Digital Paper Pitfalls
The paper selection process for books printed digitally differs radically from that of books destined for offset. What designers and production managers should know.
Choosing the right paper for a book printed digitally can make or break such on-demand publishing projects.
Digital paper has unique reflective, color, sensory, and operational characteristics compared to paper destined for, offset or other printing technologies.
For example, digital paper has increased moisture, is smoother, and more dimensionally stable. The more precisely the edges are cut, the more efficiently the paper moves through the press.
Digital papers are smoother than offset papers for good toner adhesion. And the increased moisture in digital papers allows the sheets to pass unscathed through the high-temperature processes.
The best digital papers for heat fused, dry toner presses—such as the Xerox DocuTech, Oce Demand Stream, Heidelberg Digimaster, IBM Infoprint—are those that remain stable under extreme temperatures.
Conversely, papers designed for offset printing are optimized for commercial offset presses. That means they're engineered to work with ink and water, without the strict limitations in toner transfer, with a wider range of surfaces and textures than allowed in digital printing.
If heat tolerances are wider, other tolerances are tighter. "Tolerances are much narrower for digital paper," says Laura Shore, VP of marketing communications at Mohawk Paper Mill, in Cohoes, N.Y. "If it's off by 30 seconds of an inch, it could cause a jam—and jams are a nightmare for book printers because of the downtime they cause."
Mohawk markets its digital paper product, Mohawk Superfine, to books-on-demand (BOD) publishers, but Mohawk officials say they haven't had a big run on it; at least, not yet.
That's not surprising. Despite the recession, the young BOD market is growing. Publishers increasingly understand the economic advantages of BOD for short runs, vanity titles, corporate publishing, backlists, and other applications.