Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lotsa News This Week

A lot has been going on recently.

First, a group of us flew out to Sweden last month. Most of you know about that. We got to hang out with the guys from Swedish Match and we took an in-depth tour of the Tobacco and Matchstick Museum. A fun time was had by all- expect a detailed virtual tour of the Tobacco Museum in an upcoming issue. You can see a tour video here at our new Youtube page.

Hello from Sweden! Pardon my chesthair.

That brings us to the second bit of news. We are now on Youtube!

It's Friday, Friday, Jason Voorhees knows it's Friday...

Just like Rebecca Black, we payed thousands of dollars to a shady talent promoter who promised to make us stars. Instead, we ended up with these videos. And just like Rebecca Black, everyone hates us.

Feel free to subscribe to us. We're not going to do tobacco reviews or anything like that. We're just going to make stupid commercials every now and then. Check us out!

Thirdly, we've revamped our website. Gone are the pale, earthy soft tones and in its place we've gone with a moody red on black vampirish goth girl getup.

I wish the Ephemeris dressed like me. Sigh.   

I personally like the new color scheme. It reminds me of my coffin. What I don't like about it is that our crappy server takes forever to load the page. Maybe when we win the lottery we'll upgrade to a better package.

And fourthly and probably most importantly, we started shipping out Volume One (Redux) and Volume Two yesterday. We should have all orders filled by Friday (Saturday at the latest). As usual, earliest orders ship first.

"Shh! I reading teh haunted snuff mill article."

The new printer we're using is decent. There are a number of tiny flaws in the new run that I wish didn't exist, but our budget prevents us from being too picky in our choice of companies. Overall, it's livable I guess, but it would be great if we could finally get The Ephemeris looking perfect as it comes off the line.

The problem we have with our publication is that magazine printers don't want to handle us because we're book-sized. Book printers don't want to handle us because we're a periodical. That leaves us two options: a Kinko's-style chain print shop that specializes in restaurant menus and concert flyers; or an independent print shop that does a little bit of everything. We always choose the latter.

These small independent printers often have little to no experience with a publication of our size, and so they make a lot of mistakes. Sometimes the pages are printed at a slight angle. Sometimes the color isn't quite correct. Sometimes the toner arm jams or bleeds, leaving a blotchy or faded print on some pages. Sometimes the mechanical paper feeder jams up and creases or miscuts the page.

Here's your books! Whaddya mean they're ‘unreadable’?

Then there's the binding. The Ephemeris currently uses an expensive (but necessary, in my opinion) three-stage binding process. First, the manuscript pages are sidestiched (stapled down the edge). Then the spine is bound using archival-grade hot glue. Finally, the cover is glued on, down the center of the spine. This triple stage binding is an old technique that was used on paperback books before they came to be considered "disposable." Back then, paperbacks were built to last, and if you have a quality softcover from the twenties or thirties, chances are all the pages are still intact.  

But we don't do this just for nostalgia's sake. We do it for readability and durability. The cheapest publications get a single stage binding that basically means the spine pages are glued directly to the cover. Grab a digest sized publication like TV Guide or Reader's Digest, and you'll notice this type of binding. You'll probably also note how easily the pages can be torn out. This is why I don't use the cover melt binding.

Then, there's the two stage glue process, which is what we used for the "first day" printing of Volume II. This process involves (A) gluing the spine pages together and then (B) gluing the bound pages to the cover. This is a pretty decent method that allows for durability in modern magazines. (National Geographic comes to mind, as do most mass-market paperback books). What went wrong with this process for us is when the aforementioned printing errors cropped up and slightly miscut pages were bound together. When one or two pages are cut short (meaning they're not as wide as they should be), the glue doesn't reach the edge like it should and so the page becomes loose over time (or worse, not attached at all). This isn't a problem for bigtime printers who use computer controlled machinery and ultra-tight specifications. But for a mom and pop print house that uses machinery that hasn't changed much since in the last two centuries; well- let's just say it's very common and very noticeable.  

I asked our new printer if there was any way to prevent this problem by first stapling the seam and then doing the two-stage glue bind. "Sure," he exclaimed, "we can totally do that! But we have to do it by hand- we don't have the machinery to do it automated." (Translation= "Yeah, we'll do it, but it will cost you. Cha-ching.") But the results look allright so far, so we'll stick with it.

So there's most of the errors that occur in the printing and binding process. Then there's the final stage, which is edge trimming. A big stack of books (25-100 at a time, depending on the shop and machine) is placed in this monster and the edges are all cut evenly.

Sounds simple right? It usually is, until you come across a shop that doesn't (or can't afford) to keep their machinery perfectly calibrated and properly maintained. (In my experience, this applies to 99% of the independent print shops out there). That's when you end up with miscut edges, or pages trimmed too close to the text, or a stack of books that isn't tightened down properly and ends up shifting during the cutting process, etc. Your copy of the Ephemeris can go through the entire print/bind process without a flaw, and then end up a victim of the cutting block.

One reason I use a real-life human being to hand-mail all the subscriber copies is because I want someone with a brain to be able to spot huge glaring mistakes and discard the worst offenders. Jasper usually catches all the really bad copies, but even he misses one every now and then. Even still, I would estimate that 90% of our final print run contains at least a few minor cosmetic flaws. It's not because we're lazy, or because our standards aren't high enough- we really wish we could control the entire print process, but we can't. And I've learned the hard way that it's pretty much the same all over. Every printer in our budget produces about the same results.

So we're probably always going to be a little rough around the edges, aesthetically. Some of our more forgiving readers claim that this is part of our charm. We'll buy that. Even better, one of our hardcore fans said that the guerrilla-publishing look of the Ephemeris was "sexy!" (We were flattered.)

In a scientific study to determine the precise amount of sexy contained in each issue, a copy of The Ephemeris was secretly placed in a crowded library. Everyone instantly started making out and touching each other. When the copy was removed, the library patrons put their clothes back on and continued searching for the latest Deepak Chopra opus. 

And finally, in non-Ephemeris news, Swedish Match has released two new American-styled snuses for the convenience store market. We usually don't print information like this in our blog, but SM flew us out to Chicago and bought us dinner, so we felt obligated to throw them a bone. (Just kidding Swedish Match! Don't forget to get back to us on that advertising thing...) But anyway, if you want to find out more about these products, check out Mick and Larry's articles on or Anthony Haddad's writeup on

Till next time,
RW Hubbard

No comments:

Post a Comment