Paper grade and quality for book printingAs an author and independent publisher, you have a dizzying array of paper to choose from for your book. How do you know which type and grade to use? It’s helpful to think about the qualities of paper, and how they best match to the nature and purpose of your book.

Brightness: How white, or reflective, is the paper? Brightness is measured on a scale of 1 to 100, with most commercial papers falling in the 90 range. Cheaper, less bright papers are in the 80 range.

Opacity: How translucent is the paper? When you hold a page up to the light, can you see what is printed on the other side? Most times, yes, but this is rarely a problem. Problems arise when you can see what is printed on the other side of the page when you don’t hold the page up to the light, particularly if your book contains photos. Opacity is also measured on a 1 to 100 scale with most papers falling in the 80 to high 90 range.

Weight: How heavy, or thick, is the paper? Paper is measured in pounds—the weight of 500 press-size sheets. A book cover is 100-lb or 120-lb, which is usually expressed as 10-point and 12-point “cover stock.” Book interior pages are typically 50- or 60-lb.

Texture: Texture refers to the paper’s surface. A typical book page is uncoated. Normally, a page in a full-color coffee table book or cookbook is coated (great for wiping up spills!). Coated paper comes in matte (dull) or glossy coated. Paper can also be manufactured with custom textures such as linen, pebbled, or silk.

Color: Books can be printed on bright white or off-white stock (often referred to as natural or crème). Natural paper is a good choice for straight text books. White paper makes photos pop. Coated white paper makes photos pop even more.

Offset book printers offer a good choice of cover and text papers, including several classes of recycled paper. At POD printers, the choices are limited because they use toner-based printing equipment that is more prone to paper jams than printing presses. Ask your book printer to send paper samples so you can see and feel the quality for yourself.

Rather than making the decision on your own, however, ask the advice of a book designer, who can offer additional guidance based on the nature and content of your book and the subliminal message you want to send to the buyer.