Splitting An Ice Cream Sandwich With McCain

Dude, not THAT McCain. God, I am shameless. And for my link-baiting sins this site is probably being monitored by the FBI right now right now.

The McCain in the title refers to a binding style known as McCain. It is a case-bound and side-sewn style. Jargon free version: folded piles of paper stitched together through the top and glued to a hard cover. Variations on this theme are called Smyth sewn and Moffet sewn. McCain is industry standard for thick, heavy textbooks (are there any other kind?) because of its strength. Schools need something strong enough that eccentric French teachers (are there any other kind?) can throw at a kid mis-conjugating the verb “savoir.” Sacre bleu! Le subjonctif! Yes, this actually happened. No I was not the kid; my pronunciations were “for-me-DA-bleh.”

McCain stitches pinch the paper with great strength, like the way the playground bully used to pinch that spot where your neck meets your collarbone. And just as hard. While the book can lie flat, some of the paper is lost in the pinch and will never be visible unless you rip the book apart. Industry standard for the kind of book I used to work on was to leave a quarter inch or 1p6 on the inside margin of each page empty as a “no print” or “no ink” zone. You can see it if you look at the top or bottom of a side sewn book.

Oh, how tempting it was to put secret messages to the kids in the no print zone.

If you can read this, you’re too close!
I am the Walrus.
Neo, this is Morpheus, get out of that classroom NOW!
Frodo lives.
And so on.

So when you have a photo that spans the gutter, you have to account for the no print zone. Otherwise half an inch of the picture will be lost. This is great if you’re doing a Mad Magazine Fold-In, or have a thing for cyclopses,

+ McCain =

but it’s not usually recommended. My $60 ginormous Beatles Anthology book doesn’t have a NPZ, and thus there’s a cyclops George Harrison on p.450.

The fix is to split the image and move the two halves away from each other a half inch (or whatever your industry standard is), with the gap centered on the gutter.

Say you had to make this ice cream sandwich to look right across the gutter.

Select the frame and copy and paste it in place (cmd-shift-opt-v, or even easier, option-nudge/nudge back).

Throw a guide where you want the image to match up till you get the hang of it, or to check your work. Then move the copy 3p to the right.

Or move the other one 3p to the left, or split the difference and move them in opposite directions 1p6. Which way you go depends on the flexiblity of your layout. If you have no flexibility, you have to scale or crop your image to make it 3p narrower.

Close up the frames to empty the gutter and you’re done. Or leave a little extra something for someone to stumble upon when the book is old and falling apart.

The guides show that the two sides will match up when the book is laid open.


8 Responses

  1. Excellent info. I love to read your posts. In this one in particular, how do you find the exact measurement for the gutter? Is there a standard, like the bleed is usually one eighth of an inch?

    Keep up the excellent work!

  2. Thanks, Jose. I don’t have a great answer as to how to always know how much gutter space to leave. The quarter inch is overkill in most situations, and to me, a white gap looks worse than a pinched photo. So unless you know it’s a McCain binding, go lower. I think an eight of an inch would work in a lot of situations. On the other hand, I have some tight perfect bound books that could use that quarter inch. I’d say try to ask the printer, and failing that, check out some similar books and make your best guess. Good luck!

  3. Mike,
    I have no idea what you’re talking about (my comprehension at this point is just at about Ethan’s blog, which I love) but I loved this post. From the title I really thought I finally had a Rankin defect to the dark side (although I’m very Republican and not even I will be voting for McCain).
    You are obviously very good at what you do. Try to keep that from your extended (married) family or you will be very busy with Photoshop and other questions til the day you shed this mortal coil.

  4. Mike, doesn’t the NPZ change depending on where it falls within the book and the thickness of the book? For some reason I remember pages closer to the center of the book needing a somewhat wider NPZ than those nearer the outer edges because the pressure of the other pages compresses those pages more and they won’t open as far. Sort of like allowing for the turn-of-cloth in a collar (to insert a sewing term here.)

  5. Michelle-
    My one great defense is that I am a Mac guy and most of the family is PC, so I can shed those Windows questions right away. As for Photoshop jobs, don’t be shy. It’s more than just a job, it’s an adventure. I can turn crying kids at Disney World into smiling cherubs. And in 20 years who’ll remember?

  6. Robin-
    You make a great point. I’ve never gone that extra mile to set up a variable NPZ. After reading your comment I did some forensic work to measure what is actually visible in a McCain bound book. The results were shocking. Shocking, I tell you. I’ll do a second post on this topic to explain it in detail. How’s that for a tease?

  7. Mike–

    See? And you production types are always complaining that we designers don’t know what we’re doing…

  8. Hi Mike,
    Still waiting for that second post! Great explanation!!

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