Printing and Binding

Posted: January 9th, 2013 under the writing life.
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Thanks to this blog entry by Irene Gallo of,  you can see the many steps it takes to get a book printed and bound.    You can probably also see how mistakes could happen–how, for instance, one or a few signatures of one book could end up in the middle of another.   Rare, but annoying if it’s in the book you bought.    My thanks to Gallo and Tor for putting this up–I found it fascinating and hope you do, too.


  • Comment by Nadine Barter Bowlus — January 9, 2013 @ 8:33 pm


    Very interesting! Thanks for sharing it.

  • Comment by Nigel — January 10, 2013 @ 2:00 am


    Thanks – a lot more complex than I thought

  • Comment by Gareth — January 10, 2013 @ 7:45 am


    Fascinating, but of course my copy that came yesterday has a DIFFERENT loose cover and different hard cover (UK version says Orbit not TOR) which adds yet another dimension to the process…

  • Comment by elizabeth — January 10, 2013 @ 8:49 am


    Gareth: I’m reasonably sure that UK editions are printed in the UK, but the process is probably similar even if the machinery is slightly different (my UK editions are never the same size as US editions, even in the same format, so the machinery must be configured for different size paper.)

    Nigel & Nadine: Glad you enjoyed it. I found it via a Twitter link (from Random House, not Tor!) and immediately thought “This needs to be seen widely.”

  • Comment by Linda — January 10, 2013 @ 12:51 pm


    Fascinating. We had a similar plant here until about 15 years ago, but the public was never allowed in.

    We also had many printers and binders over the last two centuries. In the early 1800s we also had paper factories run by water and then steam power. It is said the first started because the published or the local weekly got tired of riding horseback for 30 miles to get more paper if he ran out. The only want ads looking for female employees I’ve ever seen from that period were for girls to cut rags

  • Comment by Ed Bunyan — January 10, 2013 @ 12:58 pm


    It is the speed that always amazes me. I have had the opportunity to tour the press areas for the company I work for. Granted this is newspapers we are talking about, but the process is somewhat similar. These machines zip through the printing process, even when doing 4 color. FYI for those who may not be familiar with the process, when you reproduce a photo in print, they use 3 color inks and black or CMYK which stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black.

  • Comment by Nadine Barter Bowlus — January 10, 2013 @ 5:10 pm


    Linda, the publisher you mentioned seems tomhave had a vertical integration business plan. 🙂

  • Comment by Susan — January 10, 2013 @ 11:17 pm


    That is so amazing! Thank you for sharing it, and for educating us about all that goes into the books we love so much.

  • Comment by Sharidann — January 11, 2013 @ 5:24 am


    Thanks for sharing!

    Really interesting and impressive. I, for one, didn’t realize that book printing was that complex.

    Makes me respect, enjoy and cherish my paper books alot more now.


  • Comment by Ginny W. — January 13, 2013 @ 2:29 pm


    Fascinating. Especially the glue and binding process. I had also been puzzled concerning the sections – you never have to cut apart folds as you sometimes must in older hardcover books.

  • Comment by Erica — January 14, 2013 @ 12:29 am



    On much older books, often each signature started out as one huge sheet, onto which the pages were printed in a very specific order, front and back, and the sheets were folded in a particular fashion which put all of the pages in the correct order. Then the signatures were collated and sewn together. This is why there were folds that had to be cut apart.

    Sometimes you see modern, machine made books with irregular front edges–the kind that appear on the fore edges of older books because they had folds that were slit–but it’s just a design choice. It’s to make the book look old-fashioned, or something, but is completely unnecessary.

  • Comment by Genko — January 15, 2013 @ 7:09 pm


    Just saw an interesting overview of the book production process on Diana Gabaldon’s web site. It was interesting. In my opinion, she’s optimistic thinking that she will get this book out this year when she still hasn’t finished writing it. She must be close, though.

  • Comment by elizabeth — January 15, 2013 @ 9:22 pm


    Genko: Sorry, I don’t really have time to go look at her website, but I’ve met her and she’s an amazing writer. A lot will depend on how her editor handles editing her, and whether they are holding production slots for her..which, given her popularity, they may well be.

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