Quality vs. Vanity
The quality of folding and trimming has also improved. Webs are scanned at various points to maintain accurate folding as the run goes through the rollers.
Binding has also seen improvements. And unlike my comments about color quality, readers do notice bad binding. While color quality is overrated, binding, in my opinion, has been underrated. Readers notice when issues are trimmed crookedly, or if there are double or missing signatures, if blow-in cards are bound in, or if pages fall out or glue is oozing.
With the advent of selective binding came the advancement of electronic readers that weigh and measure each book to verify caliper and check the integrity of the signatures. These technologies have helped minimize many of the problems listed above, but pages still can fall out, or inserts can go in the wrong place or not at all.
Most of the complaints I have been hearing from publishers about their printers is in the area of finishing, not printing.
To produce a 'quality' publication, focus on the quality of the binding. Score the covers on perfect-bound books, verify and double check all insert specifications, have pull tests with every issue and communicate to the printer your concern about the quality of finishing. It is just as important, if not more so, as printing quality when it comes to readers' impressions.
Better Paper, Better Products
The quality of paper has also improved over the years. Today's papers are brighter, whiter, stronger and lighter, and they share hybrid characteristics with foreign papers. Tensile-strength improvements have allowed better runability, not only allowing good print quality, but creating other efficiencies and ultimately lowering costs.
Better color controls, precise registration, cleaner dots and better paper characteristics have all contributed to raise the bar in magazine print quality, and lessen the need for subjective manual involvement.