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The Language of Publishing: N,O,P

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Tempted to snicker when someone says PMS? Not quite sure why OCR, PPI, and POD are important? We’ve got the answers for you in this installment of the IBPA printing and publishing glossary. To read or reread the installments featuring A through M, check the Independent archives. If you believe we’ve missed—or misdefined—any important terms, email Linda Carlson at linda@ibpa-online.org before July, because then we’ll be starting to compile all the glossary articles into book form, along with any terms that need to be added or modified.



Native file: Book files in the desktop-publishing documents in which they were created. Many printers ask that publishers submit both native files (e.g., QuarkExpress or InDesign) and PDFs.

Negative leading: Type leaded at fewer points than the size of the type has negative leading. For example, 12 point type leaded at 10 produces lines of type that are vertically squeezed. Extreme negative leading causes the descenders in one line to overlap the ascenders in the next line.

Negative letterspacing: Reduction of the space between characters by kerning or tracking, usually either to create a special effect (often in a title) or to squeeze all letters of a word into the same line.

Net income: Income after (“net of”) expenses. Because many publishers’ contracts specify that royalties are a percentage of “publisher’s net,” authors may ask what these expenses can include. At a minimum, they will include book manufacturing costs, and usually far more. Depending on how a publisher allocates costs to books, expenses for a title can include editorial activities, text and cover design, marketing, and setup for or conversion to digital formats. Fees paid for illustrations, maps, and other graphics may also be charged against gross income. The way net income is defined can vary considerably from one publisher to another.

Nonapproval proof: A proof sent by a printer for information only; the printer does not have to wait for approval before proceeding to printing. Nonapproval proofs are sometimes marked “For information only.”

Nonreturnable: The industry term for a product that a customer cannot return for credit. Digital editions and books sold to specialty retailers such as gift stores are often nonreturnable. See also consignment.

Oblique: The slanted version of a type font, done to simulate italic. Common with sans serif fonts, which may not have italic faces. With desktop publishing software, fonts without oblique faces can be slanted manually.

Offline binding: A binding applied after books come off the press rather than as part of the printing process; used for perfect, saddle-stitched, casebound, or coil-bound volumes. Depending on the binding choice and the book manufacturer’s equipment, binding may be outsourced. This is most common with hardbound books and library binding. See binding.

Offset lithography: Usually referred to as offset or offset printing. A photographic printing technique that uses inks, carried by rubber rollers called printing blankets, to transfer images and type from metal plates to paper. To change what the press is printing, printers have to physically remove and replace plates. To change ink color, they have to clean rollers. Setup at each plate change involves making sure the correct amount of ink is being transferred to paper, and that the elements from each plate are correctly aligned (see registration).

On-demand printing: A process for printing one copy of a book or a relatively small number of copies as ordered. Now usually referred to as print-on-demand or POD. (On Demand Books is the name of the company that sells the Espresso Book Machine available in some independent bookstores.)

One-off printing: Printing books on a digital press and assembling them in quantities as small as one.

OP, OOP: Out of print. The description of a title no longer available from its publisher because the inventory is exhausted and the publisher does not intend to reprint the title. Books may go out of print because the material in them is obsolete, the sales do not justify another printing, the publisher no longer has rights to the book, or the publisher has gone out of business.

Opacity: A characteristic of printing paper that prevents “see-through”—that is, prevents what is printed on one side of a page from showing on the other side.

Opaque ink: An ink that conceals the color below it, whether it’s the color of the paper or the color of some previously printed ink. By contrast, translucent inks combine with underlying color to create a third color. For example, if a cover is printed in yellow and then the title is overprinted in blue with an opaque ink, the title will appear blue. But if the title is overprinted in blue with translucent ink, it will appear green (unless a knockout was used to prevent yellow from printing where the title will be).

Optical character recognition (OCR): The software that permits typewritten, typeset, and even some handwritten characters to be scanned and converted to digital code, enabling the creation of digital files of manuscripts and printed books. Commonly used for books produced prior to desktop publishing that are now being reset to be brought back into print. Scanned text usually requires significant editing, especially if the original material was set in more than one column.

Option: The right of first refusal of a manuscript or other piece of intellectual property for publication as a book or for use as the basis of a play, movie, or television production. Publishers’ contracts as issued often grant the publisher an option on the author’s next manuscript; authors may succeed in removing that provision during contract negotiations. When theatrical, movie, or television rights are optioned for a book, a fee is usually paid, and the period of the option is limited, perhaps with a renewal provision that carries an additional fee.

Oral history: Primary source material in the form of recorded interviews or transcripts of them. Sometimes available from historical museums, academic libraries, and specialized archives. The Oral History Association maintains a list of oral history centers and collections at oralhistory.org/resources/centers-and-collections.

Orphan: Taboo in typesetting, an orphan is defined by the Chicago Manual of Style as the first line of a paragraph that appears by itself at the bottom of a page or column. It can also be a line of type less than column or page width that appears by itself at the bottom of a page. See also widow.

OS: Out of stock, either permanently (OSI) or temporarily (OST). OSI is the equivalent of OP. OST means that the inventory of a title is depleted, but that copies are currently being printed, or there are at least tentative plans to make the title available again in print or digital format.

Otabind: A brand of layflat binding.

Over the transom: Unsolicited manuscripts that authors send to agents or publishers they don’t know are said to come in over the transom and land in the slush pile.

Overlay: Traditional pasteups (aka comprehensives or comps), are often sent with a tissue overlay on which corrections and instructions can be noted. When traditional comps have several elements that are to be printed separately on the same sheet, each element will be shown on a separate overlay, usually of acetate. Neither form of overlay is used with digital files.

Overprint: Overprinting has several meanings. It is used to describe superimposing new information on previously printed sheets or blocking erroneous information in a previously printed job. It can mean creating a third color by printing one color over another, usually on a one-color press. And it can also mean printing more copies of a book than needed because a publisher will have other uses for the material. For example, a signature of color photographs for a book might be overprinted to provide enough copies for both the first printing and an anticipated second printing. This reduces the unit cost of the color signature and thus the overall cost of each copy. See Overrun.

Overrun: When more copies are printed than were ordered. This may be done deliberately if the printer expects a high error rate for the job. Most printing contracts allow the printer to deliver (and be paid for) 10 percent less to 10 percent more than the quantity ordered.

Ozalid proof: A blueline named for the company that created the technology for this kind of proof.

Page: A page is one side of a leaf, so a 32-page book will have only 16 leaves of paper. Abbreviated p., as in p. 2, and in the plural, pp., as in pp. 5–10.

Page break: The point in the text where one page ends and the next one begins.

Page count: In book manufacturing, the number of pages in a book, including pages that do not have either roman or Arabic page numbers. In metadata and for promotion, the actual number of pages that have content on them, including front matter and back matter.

Page depth: The distance from the top of the first line of type to the baseline of the last line.

Page proofs: Proofs that show pages as they will be laid out in the finished book. Sometimes the first set of page proofs doesn’t include images; in this case, a second set of page proofs will be issued with all material included. With desktop publishing, galley proofs are usually skipped so that page proofs are the first proofs created.

Pagination: Numbering of pages. With electronic prepress, pagination also refers to most of the page makeup work.

Pamphlet: The traditional definition is an unbound booklet of 48 or fewer pages, but today the term can refer to a publication that has more pages, saddle-stitching, and possibly a cover of heavier paper than the text. The term does not refer to periodicals or books, although a short book might be formatted as a pamphlet.

Pantone Matching System (PMS): This ink matching system is used to specify exact colors by color number and color formula. Most current digital color presses cannot match PMS colors, but inkjet equipment being developed should enable PMS matches. Paper PMS swatches can be attached to comps so that press operators can match printed output to the exact color specified. If an exact match is required, the publisher’s bid request should specify this, as it may increase the cost of the job. Color monitors, laser and inkjet printers, and photocopiers cannot accurately represent PMS colors.

Paperback: A paperback book can be an original publication (paperback original) or a reprint of a hardcover edition perfect-bound with glue and a heavy paper cover. Trade paperbacks usually have trim sizes similar to those of hardbound books. Mass market paperbacks have smaller trim sizes, usually cost less, and are often sold in racks managed by magazine distributors. Instead of being returned, unsold mass market paperbacks are traditionally stripped of their covers; once removed, the covers are returned to the publisher for credit with an affidavit certifying that the text pages of the unsold copies have been destroyed.

Paragraph style: Word processing, desktop publishing, computerized typesetting, and Web authoring programs have style tags that can eliminate the need to separately specify font, face, type size, leading, indentations, rules, and space above and below a paragraph.

Pass-along readership: Periodicals’ print media kits for advertisers and others cite “circulation” figures (the number of addresses receiving a copy of the periodical) and “readership” figures (also “total readership” and “pass-along readership”), which are always larger than circulation figures and based on estimates of the number of readers per copy. For example: “PW’s print edition boasts 15,000+ subscribers with a pass-along rate of 4 readers per issue and is read by over 60,000 booksellers, publishers, public and academic librarians, wholesalers, distributors, agents, and writers” (publishersweekly.com/pw/corp/advertisinginfo.html). Unlike circulation, readership figures cannot be audited.

Pasteup: Camera-ready copy, created by pasting text and images printed on photographic paper on a carrier sheet. A pasteup (or comp) can be photographed for the film negative that is used to make a printing plate. When a one-piece comp is required, the pasteup is photographed (traditionally with a Photostat machine) for camera-ready art to send a printer. With desktop publishing and electronic prepress, no paper pasteups exist.

PDF. See Portable Document Format.

Perfect binding: A binding method that glues a paper cover to book pages, and trims the entire assembly to create a square (or perfect-bound) spine. Most wholesalers and retailers do not stock paperbacks with other kinds of bindings unless the books are to be displayed in racks, such as those for children’s books.

Perforating: A bindery process in which a line or border of tiny holes is punched in paper, often to facilitate tearing off a coupon. Perforating is also the term for cutting narrow slits in a sheet of paper to facilitate folding it into a signature for gathering and binding.

Periodical: A publication that appears more frequently than once a year, such as a magazine, journal, or newsletter. Many periodicals carry an ISSN (International Standard Serial Number), which is similar to an ISBN in that it identifies the publisher. ISSNs are not required for a publication to qualify for U.S. Postal Service periodical mailing rates. For more information: usps.com; ISSN International Centre, issn.org; and Library of Congress, loc.gov.

Permission: Written clearance for publication of material from the owner of the relevant rights. Permissions and licensing for many publishers are handled through the Copyright Clearance Center (copyright.com), which lets publishers identify publications from which material can be copied, for what uses, and at what fees.

Photostat: A photographic copy of a document, drawing, or pasteup. The name applies both to the copy and to the machine that makes it, which was commonly used before the advent of desktop publishing and electronic prepress.

Pica: Equivalent to 12 points in the American print measuring system, or one-sixth of an inch (an inch being equal to 72 points). Until desktop publishing became common, picas and points were the measurements always used in printing.

Picture book: A generously illustrated book created for young children, usually with 24 or 32 pages and minimal text. Most picture books are large format (e.g., eight inches square or larger) and many are hardcover. To reduce high printing costs, they are often manufactured in Asia.

Piracy: The production or publishing of a book without permission from or compensation to the rights holder. The most common form of piracy in book publishing occurs when foreign printers either copy Western books for sale in their own shops, or overrun jobs for Western publishers and then sell the extra copies, often at prices lower than those charged by the legitimate publisher.

Pixel: Usually, the smallest single component of a digital image. The term can be used as a unit of measurement, especially when referring to resolution; for example, 2,400 pixels per inch, or 640 pixels per line. The more pixels used to reproduce an image, the more closely it can resemble the original.

Plagiarism: The crime of using someone else’s concepts or words without permission and without acknowledgment. Publishers who suspect their material is being used by others can type phrases from their books into such search engines as Google Books as an initial step in uncovering plagiarism as well as piracy.

Plates: Master surfaces from which printing is done, including rubber plates, offset lithographic plates, gravure plates and engraved plates. The term can also mean illustrations or photographs that are printed separately and inserted between text pages during binding.

Platform: Usually means an author’s platform—what the author has by way of a following, which might include a popular blog, friends and followers on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites, a track record as a speaker and/or a broadcast interview subject, and possibly a track record as a writer for large-circulation newspapers, magazines, and Web publications. Platform can also refer to a computer system, e.g., Macintosh or Windows.

Plotter proof: Like a blueline, a low-resolution proof showing page layout and trim, and not representative of final color or quality.

Pocket: An envelope with no flap attached affixed inside a book, often on the inside back cover, to hold updates in textbooks, law titles, and the like, or to hold material such as patterns for a crafts book or a CD.

POD: See print-on-demand.

Point: The smallest unit of the American print measuring system used today, 1/72nd of an inch. See font sizes.

Portable Document Format (PDF): Introduced by Adobe Systems and originally made only with its Acrobat Distiller software, PDF allows documents to be transferred via email, FTP, or such physical devices as CDs. A PDF can be read on any computer that has Adobe’s free Acrobat Reader software regardless of operating system or platform. Generic PDF creation software is now available, although it is not supported by all vendors. It is important to recognize that different print jobs may require different PDFs. High-end printing requires consultation with your service provider or book manufacturer for the appropriate specifications. According to Adobe (adobe.com), you may at a minimum be able to use the Adobe PDF preset called “Press” when exporting a document from desktop publishing.

PostScript: Page-description language developed by Adobe Systems. In early electronic preproduction, book files were converted from native to PostScript files and then to PDFs.

PostScript fonts: A scalable font technology from Adobe Systems that renders fonts for both the printer and the screen. Originally, PostScript Type 1 was the standard for scalable fonts (those that allow all point sizes of a given font). Adobe kept a monopoly on PostScript fonts until Apple developed TrueType, later purchased and enhanced by Microsoft. Now PostScript and TrueType are standard for both Macintosh and Windows operating systems.

PP&B: Paper, printing, and binding is a printing industry term that describes the manufacturing costs of a book.

PPI: Pages per inch, a measure of the thickness of the paper stock a book is printed on and thus of the book’s spine. Each paper stock may have a different PPI. The higher the number, the more pages per inch, and thus the thinner the spine. A book designer or manufacturer will use the PPI of specified paper stock to determine how wide spine artwork can be.

Preface: An author’s introduction to a book, usually written in a direct, conversational tone and explaining what inspired the book and who contributed to the project. Another frequent element of front matter, the foreword, is written by someone other than the author, usually as commentary on the book’s contents.

Prepub: An abbreviation for prepublication, often used to describe marketing moves that should occur well before a book is officially published, or discounts available before a book’s official publication date.

Prequel: Similar to a backstory, a prequel presents the story that occurred before the beginning of a novel. Prequels are often created after a novel has been successful enough to warrant a series.

Press check: An evaluation of the quality of a print job, usually by the production manager or book designer at the time the cover and each signature are printed. In a color print job, this requires that the production manager be present at the book manufacturer’s site when each plate change is made. The production manager will check for such possible problems as registration, bleed-through and inadequate ink coverage.

Printable: As in “enable printable,” a choice often appearing in metadata for digital books. Saying “yes” means the publisher gives permission for readers to print pages from an electronic edition.

Printer’s error (PE): A typesetting mistake. Unlike AAs (which stands for author’s alterations and is defined to include publisher’s changes as well), PEs must be corrected by the typesetter at no charge.

Printing blanket: A piece of rubber that transfers an image to paper in the offset printing process with the pressure of the rollers on the press. If rollers are damaged or not adjusted properly, they can cause the blanket to transfer too much or too little ink, resulting in such problems as inconsistency of color or coverage, streaks, and excessive dot gain.

Printing plate: Used in offset printing to transfer an image to paper, a printing plate may be metal, plastic, rubber, or paper. Typically, the plate is attached to a cylinder in the press.

Print-on-demand: The process of printing books on receipt of an order (the demand), usually with a digital press and often as one-offs.

Process color: Ink used in CMYK or four-color printing (cyan = blue; yellow = yellow; magenta = red; key = black).

Proof for approval: A proof sent by a vendor that requires approval from the publisher before the vendor can proceed to printing or binding.

Proofreading: Checking a manuscript or typeset material for typographical and other errors. Errors are noted with proofreaders’ marks, including handwritten symbols and abbreviations. See the Chicago Manual of Style for a complete list.

Proportional typefaces: Unlike characters created on typewriters, each of which takes up the same amount of space, characters created with typesetting programs take up different amounts. A lowercase m, for example, is likely to be at least three times the width of a lowercase i. With typesetting, a word with many narrow letters (title, for instance) will require far less space than it would have if typewritten.

Proposal: The document created by an author to sell a book to a publisher, with or without the assistance of an agent; sometimes called a prospectus, a book proposal typically includes a table of contents, two or more sample chapters, a description of the market for the book, and information about the author’s credentials and platform.

Public domain: Text and images not protected by copyright are classified as public domain. They may include material on which copyright has expired, material never copyrighted, or material not eligible for copyright. That material is in the public domain does not always eliminate the need for permission to use it or the need to pay for that right; if a copyright-free image is acquired from an archive, library, or stock photo company, for instance, permission to use that image must be obtained, and a fee may be charged.

Publication date, pub date: Supposedly the date when a book is published and available for purchase. Although some online retailers do not show books as available prior to the pub date designated by publishers in metadata, many books are actually in stores and being sold on the publisher’s Website and elsewhere months prior to pub date.

Pullquote: Like a callout, a pullquote is a phrase or short sentence taken from the text and presented in large type in a magazine piece or book to attract attention to a given point.


Picture Your Pictures Here

The IBPA Glossary that has been running in the Independent will be published as a book this fall, and members are invited to send images that illustrate terms it defines.

If you have images that could illustrate glossary entries—pictures of your books, or images otherwise related to your business (300 dpi, 5″ high, at least 500 pixels wide)—please send them to linda@ibpa-online.org with an email message that provides four pieces of information:


1. The term in the glossary that each image pertains to. For instance, you might want to show:

● an apron

● a bar code with embedded EAN

● a blind embossed cover

● a coil-bound book

● a die

● a die-cut cover or page in a children’s book

● a dump bin, with some or all of the display area empty to show construction

● a French-folded page as tipped into a book

● a gatefold

● a halftone detail clearly showing the screen

● a page of text from a hi-lo book

● a cover featuring overprinting with a translucent ink that created a new color

● a cover featuring an extremely expanded typeface

● a correction on a printed page made by overprinting

● a lay-flat binding

● a short passage of type set justified

● a short passage of type set ragged right

Or you might want to send an illustration of some other term or terms.

2. A title for each image, which should include the name of your company (for example, companynamelogo.tif, companynameproofreading.tif).

3. The format of each image you send. Images must reproduce well when reduced in size, perhaps to no more than two inches wide.

4. A credit line for photography or artwork if one is necessary.

If we use an image you send, it will run with a line identifying your company and, if applicable, the title of a particular book. If you are a book manufacturer or bindery, please submit only examples of work done for IBPA members.

The deadline for sending images to Linda is June 15.

We look forward to receiving them.



Linda Carlson, who published job-search guides for a dozen years starting in 1990, was among the first Seattle publishers to create PostScript files for electronic prepress, a laborious process before Acrobat simplified the export to PDF.






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