How to make a perfectly bound book

Highlights of a book-binding workshop held during the second edition of the Publishing Next conference that was held in Goa at the Krishnadas Shama State Central Library, Panaji on 14 and 15 September

10 Oct 2012 | By PrintWeek India

Leonard Fernandes, co-founder of Cinnamon Teal and organiser of Publishing Next says, “This year, we set out to bring speakers and attendees that engaged in the practice of different aspects of publishing.”
A highlight was a book binding workshop at Publishing Next conducted by the duo from Welbound Worldwide, Suresh Nair and Dinesh Ingawale. They tackled questions from book publishers about the nitty-gritty of books.

How do we know what is the grain direction of the paper? Do we always need to test it?
Grain direction is a specification of the paper. It is always mentioned on the label alongside other details like gsm. There are many ways of specifying the grain direction of a paper. Usually we have LG or SG suffixed to the dimensions of the sheet which means that the grain is running in the longer or shorter direction of the sheet respectively. Sometimes we have the dimension along the grain direction highlighted by making it bold or underlining it. Often, if nothing is specified, the first dimension mentioned is the direction of grain. If the dimensions (say) 210 x 297mm, then the grain runs in the shorter direction (210mm).

We usually buy paper for our printer. We discuss things like gsm and shade to be used but never the grain direction? How can we take care of this since the final imposition done by the printer can influence the grain direction of the book?
Grain direction is the additional specification or input that one needs to discuss. Yes, the final control is with the printer but its really about communication. As a publisher one needs to understand from your printer which grain direction is suitable and inform the paper vendor, accordingly.
Many times, we have supplied the right grain direction paper stock to a printer, but he ends up printing on a smaller machine since his large-format machine is unavailable. So as publishers, we can’t do much.
Changing the size of the machine, which causes halving of the sheets wouldn’t really affect the final grain orientation with respect to the book. LG/SG are just relative terms; what’s important is the relative arrangement of pages on the sheet in which the spine should be along the grain. For example, let us say an upright (portrait) book is formed of 16-page signatures (sections); if the sheet size is 23x36inch, then the sheet required for this would be a SG (grain in the shorter direction 23inch).  When the same is converted to an 8-page signature the sheet size will become 23x18inch (LG – where the grain runs has a longer direction of 23in) allowing it to be printed on a smaller machine, which is what is needed.
Isn’t there any formula to calculate the spine thickness?
Yes, given the bulk and gsm, one can calculate the spine thickness. But due to the inherent variables of the process, this calculation is never exact, it is always within a tolerance that is workable in most cases. But sometimes when you have difficult cover artworks, this tolerance might not work. Hence one needs to make a dummy. It is important to create a dummy using the same process which will be deployed for the final production. It is one way of addressing the process variables.
Whose job it is to do correct impositions?
It is the job of the print firm. But knowing about it can help you in good design management. By imposition, one tries to arrange the pages on a large sheet in such a way that when it is folded, the pages come up in a sequence. The pages designed by you have certain specification (margins, bleeds, crossovers); during imposition these pages undergo an intermediate transformation ending up into the pages as originally perceived/designed by you. To have the same page specification in the final book, one needs to provide a number of allowances (grind-off, trim, bleed, creep etc). These allowances vary according to the binding style. 
What is the difference between a form and a signature?
A printed sheet is usually called a form. After folding, it is converted into a signature. Signatures are also called sections. 
Would books bound in India using conventional hotmelts fail in Europe and vice versa?
Hotmelt formulations are designed to operate within a temperature range. Since they are plastic in nature they can be reversibly remelted by heat application. Typical hotmelts used in India operate in the range of 5-60 degree celsius. This adhesive might fail in European winter where they encounter cold cracking. It’s a matter of communication. If the books are going to be exported to new markets, the print firm needs to have accurate information. The one adhesive which can withstand extreme temperatures is PUR hotmelts which can operate in a  temperature range of  -40 degree  to 110 degree celsius. Sometimes PUR is the only solution, when books need to be exported to regions with extreme climatic conditions.
Why do book sometimes have wavy edges and warpage?
Uneven absorption of moisture into paper causes these problems. Paper is a hygroscopic material, it continuously exchanges moisture with its environment to maintain a balance. Wavy edges are usually presented when a dry paper is exposed to a humid environment. In this case, the moisture flow is into the paper from its surrounding. Usually, in a book the inner area of the book remains unexposed, so the moisture intake happens only at the edges. Paper fibres expand due to moisture intake which leads to thin fibres inside and thicker at the edges. The physical transformation of this phenomena is wavy edges. On the other hand, warpage occurs due to uneven absorption on one side of the paper if the other side is dry. It is commonly seen in case of boards which receive moisture from the adhesives used during pasting. Normally these problems disappear on their own as the moisture balance is restored. Occassionally, when paper presents a problem during the processing stages (binding), it can be permanent. For this reason acclimatisation of stock is necessary before processing. Doing this will also prevent lot of process wastage.

Leonard Fernandes - Publishing Next

The second edition of Publishing Next. Judging from the numbers that attended and the satisfied voices that emerged, dare we say that it was quite the success.
The objective of Publishing Next was to create a forum that would discuss topics related to the “future of publishing” – not just technologies that impacted publishing but also trends in consumer preferences and publisher practices, changes in the environment that necessitated certain paradigm shifts and disruptions whether in the form of new technologies or business processes.
That such a diverse group of people should be interested is perhaps because we chose topics that would appeal to different sections of the publishing sector. Among the panel discussions and workshops that generated the most passionate discussions were those on academic publishing, Indian language publishing, the preservation of oral traditions and book distribution issues. That said, the other panel discussions and workshops generated no less heat. Given the parallel track of events, one constant refrain was the inability of many to choose which session to attend. Even the insight talks, introduced for the first time, got a lot of attention and were very well received.
From the discussion, it seems like many issues affecting publishing are perennial in nature. Distribution remains one of them, so does the inability of the tech community to address the concerns of the publisher. The publishing community, in turn, are no longer awed or intimidated by the “spectre” of e-books, they realise that e-books are here to stay and will co-exist with printed books. But they, the publishers, have genuine concerns and get few answers.
We are happy with the way the conference turned out – that the discussions were intense and thought-provoking and that the conversations will perhaps continue long after the conference concluded. We do hope that those affected will continue to search for answers, many of which have been hard to find.
Conference  Voices

Shobha Viswanath, Karadi Tales 
I learned much and met several interesting people. It was well organised and very useful. 
Vatsala Kaul Banerjee, Hachette India 
That was the most engaging publishing conference I ever attended.
Venetia Kotamraju, Rasala Books
It was a great mixture of the practical and the intellectually stimulating, and I learnt a great deal as I’m sure did everyone. The conference has created a great space for some of the most interesting publishing projects in the country to get together and I think we appreciate it. 
Sayoni Basu, Duckbill 
I think the conference was great in the well thought out sessions, the interesting people and the right amount of laid-backness and informality. I heard some inspiring speakers and met some people I would like to get to know better. And feel suitably inspired about my own work.
Dinesh Ingawale, Welbound 
We had a great interaction with publishers during our workshop at PublishingNext.