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Naming the Parts of a Book

Q: Why do bookbinders always look at me like a foreigner who can't speak the native language? I'll admit I'm new to my job of selling book production, but whenever I try to get a binding estimate I seem to get lost in confusion over terminology. How about some basic vocabulary when it comes to parts of a book?

A: This illustration should give you the basics:
And avoid these commonly used, but potentially misleading, terms when talking about books:
Top: What you mean is "head."
Tail: What you mean is "foot."
Front: What you mean is "face."

Back: What you mean is "spine."

Leaves and Pages

And since you've raised the subject of terminology, here's the answer to a question nobody asked: What is the most frequent example of confusing terminology in the graphic arts business?

Answer: Using "leaves" and "pages" as if they were interchangeable. They're not.

Confusing leaves for pages when you're requesting an estimate could result in a bid that's way off. For example, a mechanically-bound book with 128 pages consists of 64 leaves (sheets). Or consider the saddle-stitched Solutions you're holding in your hands which, before binding, consisted of two 11" x 17" sheets; these two sheets make a booklet of 8 pages.


What exactly do you mean when you include this in your specs? Do you want the letterhead to fold in? Or do you want the letterhead up and showing? Accordion style or wrap? Be clear about what you want-preferably, send a folding dummy with each fold marked-or you may get what you don't want.

Sales Service Manager

Bulk Paper

Q: I suggest you put an explanation of paper bulk in your "Nuts & Bolts" column. I just had to pay one of your competitors for a special order of wire on a Wire-O® binding job because I didn't specify in my RFQ that the offset paper I was printing the job on was hi-bulk. 

A: An excellent suggestion. Let's start with this graphic showing the different thicknesses of five different book blocks, all of them consisting of 496 pages of 60# stock:

The point is that different papers of the same basis weight can bulk out to very different thicknesses.

Why does this matter? Because paper bulk can make a huge difference in both the print shop and the bindery.

For printers, you have to know the bulk of the paper you're using on a job in order to estimate accurately the number of load changes you'll have on the press...t o figure the size of a book's dust jacket or of any type or art to be printed on the spine... etc.

And in the bindery, paper bulk determines glue consumption if adhesive binding, ring size in a looseleaf binder, punching time and diameter of the element if mechanically bound, case size for a casebound book, etc.

Finally, both printer and binder need to know paper bulk to estimate the number of cartons and skids they'll need for a job. So let's summarize some of the basics about paper bulk:

  • Caliper is the perpendicular distance between two surfaces as measured under prescribed conditions. Caliper of paper is the measured thickness of a single sheet by the use of a micrometer when a specified static load is applied for a minimum specified time.

  • Since paper thickness is not uniform, the caliper of four sheets of paper is usually measured for greater accuracy and for a more representative reading of its thickness; caliper of 4 sheets of a particular stock, divided by 4, is usually called its "bulking number."

  • Points and PPI is the unit of measurement of thickness for heavier papers and paperboard is the caliper of a single sheet in points. One point equals one thousandth of an inch.

Paper Weight

Q: I know that 60# offset is equivalent in weight to 24# bond, but I can never remember all the other equivalents. How about a handy chart of these paper weight equivalents.

A: O.K. We've put together charts of bond/book/cover/index paper weight equivalents and organized them as an insert in this issue of Solutions. Keep it on your desk, compliments of Bindagraphics.

Sales Representative

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