The Bone Season author Samantha Shannon got a chance to see how her book gets printed into paperback format. She explains a lot more than really needs to, I think, (but you’ll like it if you’re interested in trivia and fun facts), but the whole process is quite interesting.
The Bone Season was printed on FSC certified paper, weighing 50gsm (grams per square meter). FSC is short for Forest Stewardship Council, which promotes the sustainable management of forests; you might have seen their symbol on packets of office supplies. Generally, FSC paper is either recycled, or uses “virgin”, non-recycled wood fibre from a well-managed forest (or a combination of both recycled and non-recycled material). One of the biggest arguments I hear in favour of e-readers is that they don’t contribute towards deforestation. As an author, I do feel guilty when I think of all the paper that goes into just one copy of my book – the Bone Season paperback has a whopping 452 pages of story, along with all the extra material – but knowing that it’s been provided responsibly is a comfort.
After being printed, the books are taken to the perfect binder. That’s not me flattering it, by the way: it’s really called a perfect binder, referring to the method of binding used for mass-market paperbacks. The printed pages of The Bone Season were loaded onto the feeding system, and by the time we arrived at the factory, they were whizzing through the factory at an average binding speed of 18,000 books an hour. The speed is recorded on the monitor as half that number, as everything at Mackays is printed “two up”. This means that two small images of each page are printed on each sheet . There’s a strict quality control system in place to make sure that readers aren’t presented with the same chapter twice in a row. Every feeder is fitted with a camera called an ASIR (Automatic Signature Image Recognition) system, which takes a picture of the first section of the book and ensures that every section after that is the same. If it isn’t, the pages are rejected. There were huge plastic crates purely for rejected sections. But don’t worry – they all get recycled.
Once the sections are collated, a levelling saw is applied, which takes 3mm off the book’s spine, ready for the first lot of hot glue to be applied. The sections are put through the “nipping station”, which “nips” the cover to the sections. Mackays uses a two-roller system, which determines the thickness of the glue: usually just under 1mm. Side glue is also applied at this stage. Justin told us that these measures were critical in ensuring that books have strong spines, and that pages don’t begin to come away once it’s been read a few times.
With the pages glued, the cover is applied. Two covers, both front and back, are printed on an A3-sized sheet of 240gsm stock. What comes out at this stage is two books, like this:
Here’s where the final stage comes in: trimming. The two books are first cut apart, then each one is neatly trimmed. With that done, the books are finished and ready for distribution.
Read the full post on Samantha Shannon’s Blog.