Ten things I’ve learnt about making a book:a journey from computer file to warehouse

On 19th December 2012 I was lucky enough to visit Mackays printing factory (part of the CPI group), to see my debut novel, Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love come off the press.

It was an amazing day, and I’ll be blogging about the creation of the hardback copy of Ten Things in the next couple of weeks. I also got a tour of the factory while the paperback of Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry was being printed. It was fascinating to find out what goes into making a physical book….

Here are ten moments in that journey from computer file to finished book.

1. The computer files are checked to make sure everything’s in order, and are then laid out (using a clever piece of software) in 48 page sections, which, when cut and folded, will ensure every page is in the right place.

checking the files

2. The next stage is called ‘imposition’ (!). The text is imposed onto aluminium plates. UV light burns away everything except for the text.

 2a_making the plates2b_making the plates

3. The plates are set up in one of the printing machines. The ink is transferred from the plates onto a ‘blanket’ (which is made out of rubber, not wool!) and then from the blanket onto the paper. This is called offset printing.

loading the paper

4. The text is first printed onto a single, huge sheet of paper. This is then cut into four pieces which are laid on top of each other (don’t ask me how!) and cut down to page size. So you end up with 48 page sections. This machine pictured here can print 33,000 sections an hour! The sections are bundled up and packed on to crates.

3a_printing3c_sections
5. The next step is the binding machine. Each section is aligned in order and the machine collates them (incredibly quickly) to create the complete book.

7b_collating and binding6. A machine grinds 3mm off the spine to get it ready to be glued to the cover.

8c#_covers glued

7. The cover is glued on and the books take a trip around the factory on a huge conveyer belt to give them time to dry.

DSC_0625
8. I hadn’t realised that books are printed in twos – attached at the head if you like (pictured below). They are then sawed in half and every second book is rotated so they are all facing the same way.

printed in twos
9. The pages are then cut flush to the cover.

9_cutting pages
10. A machine stacks up books in the desired number, and they are packaged in plastic to keep them safe during transit.
stacking bookswrapping booksI’d like to say a massive thank you to Karen and Daniel at Mackays and to Geoff at Picador for arranging the visit.

6 thoughts on “Ten things I’ve learnt about making a book:a journey from computer file to warehouse

  1. Sarah
    Tweets can be boring as they are too often an exercise in trivia. Not Yours. My book Never the Same River will be self published this Spring. Hope I am as clever as you in stimulating interest!

  2. I loved this. It is very rare writers describe such barren, boring, heartless processes…this is refreshing and a tribute to the people and departments that make it happen. Many thanks for blogging and good luck with your book.

  3. Loved this – great use of photos and explanation and I had no idea about so much of the production of a book either. Congratulations on publication – when will it be released???

  4. Pingback: Putting TEN THINGS I’VE LEARNT ABOUT LOVE together… | Sarah Butler

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