computer file, you can easily and cheaply make one item (or parts for an item that you would then assemble).
The Articles on 3D Printing
I would like to preface this by saying that many of the articles I had been reading during my prior study of 3D custom printing had involved using additive manufacturing to print hamburger-like meat (which I thought was interesting, albeit very expensive) and handguns (which concerned me). However, I had also been pleased to read about attempts to 3D print replacement body parts (out of biological matter).
Interestingly enough, over the past few years I have also noticed computer vendors such as Micro Center selling these 3D printers for a reasonable price.
A Prosthesis for a Tortoise
The first article I read was entitled “Injured Tortoise Gets a Second Chance at Life Through 3D Printing.” It was written by Luke Dormehl and uploaded to www.DigitalTrends.com on 8/22/16. The article references a veterinarian, Nicola Di Girolamo, who treated a tortoise that had lost a leg to a rodent attack (one leg had been so badly damaged by the rodent that it had required amputation).
The vet contracted with Roma Stampa, a 3D custom printing vendor, to produce a prosthesis for a tortoise. It was essentially a two-wheeled cart that could be attached to the tortoise’s shell using two neodymium magnets. What makes this different from other two-wheeled carts for animals is that it was produced precisely to the dimensions needed by the tortoise. In addition, because of the magnet attachments, the cart could be removed during the long annual hibernation period (up to six months) of the tortoise so it didn’t confine her.
So, you may ask, what makes this custom printing?
When you inkjet print a brochure, you are using a computer to digitally create a presentation of information and concepts. You are using printing ink and a horizontal and vertical matrix to create the reader’s internal “experience” and hopefully to empower the reader to think and act.
So when Roma Stampa produced the cart for the tortoise, it used an inkjettable material more substantial than commercial printing ink, a digital computer file, a 3D printer, and a three-axis matrix (length, width, and height) to create an object that empowered the tortoise to move and walk.
Creating 750 Human Hand Prostheses
The next article, “Volunteers Assemble 750 3D Printed Prosthetic Hands,” describes a 3D print run of all the component parts needed to assemble 750 human hands (22,000 pieces in all). The article was written by Beth Stackpole and published on www.rapidreadytech.com on 8/25/16.
According to Stackpole’s article, “Autodesk has teamed up with the Enable Community Foundation (ECF) and Voodoo Manufacturing to conduct what they say is the world’s first global hand drive for 3D printed hands.” The goal of the initiative was “to serve children and underserved populations around the globe.”
The reason this is noteworthy is the cost and the turn-around time. It usually costs tens of thousands of dollars and weeks or months to make traditional prosthetic hands. In contrast, each of the hands made in this initiative cost only $50.00. All parts were produced in a month’s time by Voodoo Manufacturing and then assembled by 10,000 Autodesk employees around the world.
By using a 3D printing process (approximately 160 small Makerbot Replicator2 3D printers), Autodesk, ECF, and Voodoo Manufacturing have empowered 750 people around the world by giving them functioning hands. And like a digital inkjet press, this 3D printer was cost-effective and faster than traditional, non-digital options.
The Fourth Dimension of 3D Printing
If 3D printing involves length, width, and height, then 4D custom printing includes time (i.e., movement or change). In the realm of the fine arts, sculptor Alexander Calder invented “mobiles,” which included the usual three dimensions but also moved (whether they hung from the ceiling or stood on the floor). This distinguished them from other sculptures.
The third article I read addressed the theme of movement within 3D printed products. It was entitled, “Forget 3D Printing – Here’s 4D Printing.” The article was written by Lucas Mearian and published on 8/24/16 on www.digitalartsonline.co.uk (DigitalArts from IDG).
To quote from the article, “Researchers have demonstrated the ability to 3D print objects that can then change shape, even folding and unfolding, when heated through an electrical current or with ambient air temperature.”
Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California printed 3D items using “smart ink” composed of soybean oil, polymers, and carbon nanofibres. According to the article, the scientists “programed” these “into a temporary shape at an engineered temperature that was determined by the chemical composition.”
If you find the article online, you can watch a video of two small boxes made from this material. When heated, one opens and one closes. (That is, the material has “memory.” These “shape memory polymers” (SMPs) change, or return to an original shape depending on the temperature.
The article, “Forget 3D Printing – Here’s 4D Printing,” quotes Jennifer Rodriguez, a post-doctoral researcher in LLNL’s Materials Engineering Division and the paper’s lead author, as saying “You take the part out of the oven before it’s done and set the permanent structure of the part by folding or twisting after an initial gelling of the polymer.”
The LLNL scientists foresee using this 3D printing technique in aerospace and medicine. For instance, a collapsed stent can be made to open up when heated, or a child’s splint can be made to change shape and lengthen as the child’s body grows.
It makes sense for us to open our minds to new technologies, whether they involve ink digitally printed on paper from a computer file or polymer digitally printed in three dimensions. Like ink on paper, three-dimensional items produced digitally can empower people and transform lives.
Posted in 3D Printing | 2 Comments »
February 27th, 2017
Posted in Digital Printing | 2 Comments »
I read an article today in Print+Promo magazine about direct to object custom printing, and then I followed up with further research online. The idea intrigues me: printing directly on an object, like a mug, or a metal water bottle, or, as the article notes, even a football helmet. Label-less printing. The idea is not completely new to me. After all, I’ve seen videos of mugs and bottles (essentially regular cylindrical shapes) being spun around in a jig while images are screen printed onto the products. I know you can also use flexographic technology to print directly on objects.
However, Xerox’s direct to object inkjetting leaves room for endless personalization. After all, with a silkscreen or flexo press, you print the same image again and again, but with an inkjet printer, you can vary each and every image.
The Xerox Press Release and the Printer Specs
The article was entitled “Xerox Introduces New Direct to Object Inkjet Printer.” It seems to be a press release from Xerox. However, if you go searching for the article online you will also find useful product literature from Xerox to amplify your knowledge. The articles make some intriguing claims:
- The printer can “spray ink on objects as small as bottle caps and as large as football helmets.”
- The Xerox equipment can print on plastic, metals, ceramics, and glass.
- “The machine is able to print on smooth, rough, slightly curved or stepped surfaces at print resolutions ranging from 300 to 1,200 dpi.”
- The equipment is “compatible with virtually any type of ink chemistry, including solvent, aqueous, and UV inks.”
- The design of the object “holder” is such that it can be easily adjusted for different sized objects, up to one cubic foot in volume (irregular shapes, too).
- You can print an area 2.8” x 13” in dimension using ten inks (cyan, magenta, yellow, black, white, plus five specialty inks).
- You can print up to 30 objects per hour.
- And as the final benefit, this is a “complete packaging solution [that] can eliminate the need for labels.”
(All quotes are from “Xerox Introduces New Direct to Object Inkjet Printer” or Xerox’s website.)
So, What Does This Mean For Printing?
Granted, this is relatively new technology, but the specifications promise a lot:
- The variance in the size of objects the printer can accept, along with the flexibility and ease of adjustment of the object holder, should make this printer easy to quickly configure for a multitude of objects.
- Since the printer will accept any kind of ink, you can eliminate problems with ink drying on a slick surface by using UV inks. Therefore, you can quickly print, dry, and hand off to customers items like mugs and water bottles—while they wait. This would be ideal for promoting a brand at a trade show.
- At 2.8” x 13”, the image print area is rather large, so your logo or message will be big and visible.
- This process can eliminate labels. This is a big one. On the one hand, everything I have read says that the growth areas in commercial printing are labels, packaging, and large format printing. Demand for these services is growing quickly year over year, and yet this technology might eliminate the need for custom labels. I’m not sure this would be true in all cases, but the technology is ideally positioned in a growth industry. In addition, this equipment will benefit the aesthetics of custom label printing, since printing directly on an object with no label leaves an integrated, elegant, and organic impression. The printed image becomes part of the object, not just a sticky piece of printed paper affixed to a product.
- In all the instances where I’ve seen custom screen printing used to decorate objects, the print surface has needed to be mostly flat (even if it is the round surface of a mug, you can still roll the cylindrical mug to provide a flat surface for the custom screen printing). However, according to Xerox’s product literature, the longer distance from the inkjet print heads to the substrate will allow for printing on irregular surfaces (the article references curved and slightly stepped surfaces). This will greatly expand the number and kinds of items onto which this direct to object inkjet equipment can print.
- The ability to use ten inks will extend the color gamut dramatically, presumably allowing designers to match almost any PMS color.
- The speed is respectable. Compared to screen printing (once the time has been spent to set up the process), digital printing can be rather slow. However, the ability to print 30 objects per hour makes this equipment more appropriate for longer digital production runs.
Time will tell, but I do think this may be a game changer.
Posted in Digital Printing | 2 Comments »