“Work, finish, publish”, Michael Faraday – Printing, proofing & pricing (part 1)


I have always wanted to make books, and now I do.

I don’t have a problem with the “work” bit, or the “publish” bit, but the “finish” part of Faraday’s advice is my particular jonquille noir.

And this is where that whole version thing comes in again. (Believe it or not, this is the short version of this post. There is a lot more detail to give but “enough is enough”. At least for now.)

It’s been a long time coming, but the book version of World X is almost ready. Originally, I had intended to make it square to suit the circular motif, but this prompted me to question how I could make this myself and for it to remain a practical proposition.

Firstly, I looked at Blurb.com. I’ve had books printed by Blurb before and been very happy with them, so my decision not to use them was nothing to do with any past dissatisfaction.

A small 7×7 inch square book with between 41 and 60 pages, hard-cover and dust jacket costs £20.95 each. Ok, now that’s not too much for an art book, but how many am I likely to sell? For one-offs that’s ok but it just “feels” like too much, and that is the at-cost price from Blurb. If I wanted to make anything on it, the price would have to be even higher. I remember seeing Bill Drummond’s “Ragworts” book during his exhibition at Site Gallery, Sheffield, UK. Pricing for art is entirely notional of course, and a discussion on pricing of art is way beyond this post, but it was a similar format to the proposed Blurb version and was selling for £10, which “felt” about right for a small hard-cover book.

Also, I don’t want to tie a lot of money up in a long run so I decided to make them myself. Without a printer’s guillotine, a square format is problematic and in the end I decided to go for an A-size. This not entirely out of laziness, but the decision was informed by conceptual  as well as practical reasons.

In my forthcoming retrospective (see richardbolamat50.wordpress.com) I made a conceptual decision to make everything using standard A-sized paper because having spent so much of my life working in office environments, the proportions have demonstrably informed my work. But that’s another story, from the other side of the river.


Old-skool layout aids.

I have used Adobe InDesign all the way back from when it was PageMaker 1.0, and I like it. Many years ago I also used Quark XPress 3.0 but never liked that. However, I laid this out in Apple’s Pages word-processing app.

Why use Pages? Well, I’m not sure it was a good idea but I started making the pages one at a time without any forethought and it’s a very immediate program to work with. In the bad old days this would have been a real mistake but seeing as these you can print from any app to a PDF it’s not irredeemable.

Caution: I am by no means recommending this workflow but having got so far with Pages I didn’t want to start again in InDesign, and you might as well have the benefit of learning from my folly.

I printed the first version of the book (Version 0xX) as a physical test and immediately cocked up the pages (of course). If you’ve ever made booklets (and are not a professional printer) you’ll know what I mean. However, as a test it was very successful and I liked the feel of it.

For practical reasons I am using 90gsm bright white inkjet paper for the pages and 200gsm inkjet card for the cover. At 56 A5 pages plus cover, printed onto A4 sheets, this is about as much as I can staple without resorting to industry.

On 90gsm paper you can see the print from the previous page and this immediately prompted me to redesign the book to take advantage. You can get decent opaque inkjet paper but this would make the book too thick to staple, so “if you can’t hide it, paint it red.”

Version 0xX will not make it to print but there is a PDF here if you want to see it.

I’m using Pages 4.1 from iWork ’09 and there are some features missing that we are used to in page-layout programs. Pagination and imposition were a bit of a bitch but I printed the pages from five separate Pages documents to PDFs, copied and pasted them into a single PDF using Preview. Then I separated the full 53 pages into nested booklets of 16 pages or fewer each and used the free version of BookletCreator to sort out the imposition. BookletCreator works very well and I’ll buy a licence if I ever use it again.

I reckon a lot of this chicanery could be sorted with Linux & ImageMagick etc but, again, that’s another story.

Screen shot 2013-01-25 at 11.26.32

Imposition cock-ups and unsatisfactory alignment.

I knew it would be almost impossible to make all the pages line up exactly, but as long as they are within about a millimeter the circular motif bleeds through from one page to another quite satisfactorily.

However, although my Brother MFC-J6510DW prints full-bleed, it does not print centrally on the page. For most uses this would not be a problem but having gone to the trouble of laying out all the pages again, and knowing it will show through on the 90gsm paper, I had to drop all the 2-page spreads into Pages, move them left by 2 millimetres and print them from there. Also, although I really need to RTFM, the Brother does not seem to support full-bleed in duplex mode.

What remains to be done is the image credits and then it will be complete. All the images used are either Creative Commons or Public Domain, mostly from commons.wikimedia.org and Archive.org, or via publicdomainreview.org.


Near-final proof with good alignment.

So here is “World X – A Speculative History – Version T-minus X”. There is a PDF here and this is the version that will have a monochrome print version. There may or may not be a deluxe colour version later on.

There’s more to say about practicalities and pricing, but that will do for now.

“Decide, commit, act” – Richard Bolam

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