You may have wondered how books get produced (then again you might not) once the author has completed the manuscript and the publisher is ready to send it into production.
Recently, I was fortunate enough to be invited to sign 3000 copies of one of my books at the printing company. There I was shown around the factory and given a fascinating overview of the process.
1. The raw ingredients of any book are the cover boards (left) stacked up here ready to be fed into the machine that produces the hardback covers.
Then there are the thicker boards that go inside the front and back of the cover board (below left).
Finally, there is the paper itself. This comes on huge rolls like Tyranosaurus Rex sized toilet paper (below). Each roll is about six foot tall and four feet in diameter. The rolls are loaded onto printing machines and then the presses are set to work.
2. The printing presses can print fast enough to produce 17,000 copies of a book every hour as the paper whizzes through the machine (right).
Once the print is on the paper the paper is then cut and folded into sheets each of which contains 4 pages from the book being produced. These sheets are then fanned out and conveyed out of the printer (below) .
To ensure that the output is up to standard, the print workers do spot checks (below right) on the sheets passing through. If there are any errors then the print run can be stopped and the mistakes rectified before too many copies are printed.
3. Once the pages have passed the quality control spot check they continue along the conveyor belt (left) and enter the second cutting machine which now cuts the pages down into the individual pages that will be in the completed book.
The cutting takes place in a heavily shielded machine (below left) in order to prevent the pages from being stained a worrying shade of claret.
Once the pages have been cut they are sent onto the collating machines (below right). Here the pages are sorted into blocks which are then zipped from left to right and placed onto a conveyor belt where each succeeding block is placed on top to make up the entire page count of the book.
4. The collated books are then passed along another stretch of conveyor belt (right) as they head for the machine that will glue the pages together along the spine of the book.
The glue comes in the form of small yellowish pellets that are fed into a hopper (below left). The pellets are fed into the adhesive fixing machine where they are subjected to heat and melt into a liquid which is applied to the spines of the books by a ‘brush’ which is kept lubricated with glue by two rollers (below right).
The glue dries very quickly as the bound books are whisked away on a yet another conveyor belt
5. Once the books are bound and the glue has dried a production code (left) is printed on the spine before the cover is glued on. The code allows the printing company to identify precisely when the book was printed, and who was running the machine at the time. Apparently, this has significantly cut down the number of errors in the printing process...
Once the cover is glued on the book goes to another machine which fits the sleeve around the hardback (below left). The completed books are then packed together and sealed in a plastic cover (below right) ready to be shipped to the publisher’s warehouse... or
....rushed through to the conference room where an eager author is ready to sign several pallets of his latest bestseller!
Well, hope you enjoyed the tour.