Strength in Papers
Some make a splash. Others won't tear. For swimmers who need to read workout guides in the pool or publishers wishing to avoid damage from freight distribution, durable papers are unique alternatives to traditional stock. Added to the staple of synthetic and super-substrates on the market, some publishers have even invested in water-proof materials to ensure that the books they produce survive in less traditional reading environments. The waterproof materials, though rare compared to a non-synthetic such as TruTech, are examples of how diverse book market concepts can be applied to multiple projects. As a result, future readers, who may be chin-deep in the wet stuff, may not need to feign excuses to the library when returning that waterlogged copy of Old Man and the Sea.
One such publisher, Ancient Mariner Aquatics (www.sandglass.com/waterproofcoach), released a unique, self-paced workout book for swimmers that is manufactured using uniquely durable substrates. Thomas Deane's The Waterproof Coach is intended for hands-on poolside fitness. Says Deane, swimmers can use the book to plan workouts in the water without taking special precautions to keep the books dry—something that traditional ink and paper can't achieve.
According to Michael Mainthow, general manager of TruTech Fine Papers, there is a distinct difference between synthetic paper used for waterproof projects compared to heavy-weight natural paper. In some cases, lamination can turn virtually any traditional paper stock into durable media. In the case of The Waterproof Coach, however, text is presented on 30 heavyweight, synthetic pages, each cut into three segments—the first contains a warm-up, the second, a main-set, and the third, a cool-down—all waterproof, according to the author.
"Finding the right paper was difficult," admits Deane. "I decided on a heavy-weight paper that's more like plastic than paper. It's waterproof and non-tearable. You can't rip it, but it's hard on printing equipment."
He explains, "The YUPO paper (formerly Kindura) is very durable. It is waterproof and tear-resistant. Publishers producing books for harsh environments may want to consider using this product. However, they will have to consider the cost implications because this paper costs about 10 times as much as regular paper." YUPO's synthetic paper (www.yupo.com) holds inks for perforation, die-cutting and foil stamping. In fact, YUPO was the official paper supplier for the Alaskan Iditarod race because the paper is capable of surviving arctic weather.
Greg Bill, development director of the annual Iditarod, explains, "We selected YUPO synthetic paper because of its rugged qualities. YUPO is tear-proof and waterproof. Having paper that is virtually indestructible will serve as a boon to mushers. They will be able to keep track of their dogs' eating and sleeping patterns in the dog diaries. Additionally, the race officials and veterinarians can highlight routine evaluations for race officials at the next checkpoint with complete confidence that the documents will remain in excellent condition over the course of the two- to three-week race."
Mainthow explains like many of the synthetics on the market, durable traditional paper can also survive the elements. He says, "TruTech is more rigid, where a synthetic is usually more flimsy, which is not necessarily a derogatory quality, just different."
Arjobex (www.arjobex.com), a subsidiary of Arlo Wiggins, produces a printable synthetic called PolyArt that contains no chlorine or halogens, producing neither dioxine nor any other toxic by-products. The paper, though it can be used in traditional printing applications, also stands up to the test of water, weather and grease. According to the company, PolyArt satisfies flexography, lithography, gravure, rotary letterpress, screen, as well as variable systems such as thermal transfer, ion deposition, dot matrix and ink-jet printing. Its clay coating holds color without requiring special preparation, unlike many other synthetics. "Use litho inks (which have low mineral oil content) to control ink/water balance," instructs Arjobex. "You'll get the same printing result, with minimum damping and less ink film."
Deane says, "If you don't have waterproof ink, there's really no point to a project like this." Choosing the materials was as important for the author as finding channels in which to distribute the final product, a groove into which durable projects are slowly spilling for other publishers, including Scholastic and Chronicle Books.
Aqua Explorers (www.aquaexplorers.com) also released a waterproof book designed for not only wet conditions, but also deep ones. The company's Diver's Log Book is a stainless spiral-bound book that the company claims withstands underwater conditions. The compact book—it's manufactured to a size less than 5 x 5-inch diameter—holds 100 dive logs. According to Aqua Explorers, the book was produced to be the most compact log of its kind with a waterproof plastic cover which is a combination of synthetics and laminations.
Additionally, the company manufactured individual water-proof sheets to add to the book or to use separately. "This paper was designed to go underwater," Aqua Explorers notes. "You can print on it with any laser printer, use pencil or our special under-water pen."
For book manufacturers, while loose sheets may not be a staple to traditional bound production, the substrates used to create these durable surfaces are similar to those chosen for more traditional specialty projects. Waterproof materials are in many ways the equivalent of what coating was years ago—a way to not only enhance the aesthetic of a book, but also its shelf life—or in this case—dunk time.
Deane explains that waterproof projects have a definite niche in the industry. "The audience for these types of books is interested in having something that really works unlike regular [print] books."
According to Janet McCarthy, vice president of Lindenmeyr (www.lbppaper.com), specialty paper generally enhances book production on dry land and off. "A lot more is done with surfaces," she says. "Paper can add new dimensions to create a piece."
Though McCarthy does not specifically address waterproof paper, she advocates a similar theory: Knowing the kind of paper needed that is best-suited to a project is imperative. And for these waterproof books, the proof is in the power of pulp.
Mainthow agrees, explaining that TruTech papers can also be customized with varying surfaces that resemble linen or parchment.
PolyArt also gives good results with foil stamping, if heat is kept to a minimum. Additionally, for die-cutting, Arjobex suggests that retention points be kept as small as possible to prevent tearing. The results can, says Arjobex, also be saddle-stitched or section-sewn for added durability.
The good, the bad and the washable
At Melcher Media, waterproof DuraBooks also patent a specialty process for use with super-substrates—at bath time.
"There are many reasons why DuraBooks are an exciting new breakthrough," says Charles Melcher, publisher of Melcher Media. "But my favorite is that they finally solve the age-old problem of how to completely relax with a good book in the bath tub."
According to Melcher, "DuraBooks look and feel like ordinary books, but are constructed of tear- and stain-resistant synthetic paper, enabling them to withstand a wide variety of real-life situations, such as exposure to water or dirt." DuraBooks can be cleaned and are also grease-resistant. "Though the DuraBooks spine looks like a traditional binding…the binding process is actually much sturdier than any paper or hardcover book binding," attests Melcher. What makes the books stand-up to the test of water is synthetic binding that does not deteriorate like most thread-based, glue-stitched types. The company says it has been tested to hold-up to the same extreme conditions as the DuraBooks paper.
Made of stretched polymers, DuraBooks paper is manufactured as a type of polypropylene that's coated to maintain ink hold-out under potentially damaging conditions. It does not use any wood pulp or cotton fiber—only plastic resins and inorganic fibers. The plastic is actually extruded and stretched before its surface is treated to enhance printing performance.
Melcher reports, "Four-color art reproduces beautifully at a 175 line screen/360 dpi on the paper with results that meet or exceed the outcome on standard coated stock. The print quality is exceptional with vibrant colors and a lush, satiny finish."
The DuraBooks paper also comes in a a variety of weights and gauges and can, according to Melcher, adhere to most manufacturing techniques, including high-quality offset printing, foil stamping, embossing, die-cutting, perforating and laminating. But since the paper used for both series is not as porous as traditional fiber, the ink does not dry as quickly on the synthetic stock and requires additional freesheet time after the printing process (i.e., sheets can't be stacked immediately) though most printing presses can handle the printing on traditional and digital presses.
As well as being fine-tuned for the tub, says Melcher, DuraBooks may also be well-suited to the cookbook market. Washable cookbooks withstand spillage that's common when working with foods, sauces and a battery of sometimes damaging ingredients, depending on the strength of the inks and papers. The publisher hopes to create multi-lingual DuraBooks that are also dishwasher safe, as well as textbooks that survive wear and tear, or even books that convert into toys (i.e., a book that can be modeled into a toy boat for bath-tub play).
Chronicle Books (www.chroniclebooks.com) publishes The Meditation for the Bath series, which features bath recipes, children's water play ideas and relaxation rituals. The chunky books are staked into a library of six that, when the 160 pages are wet, can be wiped clean and dried.
Of course, the production on these higher-maintenance products tend to tip the cost scale on both the publisher's and printer's behalf. Still, Melcher Media claims that DuraBooks are more durable than some laminated equivalents which dictate different design possibilities.
Back on dry land
Mainthow says that natural laminated papers are as durable. Used for books and guides, TruTech is a patented process—the only one of its kind—that manufactures super-durable paper that isn't synthetic. It looks, feels and prints like paper using traditional ink. "We laminate paper and films to create a three-ply construction," explains Mainthrow. "There's paper on both sides and film in the middle making it really durable."
Mainthow says that the basic benefits of a more rigid, non-synthetic paper are many: "You're getting the feel of paper and printability of paper. It also has the make-ready of paper and not film; it doesn't need dry time like synthetics."
He recalls one printer he's worked with who actually cut costs by 20 percent using TruTech. "He had a film-laminating process," he says. "But when he used the TruTech sheet with ink, he didn't have to laminate any more." He also explains an instance where a teacher's guide was being printed and the publisher needed the cover to be more durable. "The guide originally had an 18 pt. coated stock brand. We used a sheet in 14 pt. to reduce weight and give greater durability."
For the book market, Mainthow believes that TruTech also saves on distribution. "A TruTech cover won't be destroyed in shipping," he says. "Instead, it can handle rough freight handling without having to be replaced." He adds that interest is very strong in the book market for durable papers—whether for damaging environments in the case of waterproof books or even for textbooks that traditionally suffer wear and tear. "Interest comes from two sides," says Mainthow. "People who are using synthetic paper that can't take heat very well [will switch to TruTech because it] can take heat up to 400 degrees." He also suggests that publishers having trouble printing on synthetic sheets consider non-synthetics. "Synthetics can be very costly to print because they need special inks," he says.
Adds Deane, "Durable books definitely have staying power in harsh environments. They should be popular as applied athletic books, camping books, first aid books, fishing books, etc."
If he's correct, then print suppliers and publishers who may not have even heard of these projects and substrates may have a new market focus for the print industry. The same way that a favorite time piece or even lipstick stands the test of wear, so could that copy of Ulysses.
-Natalie Hope McDonald