Thinking of Entering the Textbook Market? These Guidelines Are Followed By All Major Players.

Nearly twenty years ago, three U.S. organizations—National Association of State Textbook Administrators (NASTA), Association of American Publishers (AAP), and Book Manufacturers’ Institute (BMI)—created the Manufacturing Standards and Specifications for Textbooks (MSST).


MSST’s purpose was to establish physical standards of quality for elementary and high school (i.e., El-Hi) textbooks which typically have a lengthy shelf life, the result of a state adoption process which “adopts” educational resources for a period of at least six years. It’s important to note that MSST does not dictate how a book can be manufactured, e.g., perfect bound, side sewn, etc. However, the standards place the onus on the manufacturer to certify that the books that they’ve produced comply with a variety of quality benchmarks.


Such compliance involves certain configurations in finishing equipment, including:

  • Tightbacking. Every El-Hi book manufacturer must have the capability to do “tightbacking.” That’s the process by which the spine of the book block is affixed to its case with a strong adhesive so it doesn’t tear away from the case.


  • Gauzing. Also known as “crash,” or “super,” gauzing is a rigorous cheesecloth material that can be penetrated by adhesive and is used to strengthen the construction of the book. So, in an El-Hi book manufacturing operation, a casing-in line that puts the bookblock and case together also needs to have a station which applies gauzing.


And, the MSST’s gauzing requirements are quite particular. The material must overlap one full inch (25 millimeters) over the sides of the book. And, certain equipment may not be currently set up to do that because the backlining material that covers the headband and the crash station are physically connected. So when you adjust one, you adjust the other.


I admit this can all sound a little ho-hum. However, MSST is well known in the EL-Hi marketplace. And, should an El-Hi publisher be faced with a quality problem caused by improper book construction, that publisher has every right to request a reprint—at your expense.


Of course, what is beginning to complicate the El-Hi book manufacturing process is the growth of digital printing whereby educators and publishers develop content that’s very customized, right down to the classroom level. And, although book on demand and short runs are not as prolific in this particular market, they are starting to penetrate. However, for now, MSST is moot on the printing process, and when these standards aren’t followed, it’s the book’s manufacturer who’s held accountable.


To order the latest edition of MSST, click here.

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