A small exercise in deciphering printing terms

shelves with books on

This week I spoke to a colleague about getting a quote for printing. When you ask for a quote the printer will, of course, ask you for the book spec – or what type of book it will be. This is what we got the quote on:

TPS: 198 x 129mm (B format)
Extent: 144 pages
Print + paper:
Insides – 1c/1c, for digital print copies 60gsm paper /for press copies 50gsm paper
Cover – 4c/0c, for digital print 240gsm cover board with gloss laminated finish / for press copies 220gsm cover board with gloss UV varnish finish
Binding: PB, perfect bound

Er – OK – so what have we asked for?

TPS: 198 x 129mm (B format)

TPS means Trimmed Page Size. So this is the dimensions of a page in millimetres height x width (therefore the dimensions of the inside pages). If you look at a paperback, you’ll see this is will be the overall dimensions of the book too. If you have a hardback TPS will be slightly smaller than the overall dimensions because hardback covers are usually slightly bigger than the pages inside.

B format refers a common book size.
B Format  198mm x 129mm

You might also see:
A Format 178mm x 110mm
C format ( or Demy or ‘trade’ paperback)  216mm x 135mm

Most of the books in the picture above are A or B format.

Extent: 144 pages

The extent is simply how many pages it will be. Incidentally – a page is one side of a sheet or leaf or piece of paper. So each piece of paper is two pages.

Many printers print books on large sheets of paper divided into eight page sections (this is called a signature). So each signature produces sixteen pages. If your printer uses this method they will prefer you to have a final extent (or page count) that is a multiple of sixteen. Have you noticed some books have lots of blank pages or an inordinate amount of adverts at the back? This is likely to be because the printer needed a multiple of sixteen pages, but there wasn’t enough text to fill a sixteen-page section. Typesetters and layout designers will employ all sorts of tactics to make the book fit a multiple of sixteen as closely as possible.

Insides – 1c/1c, for digital print copies 60gsm paper /for press copies 50gsm paper

This means that the insides will be printed with one colour on both sides (in most cases this will be black, but it is possible to use other colours). You say this as one back one, four back four, etc and you might see it written as 1/1 or 1 back 1. If it were a colour book it would be indicated by 4c/4c.

If the book is printed digitally it will be on 60 gsm paper (this is how heavy and therefore how thick the paper is) and if it’s printed on a press it will be on 50gsm paper. This is probably the printers’ ‘standard’ paper weight – there are other weights available, but weight affects the price.

Cover – 4c/0c, for digital print 240gsm cover board with gloss laminated finish / for press copies 220gsm cover board with gloss UV varnish finish

This is the cover – it will be colour on one side and not printed on the other. You might notice some books have printing on the inside of the cover – sometimes this will be in one colour so 4c/1c and sometimes full colour 4c/4c. Again the weight of the cover board (usually a thin card) is specified. Gloss UV varnish is the protective finish the printer (or print finisher) will give the cover. This is a very common finish that gives a shiny look.

Binding: PB, perfect bound

This is a paperback (PB) and it is perfect bound. This means that the pages are trimmed to size all the way around, the cover is wrapped around the book block and it’s all glued into place. This is the usual way of binding paperbacks these days.

Hardbacks are usually section-sewn and casebound. The book is formed of folded sections (usually of 32 pages) which are sewn together through the fold.

The pictures below show a perfect bound paperback (note you can see the glue), an old section-sewn paperback, a casebound hardback and a photo showing the stitching through the fold.

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2 thoughts on “A small exercise in deciphering printing terms

  1. […] by Jill Sawyer who I worked with on a subsequent book when she was working with Scholastic. This blog post of hers gives you the skinny on the page count associated with books (see Jill’s note on Extent […]

  2. […] Finishing and binding. I talked about this a bit in this post. […]

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