Friday, February 6, 2009

Printing with Lightning Source?
Watch your page count.


Few things make a book look worse than a bunch of blank pages in the back, behind the last page of text.

Books always have an even number of pages (the sides of pieces of paper -- usually with numbers -- not the actual pieces of paper, which are called leafs or folios.) Different printing presses handle different size papers that are cut up to make a book.

A big sheet typically contains 4, 8 or 16 pages depending on the size of the book and the press it will be printed on. The group of pages is called a signature, and after printing the signatures are folded, collated, trimmed, and glued or stitched into a binding.

To avoid having those silly blank pages at the back, it's important that your book be designed with the right number of pages, and your printer or publisher should be able to tell you what the proper multiple is.

Unfortunately it's not always so simple.

Lightning Source, the dominant producer of Print-On-Demand (POD) books is going through a transition. In the past, its presses worked with books that had page counts that were evenly divisible by four. Now they're switching to new "Mod 6" presses that have page counts divisible by six.

If your book ends with the wrong page number, Lightning adds blanks. You don't pay for this directly, but it makes the book look amateurish and wastes trees, energy and money.

Unfortunately, at this time it's not possible to know which kind of press a book will be printed on. So to minimize the chance of having those silly extra pages, pick a page count that's evenly divisible by BOTH FOUR AND SIX.

One of my books that had been planned for 208 pages for the four-page presses has been expanded to 216 so it can work right on either type of press.

Another book that was planned to be 388 pages will grow to 396 pages.

Keep in mind that this applies to books printed by Lightning AND books produced by author service companies like Lulu and Outskirts that use Lightning as their printer. Also, Lightning requires that the last (left-hand) page be left blank for a bar code and other information.

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