With the Print-on-Demand process used by Lightning Source/IngramSpark, books are printed and manufactured in a one-off model using both automated and manual processes. Each book is manufactured in its entirety, every time an order is placed. Due to slight changes in production from day to day, variations in printing and manufacturing are a common occurrence. Likewise, submitted files that do not meet our recommended technical specifications can produce a printed product that differs from the digital file and/or eproof.
We make provisions for and indicate in our company documentation, that there may be up to a 1/16” shift or +/-0.1 color density variation on any book manufactured by Lightning Source/IngramSpark. Orders outsourced to other printers we have partnered with will also meet Lightning Source/IngramSpark print requirements and acceptable variations as described below.
Below is a list of the most common file-related and manufacturing variances.
FILE RELATED VARIANCES
If black fonts printed too light this is often due to RGB or CMYK ‘black’ text. Black fonts will look light due to the presence of an ICC color profile. Using the default PDF/X-1a:2001 setting will address this issue.
Including a border in your cover or interior files makes any trim variation much more noticeable.
For cover art, we recommend at least .25” from the trim mark for perfect bound books. For Case Laminate hardcover books, we recommend at least .25” from the edge of the board. For interior pages, we recommend at least .50” from trim marks.
Images to close to the trim area may be cut off.
Print and trim variations are less noticeable in a book with a cover design that has an image or the same color that wraps from the front cover, across the spine, and onto the back cover. When we bind a cover, to avoid emphasizing the allowed variance of 1/16 inch (.0625” or 2 mm), we recommend that there be no borders, images or background color starting at or near the spine fold. Having different colors or images starting at the spine highlight any variance, even those within the stated tolerance.
A blank page is defined as totally absent of any content; this includes headers, footers, page numbers, and blank fields. Blank fields, which you can’t see, can be caused by pressing the space bar or not deleting all the blank spaces on the page. Lightning Source will automatically add blank pages when processing the files for a book, if necessary.
All books will have an even count of physical pages (starting with a right-side page and ending with a left side page). The final count of physical pages is a direct result of the title’s specific bind type, print type, and trim size.
All interior/text files for print books are processed and stored in our digital library and the page count must be divisible by two.
Pages that are added during the processing of the files are included in the book’s final page count and these additional pages will incur print fees. You can view the total/final page count for a book on the Title Detail page of your account.
The last page of the book, facing the inside back cover, must be completely blank for the barcode we add to that page, which allows us to match the interior book block with the book cover during the manufacturing process. We also add manufacturing and batch information to the same last page of the book, to help us investigate any production issues that may occur. Print fees are charged for this last page.
Due to the 1/16th inch (0.0625 in / 2 mm) production variance, cover and interior files submitted with specific positioning of content and/or design elements may shift from the originally intended placement. These may appear correct in the digital file and/or eproof but may shift during production. This includes, but is not limited to the list below:
- Margins less than the recommended 0.5 in (13mm)
- Outside borders that sit close to the trim/fold edges
- Page numbers that sit outside the recommended 0.5 in (13mm) safety
- Numbered or labeled tabs that sit outside the recommended 0.5 in (13mm) safety
- Text on spines with a spine width smaller than 0.35 in (9mm)
- Text on spines/covers that sit close to or extend past the safety edges
- Images or design elements that cross the interior gutter
- Images or design elements that sit close to the wrap area on dust jackets
and/or case laminate covers
- Cover designs with a different spine background color/image then the front and/or back cover
We recommend using the Cover Template Generator tool to assist in the cover file creation process and for uploading the cover file. The cover template tool should be used at the size/resolution it is received and includes areas that will fold (visibly and invisibly), areas that will be cut off, and areas that will be centered. The template displays bleed and safety areas, spine width, document size and it also provides a free barcode.
You can access the Cover Template Generator through this link or visit IngramSpark.com and click on RESOURCES>TOOLS or through the help section of your IngramSpark account.
The Lightning Source/IngramSpark cover template is a tool and with anything that is manually produced, there will be slight variations in the final product, which should not exceed a 1/16th-inch shift = 0.0625 in / 2 mm.
Case laminate covers can have the most variation between the template and the bound book. The case laminate cover template contains two areas that must be taken into consideration when designing the cover, the hinge (gutter) and the wrap. Case laminate cover templates display a 0.5 in / 13mm hinge area where the spine board is connected to the front and back cover boards. On the bound book, this area will be pliable and have a slight indention. Make sure there are no important design elements in the hinge area. Case laminate templates also indicate a 0.625 in / 15mm wrap area. This outer area wraps around the cover boards to the inside cover and the inside of the cover is covered with the white end sheets.
With these areas in mind, there are two ways to approach the case laminate cover design. One approach is to center the front cover from the spine edge to the outside edge of the cover board (including the hinge area). The other approach is to center the cover elements to the front cover boards (the pink safe area on the templates). This will center the cover elements on the front and back cover boards. The eproof and marketing image assumes this second approach and will only show the area within the boundaries of the cover boards. This is visually different than the bound book, which includes the hinge area.
Barcodes should be built to the following specifications to ensure successful processing: - black only (0 Cyan / 0 Magenta / 0 Yellow / 100 Black) - placed over a white box/background - vector graphic or high-quality rasterized barcode Barcodes are mandatory on all POD covers. Barcodes from the template can be moved, however, they should not be re-sized.
Barcodes that do not scan will either be rejected (Title Processing Error) or replaced.
IngramSpark requires all fonts to be embedded in print files. This ensures the look and placement of text on the page, and it is important for keeping the document fonts and layouts as intended.
Base 14 fonts are the common fonts installed as a part of the Adobe Acrobat installation.
- Times or Times New Roman - 4 versions*
- Helvetica or Arial- 4 versions
- Courier - 4 versions
- Zapf Dingbats
* (regular, bold, italic or oblique, and bold-italic of each)
Programs often default to the PDF setting 'Standard'; this setting does not automatically embed Base 14 fonts. Because these fonts are available in Acrobat Reader, it is assumed they will be available to any viewer, and embedding the fonts would add to the file size.
Because we are doing more than simply viewing the file (we are printing) it's important to choose a PDF setting that is intended for printing purposes. The preferred PDF setting to ensure the fonts are embedded (and to have a stable, print-ready PDF overall) is PDF/X-1a:2001 or PDF/X-3:2002. If you don't have this option available, the second recommendation is High-Quality Print.
Due to licensing and copyright restrictions, we do not have a font library, therefore, the publisher’s PDF files need to have the embedded font information to ensure a proper printing representation of the book cover or interior.
How to embed fonts will vary depending on the program you use.
If using Microsoft Word, the last tab in this program should be Adobe PDF. Select this tab, then select Change Conversion Settings. Once this opens, select the Settings tab, pull the Conversion Setting down to “High Quality”, then select OK.
Now create your PDF. (You should have three icons in your Word toolbar, click on the first one).
To ensure your fonts are embedded after you have created your PDF, open your PDF after you have successfully distilled it. Next select File, Document Properties, and then the Fonts tab. Next to each font name it should say Font Name (Embedded Subset). If any of the fonts do not have this next to the font name, it is not embedded.
If using Photoshop or InDesign, the fonts will be embedded when a PDF is created. Unless it is a free font that doesn't come with printing rights.
Bleed refers to the 1/8th inch (0.125 in or 3mm) portion of the background image or color that extends past the trim edge in a cover or interior file (except for the case bound cover). A PDF file submitted without the full 1/8th inch (0.125 in/3mm) bleed will result in an inconsistent white border.
Bleed should only be added to the top, bottom, and outside edge of the PDF file.
Bleed added to the gutter edge may cause the page content to shift unintentionally. We do not accept files with bleed on the binding side of the page.
Please ensure that the PDF file submitted contains the appropriate amount of bleed as some programs will show the bleed in the original document, but unless intentionally added, it will not be included in the PDF.
EPROOF: The Lightning Source/IngramSpark eproof crops interior pages to the trim size, so a PDF file submitted without bleed will not be noticeable in the eproof.
Submit color files in CMYK mode, without the use of ICC profiles. Files submitted in RGB or with an ICC profile may appear as intended in the digital file and/or eproof, however, once converted to CMYK, the colors may appear washed out or muddy.
Submit files for black and white printing in Grayscale mode, without the use of ICC profiles. The text should be 100% Black (C-0, M-0, Y-0, K-100) and images should be grayscale. Images that are not converted and exported properly, may appear as black and white in the digital file, however, when reviewed in Acrobat, they are in CMYK or RGB mode. Color text, graphics, or images, including CMYK/RGB images that appear visually black and white, may print darker or different than intended.
Overprint Fill is a setting in most graphic design programs used to tell a printer when one graphic element should print “over” another graphic element. Some graphic design programs, such as Adobe InDesign or Illustrator, set 100% Black to overprint by default. It’s assumed that 100% black will be used for black text and in most instances, should overprint.
Overprint Fill can become a problem, when 100% black is used for design elements set over other elements or when light-colored text/graphics, that sit over a darker color, are inadvertently set to overprint. Graphic elements inadvertently set to overprint fill may appear correct in the digital file or eproof, but will appear different when printed.
Files containing low-quality text or images may appear crisp when viewed digitally, especially when viewed at 100%. However, when printed and viewed on paper, low-quality text or images can be more detectable.
This message means you have uploaded your interior file where the cover file should be uploaded or vice versa. To ensure your book prints correctly, you may resubmit the files in their proper locations on the file upload page.
PRINT/BINDING RELATED VARIANCES
Due to the nature of inkjet printers, interior files may print with thin white lines/voids (1/600 of an inch in width) through images and/or graphics.
These voids should not exceed one or more of the following criteria: voids consisting of two adjacent lines that result in a void of 1/300 of an inch or greater or more than three white lines/voids per page.
A barcode, inserted on the last page of the book facing the inside back cover, is used as part of our manufacturing process to match up the interior book block with the cover on the print floor. Also, we are required as a manufacturer to show where the book was produced. The bar code provides information for that book throughout the manufacturing process. This barcode also assists us during an investigation if there are any manufacturing issues with the finished product.
Books manufactured by Lightning Source/IngramSpark are printed in a climate-controlled environment to minimize any type of moisture-based damage. However, when the units leave the print facility they are exposed to different climate conditions, as well as different levels of pressure. Mild waves of the pages may occur under these circumstances and are an unavoidable issue.
Fold creases along the spine edge of the front and back cover of a book are a common occurrence due to our binding processes. Fold creases can be more noticeable with matte laminated covers. Cover designs with heavy ink coverage are more prone to lamination adhesion problems in the crease area of the binding.
Laminate popping, where the matte lamination does not adhere to the cover in some places, usually happens on dark covers (dark blues, dark reds, black) and is sometimes caused by the cover file being set above 240 TAC (Total Area Coverage = density). To avoid this problem, the CMYK's total value should not exceed 240%.
Printer marks along the gutter side of the interior pages are used for calibration and help to keep ink levels consistent. These marks must be positioned just outside of the gutter edge and cannot be moved to an area that is trimmed off. The spines are milled prior to binding to minimize the visibility of the marks. They aren’t very visible, but printed books with slightly visible printer marks, within the gutter, may be considered within our production variance.
Minor manufacturing defects can occur from time to time. Below is a list including, but not limited to, defects that when minor, are not considered to make a product unsellable:
- Cover scratches
- Smudges in the lamination (Usually this is the glue which can be wiped off with a damp cloth)
- Folded pages
- Lamination creases or scored hinges
- Gutter read marks
We recommend that you spot check more than one carton of books if a manufacturing error or defect is suspected. If you feel the books received are not in good condition, instructions and additional information are available in our Order Claims article.
Books manufactured using print-on-demand digital printers may differ slightly from books manufactured by an offset printer.
Larger orders of 750+ units placed with the Extended Print service level may be sent to an offset vendor and may not be manufactured by Lightning Source/IngramSpark. Print On Demand digital printing and offset printing processes are not identical so the final products may not be exactly alike. You may see slight variations in areas like color or binding of the printed product due to the different printing methods used.
Due to the nature of Print on Demand production, there can be a certain amount of variance in the "look" of a book from order to order. Unlike offset printing where the offset printer sets up its print lines to produce one particular type of book over and over again, our print lines are set up to cater to a number of different book types, trim sizes, interior color settings, etc. As such, there can be some visible differences in a book from order to order. These variations occur due to differences in printing location and equipment used to produce separate orders.
Additionally, we utilize multiple printers at each of our facilities and printing can vary from printer to printer. Although we make every effort to calibrate our machines to match one another, each machine will print slightly differently from one another as no two printers are identical. We also indicate in our company documentation that there will likely be color variations across cover types (Perfectbound, Case Laminate, and Jacketed Hardcovers) between orders.
Color variations are subjective, as everyone sees color differently. Rather than focus on color variation subjectively, Lightning Source assesses color variation objectively. We measure Delta E readings, which is simply the difference between two numbers. The print industry standard for Delta E is 5.0 or less. However, Lightning Source actually exceeds print industry standards by setting our pass/fail Delta E at less than 3.0.
On both our inkjet book block presses and our toner-based cover presses, we use a system that compares current Delta E readings to the original ones recorded when the equipment was brand new and in a pristine state. The maximum difference between these two numbers has to be less than 3.0 for the press to be in spec.
It is important to keep in mind that light shades and backgrounds are more likely to show visual variation than darker colors because it only takes a slight change in density or dots size for a light shade to show color variation. When a book is printed, the ink absorbs slightly into the paper, resulting in a minor loss of detail due to dot gain (ink spreading when it hits the sheet). Even if our Delta E readings are well below 3.0 (meaning the equipment is in spec), light colors can still show a subjective visual variation despite the equipment being in spec.
The page count of the printed book may increase, depending on the printed signature.
There are times during the manufacturing processes of printing and binding where a book may need to have additional pages added, which you are not charged for. (Example: the stored file is 26 pages (not divisible by 4 or 6) and 2 pages are added when printing as four-page or 4 pages are added when printing as six-page).
Books files created with a trim size of 6.14” x 9.21” (234 x 156) and smaller will be printed in either six-page (three front/three back) or four-page (two front/two back) single sheet **signatures.
Books files created with a trim size larger than 6.14” x 9.21” (234 x 156) will be printed in four-page (two front/two back) single sheet **signatures.
**A signature is a group of pages that are printed on both sides of a single sheet of paper that once folded, trimmed, bound, and cut, become a specific number of pages depending on the page size and the size of the press sheet.
Premium Color book interior files are processed with page counts divisible by 2 and printed with page counts divisible by 4.
Lightning Source will automatically add blank pages when printing and binding a book, if necessary. If you want to ensure no blank pages are added during the manufacturing process, the book’s page count should be divisible by 12.
What is an acceptable variance in the trim size of a book? With our print-on-demand technology, each book is made in its entirety each time an order for the book is received. Because of this, each book may or may not be an exact copy of the previously manufactured book. There may be a minimal amount of variance in the “look” of a book from order to order because the book is being re-manufactured each time. There may be up to a 1/16” variation in the trim size of any book manufactured by Lightning Source.
RGB blue is a vibrant and beautiful blue--however--because we cannot print in RGB, the color must be converted to CMYK. When RGB blue is converted to CMYK, it becomes a combination of 99.6% Cyan and 95.7% Magenta. This conversion results in a ratio of Cyan to Magenta that produces a purple hue, and this is how it will print. CMYK cannot reproduce that shade of blue. The computer and software will substitute the closest color to it.
It's best to choose your blue in CMYK, and to be careful how much Magenta is in the values range––especially if the Magenta is as high as, or close to the same value of Cyan.
High ink density titles are those titles where a single or double-sided page(s) within the interior of a book contains a high level and/or area of Black or CMYK ink saturation, which, when printed on Lightning Source printing equipment, ultimately causes curling of pages, wrinkled pages, or may cause streaks. IngramSpark may be unable to fulfill a B&W or Color print order due to areas of high ink density/heavy ink coverage within these titles. When we identify a title with high-density ink coverage, we will move the title to Premium Color at no additional charge to the publisher for a period of 30-days. After 30 days, the publisher can elect to either; (i) cancel the title or (ii) agree to a new print cost per unit and continue to print orders as Premium Color. Print cost per unit to be agreed on a title-by-title basis, as titles are identified, due to the increased manufacturing costs associated with these titles.
Files should not have TAC (Total Area Coverage) that exceeds 240%. Total area coverage (TAC) is the combined value of all CMYK. For example, recommended rich black is:
- C (cyan) 60%
- M (magenta) 40%
- Y (yellow) 40%
- K (black) 100%
When totaled, it equals 240%.
This can be viewed in Acrobat Pro by opening the file, going to:
- View/Tools/Print Production/Open
- Select Output Preview
- Check the box for Total Area Coverage
- Change number to 240. This will highlight anything in the file that has a TAC higher than 240. It defaults to lime green, but you can change the color if you like.
Alternatively, you can run a preflight check for the file in Acrobat Pro. We recommend making any adjustments to the original art files and updating those files in InDesign.
To prevent oversaturation of paper within your book, Lightning Source recommends no more than a 40% difference in front-to-back coverage.* In the event that we cannot print your black and white, or color book, due to saturation issues, we do offer Premium printing. For specifications and pricing, please review your print and ship calculator under the title in your account.
We use high-quality inkjet and laser printers at our print facilities; however, due to the nature of these printers, there may be some variation in the look of the covers we print.
If you have concerns or questions about the look of your book, please email a photo of the book to the support team for review.
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