Saddle-stitched printing going away

Tom Stephens's picture
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Just wanted to give everyone a heads up.

I learned last night that Lightning Source, the company DriveThruRPG uses to do its print on demand printing, is discontinuing their offering of saddle stitch binding begining March 1, 2021.  They have decided that it is not economically viable for them to continue to provide this option.  This is the binding format we've been using for the Frontier Explorer since we started that gives us the old-school staples in the middle look and allows us to occasionally put pages in the middle you can pull out of the printed magazine.

So what does this mean?

First, if you just get the magazine digitally, there will be zero impact.

Second, going forward, all print versions of new issues of the Frontier Explorer will be perfect bound (like a paperback novel/hardback book).  That's the only option we will have.  Starting with issue 31 (coming out next week) we will be building the magazine for that format.  The truth is we haven't taken advantage of the saddle stitched binding for several years; we very rarely have anything that requires a two page spread.  So while this will impact my production of each issue slightly, it won't really affect your use of the printed version if you get them other than it might be a bit harder to get them to lay flat.  For those few back issues that did have a center spread, it will unfortuantely no longer be usable as we had originally intended.

Third, I'm going to try to get the print files updated for all of the back issues to the new format.  The existing files won't work.  If you try to order them, Lightning Source will supposedly reject the order.  It's not clear yet exactly how that will work.  And to be fair, it's actually just the cover files that I need to update, the interior files are fine.  Luckily, the issues are almost all the same size so it should be a fairly straightforward process (and fairly quick) to make the new files.  The trick will be if DTRPG makes me buy new print proofs for every back issue.  With 30 back issues plus the two technical manuals, that will cost a small chunk of change (~$200-250) and take some time.  I'm going to try to get this all done before March 1st, but if I don't, some back issues of the magazine will not be available with a POD option for a while.

Fourth, I may revisit the magazine size.  We have always kept it at 48 pages maximum since going any large pushed us out of saddle-stitched and into perfect bound.  Since we are going there anyway, we no longer have that size limit.  I don't think I'll raise the page count, as that means more editing work for each issue, but it also means that I don't have quite the hard cap and if I go a bit over, it's not the end of the world.  We'll see where this takes us over the course of the coming issues.

The bottom line is that if you want print copies in the saddle-stitched binding, you have until Feb 28th to get your order in.  And I'd recommend getting it in a bit earilier than that as I don't know how they will handle the transition.  I assume they'll accept orders up to that date and fulfill them into March (it takes up to 2 weeks after you place the order for it to get printed and ship), but who knows. In any case, the winds of change are blowing and there isn't anything we can do about it, we just need to roll with it and move forward.