Press Update: Winter, 2024

At the Press, there is a danger of forgetting the digital distance that lies between an idea and its execution. The translators, editors, typesetters, and music engravers of the Press largely inhabit a digital world. We type and words appear on a screen; we click and a staff of music notation is adjusted to the right by a quarter of an inch; we attach a file and three weeks later we are shipped a box of printed books. Yet, between these actions, albeit quite necessary, and the physical manifestation of those books is a very real, very physical, and sometimes very messy and unpredictable process of printing. In order to better appreciate this fact, I dropped in this week to our local print shop to see the "incarnational" process of book making.

After the final cover and interior text file has been approved for print, the first step is typically printing the cover. These are printed on oversized paper and then trimmed later. Within a day of submitting a file for print and my visit to Spencer Printing, the covers had already been printed and were being laminated—lamination helps to protect the cover and gives a softer touch than uncoated stock. Below, Anthony unbinds the sheets of laminated covers and nimbly stacks them on a cart behind.

The process is only semi-automated. Anthony must monitor the paper as it comes through the rollers and he must be quick on his feet to catch them as they come through.

The next step is to print the interior pages. These are often done on Spencer's large off-set printer. Off-set printers use a series of engraved "plates"—actually flexible sheets that are wrapped around rollers—to impress the type or image into the paper. This is different than a digital printer—like most home printers—that inject ink on top of the paper. There will be a sheen to digitally printed text; off-set printed text will be matte and this quality improves readability.

After the covers have been printed and laminated and the interior pages printed and trimmed to size, they are brought to the binding machine. Spencer's recently acquired a new binding machine that is faster and provides a more flexible and durable binding. The machine is large and can appear a bit robotic behind its smooth plastic coverings and safety glass. However, while I was watching Anthony start up the machine, its glossy exterior was opened to reveal a very real and mechanical interior composed of gears, screws, knobs, and hoses. Another employee stepped over to tweak some component while Anthony spread a very messy blue glue in a box to bleed the line to the machine. Finally the machine had warmed up and Anthony was ready to start feeding the loose pages of each individual book into the machine.

Spencer's newly acquired Horizon Perfect Binder:

Once the covers and interior pages have been bound, they are taken to the trimmer, which cuts the cover and pages to the final trim size. Then they are boxed and ready for pickup or shipment.

All of these steps in the production of a book take time and attention. Sometimes, a screw will loosen, a pin shear, or a hose clog. Then the machine must be taken apart and repaired. There is no button to click nor App to download, just a little more grease underneath fingernails. While I was watching the book binding, behind me a magazine was being stitched (stapled on the spine). The machine, at one point, failed to fully trim a signature and the magazines started to bind up under the roller. The operator had to stop the machine, open the hood, identify, and fix the issue. We are used to having such mechanical issues hidden under a opaque layer of electronics and screens and this gives us the illusion that our desires are "just a click away." However, in the world of hard things, like a binding machine, or a stitcher, reality presents itself as something outside the control of our will, and this is very helpful. There is something "incarnational" about watching something digital come to life under the spinning head of an offset printer or the rhythmic thud of a laminating machine.

I am glad for the opportunity that, for STM Press, the digital divide is easy to span. Our printer is 15 minutes away from the monastery and its owner and his family regularly attend services. This way, it is easier for me to remember that, when I hit the send button on a book file, there are real people, and real things that must bring this digital idea to concrete realization—people and machines that I know and to whom I am partly responsible.


We are glad to announce that the following titles have been sent to print:
Common Book of Church Hymns: Vespers, 2nd edition
Common Book of Church Hymns: Divine Liturgy
Orthodox Christian Prayers, 11th printing (!!)
The Holy Psalter

Saint Seraphim of Dmitrov is very near to being sent to print as is The North American Thebaid. A few reprints are also nearly set:

Hieratikon, vol. 1 2nd ed.
Small Book of Needs
Service Book for the Faithful, 2nd ed.

A few longer term projects that are in process of being translated and edited and will appear in roughly this order:
The Great Book of Hours (Horologion)
The Great Book of Needs, vol. 1
The Holy Gospel
The Services of Holy Week
The Apostol

For many of these projects we are grateful to our Editor for Liturgical Texts, Fr John Mikitish, for his leadership and work as both a content-creator and editor. We are also very grateful for the relationship that continues to build between STM Press and SVS Press through the leadership of its managing editor, Fr Ignatius Green. We are excited that this collaboration has resulted with the publication of The Holy Psalter and look forward to collaborating of The Services of Holy Week and other future projects.

As always, we are grateful to our readers and their patience as we strive, with limited means and the unpredictable realities presented by physically printed books, to make high quality publications available to the Orthodox faithful.

—Priest Mikel Hill
Managing Editor, STM Press