Signature creep; was: Re: Book layout software?

Subject: Signature creep; was: Re: Book layout software?
From: David Neeley <dbneeley -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Tue, 12 Jan 2010 08:58:18 +0200

For this program job, it is probably not germane--but for those
charged with creating longer booklets, I thought I'd mention the
subject of signature creep. (And no, it's not a pervert seeking
autographs, in case you're wondering!)

When booklets are created, as successive pages are stacked for
stapling, if each set of pages has the same gutter (the space in the
middle between pages where the staples go) can become an issue. If all
pages have the same gutters, the ones on the outside of the assembly
will seem to have much narrower ones than the ones inside simply
because of the distance around the pages contained in the middle.

Thus, sophisticated booklet software allows adjustment for this so the
finished booklet will appear uniform throughout. The bound booklet is
then trimmed so outside margins are uniform.

Most canned programs either have a pre-determined adjustment for this
baked in or they ignore it. However, for this adjustment to be
precise, some account must be made not only for number of pages but
also for the paper thickness.

In book binding, by the way, booklets stapled in the middle are still
referred to by printers as being "saddle stitched"--since early
booklets were all bound by means of thread--a process still used in
most longer books. A stapler designed to do this is a "saddle
stapler"--taken from the shape of the platform that supports the pages
for stapling. (Binding solely by use of glue on the spine, affixing
them to a completely flat cover is called "perfect binding.")

This process also explains why standard paper sizes for printing are
often larger than you might at first expect--to allow room for
trimming to finished size.

Not all printers have binding completely in-house, by the way. The
shorter things they can nearly always handle, especially since there
are so many machines that can handle saddle stitching these days.
Binding jobs for longer books, though, are often sent to a
bindery--especially for hard backs.

As a minimum, if you haven't worked with printed manuals much, at
least this might give you a small introduction to a few of the
processes and terms involved.

Obviously, those other "fossils" like me who grew up in the business
when print was the customary (or even the only) means of distribution
of our work will be familiar with these issues. I have observed many
younger tech writers, though, for which this is rather arcane


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