A couple of weeks ago, myself and some colleagues were lucky enough to visit our printers, CPIs in Chatham, Kent. This printers also prints books for Random House, Harper Collins, Bloomsbury, Scholastic and many other international publishing companies. Sat here at my desk and working on books at the very beginning of their publishing journey, it is all too easy to imagine that once we have finished with a book in house, it is whipped up in to existence by magic elves before being sent back to us or out to retailers. But as you will see, there's far more that goes into bringing a book to life at the printers...
When we arrived, one of the first things we were told to do was put on a high-visibility safety jacket. If not used properly, there's a lot of dangerous equipment and machinery once in the warehouse and men speeding around in whizzy cars, so this kept us visible.
From l-r: Laura, myself, Catherine, Natasha, Nicole and Kerry
From here we were taken in to the plating room. In here, huge, one-off plates of text are created. These plates of text are then wrapped round a cylindrical device that the paper is rolled on to:
The text plates
The printers get through one of these every fifteen minutes
Some text, freshly rolled on to paper
Then sped through the machine VERY FAST
And folded and fed out in booklets (called signatures) of eight, 16 or 32
These booklets are then pulled together into bales of booklets. Here is one of our own titles, David Baldacci's THE HIT:
Then the booklets are bound together to make a basic book and the edges are cut, to create that perfectly smooth paper finish. Here is the machine (don't ask me to explain exactly how it works!):
Next up is adding the cover. This was the funnest part of the day - everyone loves looking at how covers come together. The process is slightly different for hardbacks and paperbacks and I will focus on hardbacks below.
For a hardback, the 'hard back' is actually created from cardboard inserts and glue:
Then, if the cover is having foil put on it, there's a very cool foiling machine that produces this:
(Look! Terry Pratchett's JUDGEMENT DAY - not one of our titles, but this is what was printing whilst we were there)
The hardback is then glued on to the paper. Here is the glue. We got to touch it and it smelt like the gloopy glue you used to have at school:
Next, an amazing machine wraps the covers around the books and hey presto:
There is a very similar process with paperbacks. Here we saw the paperbacks of a Horrible Histories title being printed:
Look how far the machine goes back!
All this walking and looking was tiring work so at the end of the tour we were rewarded with an amazing lunch:
All in, this was a great day. CPIs were very welcoming and informative and it is definitely a trip I will remember.