The Changing of Standards
Some book publishers are realizing that they can apply similar tactics. Some books use a freesheet for library copies, designated for preservation, and the balance of the run is on a lower-quality groundwood. Although not one publisher would go on record with specifics, many said some publishers target certain mass merchandisers for groundwood versions. Discount retailers such as Wal-Mart and Costco may be getting groundwood versions instead of a higher-quality freesheet version.
It only makes good business sense to explore ways to reduce costs for products that retailers or resellers demand to be low-priced. But quality is still held in high regard with many publishers, and they are finding ways to maintain the integrity of quality.
Because the new, brighter, uncoated groundwoods feel so similar to common uncoated freesheets, it appears that no one, neither readers nor merchandisers, is noticing their use. So far, those who have noticed are the paper mills and printing companies, and even though they perform as they are hired to do by their customers, some are questioning the long-term quality of these groundwood papers.
They suggest that paper represents only a small portion of the cost of a book and an even smaller amount of its retail selling price. In very general terms, the text paper for a hardcover book that retails for $25 to $30 may only cost the publisher one dollar. Several have suggested that a better target for reductions may be the author’s fee or publisher’s profits, rather than the quality of the paper.
Specs of Today’s Groundwoods
Today’s uncoated groundwoods look and feel very similar to freesheets to the untrained eye. They have the same cream white as their freesheet counterparts, as well as some blue-white hybrids. But their specifications are quite different.
What makes these papers so popular, besides the cost savings, is their physical characteristics. Groundwoods contain fibers that help opacity. But one of their greatest attributes is their pages per inch (PPI) ratings, which can be 10-percent to 20-percent more than freesheets with the same basis weight. This allows publishers to print on a lighter basis weight, use 10-percent to 20-percent less paper and maintain the book’s bulk.