Does the printer or the publisher bear the responsibility for shingling a saddlestitch book?

I have a 104 page tabloid magazine (50# text) that requires saddlestitching. Knowing this will require adjustments for shingling, who would normally bear the responsibility, the publisher or the printer?

As with all printed pieces, overall responsibility for the end result is always shared. The publisher must be responsible for knowing the technical specifications for every piece, which includes any "push-out" or "shingling" requirements. After all, they are the ones actually designing the pages. The printer's responsibility is to make sure the information is available and accurate and that the finished job falls within the specified parameters.

In today's publishing world, designers often like to get the maximum impact from every page, and tend to force content to the limit. That means the shingling requirements must be an integral part of the design. On a 104 page book, you may have an eighth of an inch or more difference in the trim of the center of the book and the outside pages. That much trim can play havoc with the design elements if it is not taken into account from the outset.

At the same time, printers know exactly what the specifications for each page must be based on signature size and paper weight and should be checking the pages as part of the quality control process from the minute the job hits production. Many printers establish fixed rules, such as "no live content can be within .XXX inches of trim." Such rules are often part of the contract, and the publisher ignores such rules at their own peril. Some printers burn a mask in the proofing process to clearly show if anything falls outside the specifications. Anything that falls within the masked area is subject to being trimmed off.

Most printers use automated imposition software which figures out the amount of creep for each page and automatically compensates for shingling in the imposition process. These programs help eliminate the chance for human error, but nothing is foolproof. Obviously the printer must bear responsibility for any machine or operator error.

Designers sometimes feel as though the printer's specifications are overbroad. For example, a catalog printer may specify that anything within 1/4 inch of the edge of the sheet be subject to trim. It is certainly true that the printer's own quality control is normally much better than that, but when you are running a high speed web press and automated in-line binding, there needs to be a fairly substantial margin of error.

For the protection of both the publisher and printer, these specifications should be put in writing and be an integral part of any contract.

Stephen Beals is a digital pre-press manager and has been writing for major print publications for many years. He is the author of A Practical Primer for Painless Print Production. He can be reached at
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