Guide for Acceptable Variations in Production

With the Print-on-Demand process used by Lightning Source, books are printed and manufactured in a one-off model using both automated and manual processes. Each book is manufactured in its entirety, every time an order is placed. Due to slight changes in production from day to day, variations in printing and manufacturing are a common occurrence. Likewise, submitted files that do not meet our recommended technical specifications can produce a printed product that differs from the digital file and/or eproof. We make provisions for and indicate in our company documentation, that there may be up to a 1/16” shift or +/-0.1 color density variation on any book manufactured by Lightning Source. Orders outsourced to other printers we have partnered with will also meet Lightning Source print requirements and acceptable variations as described below.

Below is a list of the most common production variances. 


Specific Positioning of Content and/or Design Elements:

Due to the 1/16th inch (0.0625 in / 2 mm) production variance, cover and interior files submitted with specific positioning of content and/or design elements may shift from the originally intended placement. These may appear correct in the digital file and/or eproof, but may shift during production. This includes, but is not limited to the list below:

  • Margins less than the recommended 0.5 in (13mm)
  • Outside borders that sit close to the trim/fold edges
  • Page numbers that sit outside the recommended 0.5 in (13mm) safety
  • Numbered or labeled tabs that sit outside the recommended 0.5 in (13mm) safety
  • Text on spines with a spine width smaller than 0.35 in (9mm)
  • Text on spines/covers that sit close to or extend past the safety edges
  • Images or design elements that cross the interior gutter
  • Images or design elements that sit close to the wrap area on dust jackets 
    and/or case laminate covers
  • Cover designs with a different spine background color/image than the front and/or back cover

Cover Template:

The Lightning Source cover template is a tool to assist in the cover file creation process. The cover template should be used at the size/resolution it is received and includes areas that will fold (visibly and invisibly), areas that will be cut off, and areas that will be centered. As with anything that is manually produced, there will be slight variations in the final product, from the template (not to exceed a 1/16th inch shift = 0.0625 in / 2 mm).


Case Laminate Cover Template:

Due to the complexity of the binding process, the case laminate covers can have the most variation between the template and the bound book. The case laminate cover template contains two areas that must be taken into consideration when designing the cover, the hinge (gutter) and the wrap. Case laminate templates indicate a 0.5 in (13mm) hinge area where the spine board is connected to the front and back cover boards. On the bound book, this area will be pliable and have a slight indention. As such, we recommend taking extra care that there are no important design elements in the hinge area. Case laminate templates also indicate a 0.625 in (15mm) wrap area. This outer area wraps around the cover boards to the inside cover and is covered with the white end sheets.

With these areas in mind, there are two ways to approach the case laminate cover design. One approach is to center the front cover from the spine edge to the outside edge of the cover board (including the hinge area). The other approach is to center the cover elements on the front cover boards (pink safe area on the templates). This will center the cover elements on the front and back cover boards. The eproof and marketing image assume this second approach and will only show the area within the boundaries of the cover boards. This is visually different than the bound book, which includes the hinge area.



Bleed refers to the 0.125 in (3mm) portion of the background image and/or color that extends past the trim edge in a cover or interior file (except for the aforementioned case-bound cover). A PDF file submitted without the full 1/8th inch (0.125 in/3mm) bleed will result in an inconsistent white border. Bleed should only be added to the top, bottom, and outside edge of the PDF file. Bleed added to the gutter edge may cause the page content to shift unintentionally. Please ensure that the PDF file submitted contains the appropriate amount of bleed as some programs will show bleed in the original document, but unless intentionally added, will not be included in the PDF. The Lightning Source/IngramSpark eproof crops interior pages to trim size, so a PDF file submitted without bleed will not be noticeable through the eproof.


Files for Color Printing:

Lightning Source/IngramSpark recommends submitting color files in CMYK mode, without the use of ICC profiles. Files submitted in RGB or with an ICC profile may appear as intended in the digital file and/or eproof, however, once converted to CMYK, the colors may appear washed out or muddy.


Files for Black and White Printing:

Lightning Source/IngramSpark recommends submitting files for black and white printing in Grayscale mode, without the use of ICC profiles - text should be 100% Black (C-0, M-0, Y-0, K-100) and images should be grayscale. Please be aware that images that are not converted and exported properly, may appear visually black and white in the digital file, however, when reviewed in Acrobat, they are in actuality, CMYK or RGB. Color text, graphics or images, including CMYK/RGB images that appear visually black and white, may print darker or different than intended.


Overprint Fill:

Overprint Fill is a setting in most graphic programs used to tell a printer when one graphic element should print “over” another graphic element. Some graphic programs, such as Adobe InDesign or Illustrator, set 100% Black to overprint by default. It’s assumed that 100% black will be used for black text and in most instances, should overprint. Overprint Fill can become a problem, when 100% black is used for design elements set over other elements or when light-colored text/graphics, that sit over a darker color, are inadvertently set to overprint. Graphic elements inadvertently set to overprint fill may appear correct in the digital file or eproof, but will appear different when printed.


Quality of Text/Images:

Files containing low-quality text or images may appear crisp when viewed digitally, especially when viewed at 100%. However, when printed and viewed on paper, low-quality text or images can be more perceptible. 




Jet-outs or Ink Voids:

Due to the nature of inkjet printers, interior files for titles set up as Black and White or Standard Color, can from time to time, print with thin white lines/voids (1/600 of an inch in width) through images and/or graphics. While these are considered an unavoidable occurrence in inkjet printing, they should never exceed more than three lines per page.


Paper Waviness:

Books manufactured by Lightning Source are printed in a climate-controlled environment to minimize any type of moisture-based damage. However, when the units leave the print facility they are exposed to different climate conditions, as well as different levels of pressure. Mild waves of the pages may occur under these circumstances and are an unavoidable issue.


Spine Creases:

Fold creases, on the front and back cover, along the spine edge, are a common occurrence due to our binding processes. Fold creases can be more noticeable with matte laminated covers. Additionally, cover designs with heavy ink coverage are more prone to lamination adhesion issues in the crease area.


Gutter Marks:

Printer marks along the gutter side of the interior pages are utilized for calibration and help to keep toner levels consistent. These marks must be positioned just outside of the gutter edge and cannot be moved to an area that is trimmed off. The spines are milled prior to binding to minimize the visibility of the marks. Typically, they aren’t very visible, but printed books with slightly visible printer marks, within the gutter, may be considered to be within our production variance.


Minor Defects:

Minor manufacturing defects can occur from time to time. Below is a list including, but not limited to, defects that when minor, are not considered to make a product unsellable: 

  • Cover scratches
  • Smudges in the lamination (Usually this is glue which can be wiped off with a damp cloth)
  • Dents
  • Inkspots
  • Folded pages
  • Lamination creases or scored hinges
  • Gutter read marks

Cover Variations Between Different Manufacturing Sites:

Sometimes there is a difference in cover production between manufacturing sites. We use inkjet printers and laser printers at our facilities that are both high-quality; however, due to the nature of these printers, the different products may have some variations.

Offset Orders:

Larger orders of 750+ units placed with the Extended Print service level may be sent to an offset vendor and may not be manufactured by Lightning Source/IngramSpark. You may see slight variations in the printed product in areas like color or binding due to the different printing methods used. 

Additional Blank Pages:

The verbiage below can be found in the Lightning Source File Creation Guides:

All text files will be processed and stored in our digital library with a page count that is divisible by two. The last page facing the inside back cover must be blank for insertion of Lightning Source’s manufacturing information. If necessary, Lightning Source will automatically add additional pages to achieve appropriate page counts. These additional pages are included in the book’s final page count and the print cost is charged for these additional pages.

Books that are 6.14” x 9.21” (234 x 156) and smaller will be printed in either six-page (three front/three back) or four-page (two front/two back) single sheet signatures.

Books that are larger than 6.14” x 9.21” (234 x 156) will be printed in four-page (two front/two back) single sheet signatures.

signature is a group of pages that are printed on both sides of a single sheet of paper that once folded, trimmed, bound and cut, become a specific number of pages depending on the page size and the size of the press sheet.

Due to the physical nature of the printing and binding process, all books manufactured will have an even amount of physical pages (starting with a right-side page and ending with a left side page). The final amount of physical pages is a direct result of the title’s specific bind type, print type, and trim size. Please be aware that the page count visible in your account is directly related to the file processed and stored in our digital library, with the Lightning Source manufacturing information. However, the page count of the physical book may increase, depending on the printed signature.


Lightning Source strives to make a quality product and is happy to review all customer claims based on production issues. Replacements will be made for books with major physical damage or manufacturing defects related to, but not limited to paper, lamination, glue, or production issues that would cause the book to be defective and unsellable.

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