Readers Spreads & Printers Spreads, What’s the Difference?

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Readers Spreads & Printers Spreads, What’s the Difference?

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between readers spreads and printers spreads?

In the printing industry a “spread” is the general term used to describe a pair of facing pages, typically the left and right pages in a publication like a book, magazine or newspaper. Imagine that you’re holding a book or magazine in your hands. Now open the book to any two pages.  You will now be looking at both a left hand and right-hand page at the same time.  Those two individual pages viewed together create a “spread”. However, there are two types of spreads used in printing: a reader’s spread and a printer’s spread.

Reader Spreads

The order in which you would read the pages of a book in their natural order from first to last is known as a reader’s spread. For example, page 1, 2/3, 4/5, 6/7 and so on is a reader’s spread. And when you are designing a multipage book in InDesign (or another page layout program), and you have your layout set for “facing pages”, you will see the left hand and right-hand pages side by side. Again, this is considered a “reader spread”.

Printer Spreads

Printer spreads are not in consecutive page order, they are in proper order so that when the document is printed, trimmed and assembled all the pages appear in the proper order. Printer spreads are the 2 pages that end up side by side on an imposition. It should be noted that the way the printers spread gets setup might be slightly different depending on whether it’s being printed on an offset press or a digital press due to the maximum sheet size each press can run.  For a typical saddle stitched booklet, we would impose 4 – 8 ½ x 11 pages into an 11”x17” form with pages 1 & 4 on the back side and pages 2 & 3 on the front side (see illustration below).  We do the same thing with all the subsequent pages in the document and when all the 11”x17” forms are nested together after being printed, stapled and folded, the page sequence will be correct.

How printers spreads work with saddle stitched books

For a perfect bound (also wiro or spiral bound) books the pages will be laid out as 8 ½ “ x11” with alternating pages imposed front and back (1/2,3/ 4, 5/6, etc.) which are either printed already collated (digital printing) or are collated after printing (offset printing) prior to being bound.  The chart below illustrates the difference between readers spreads and printers spreads.

Readers spreads vs printers spreads

Should I Design My Files as Reader Spreads or Printer Spreads?

Whenever you are designing a multi-page book that you intend to send to a commercial printing company, you should always lay the pages out as single facing pages.

This will allow you to be able to view the crossovers (the graphics that extend across the two pages from the left-hand page to the right-hand page) as well as seeing how the two pages look together. If you designed your file as single pages only and not facing pages, you will not be able to tell if your crossovers line up properly.

The single-page PDF with bleed is the preferred choice of format for a print-ready PDF file. We request that files be uploaded as single pages in the following order: outside front cover, inside front cover, interior pages (1,2,3, etc.), then inside back cover and outside back cover.

How printers spreads get imposed

When to Use a Spread

A spread format works well with a Perfect Bound Book cover. Format your spread in the following order: back cover, spine, front cover.  The thickness of the spine is going to depend on the weight of the paper your interior pages are going to be printed on.  Your printer can usually help you determine what spine width to use.

Brochures are also great options for spreads. Especially tri-folds, bi-folds, accordion, and gate folds.  Each will require very different page setups. And some multi-fold brochures will need critical sizing so the panels can fold into each other properly. As an example, a 16-1/2″ tri-fold brochure cannot be split equally into three panels. The panel that folds in will need to be slightly smaller than the other two in order to make all the panels lay flat.

If you are unsure on the use of spreads for your print project, it’s best to reach out to the customer service rep at your print vendor.  Often the customer service rep will put your in touch with the pre-press operator who is an expert on preparing files to be sent to the press which makes them the most knowledgeable resource for making sure your finished printed documents meet your expectations.

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