Technical specificatons

August, 2022

The importance of technical specification for book procurement

Different types of books require specific technical specifications. The type of technical specification depends on the planned use of the book, desired durability, and location of where the book will be used. It is therefore extremely important to understand and abide by the specifications in any national or international book procurement tender.

Christophe Barth, Managing Director of BlueTree Group, contributed to this guide together with, and for the World Bank Read@Home project. The guide explains standard technical specifications for the most common types of books and teaching and learning materials used in reading projects.

Technical specifications included in a tender are; paper specifications, printing specifications, binding specifications, packaging descriptions, standards and certifications.


Paper is very important in book production, as it accounts for 50 to 70% of the book costs, and the type of paper selected directly impacts the book’s durability. Paper is classified based on the type of pulp used to make it; the brightness, opacity, whiteness, and weight of the paper; and the type of coating. For example, woodfree paper is of higher quality, and will thus last longer, but the process of making the paper is more expensive. While mechanical paper does not last that long, and becomes yellow over time, but is more economical to produce. Therefore mechanical paper is advised for books that are used for less than a year, like workbooks, and is woodfree paper advised for books that should be more durable, like textbooks and reading books.

Technical Specifications book procurement


Similarly, the type of cover and binding are vital for book durability. The ideal type of book cover based on the type and size of the book is specified as well as the relevant binding method. For student workbooks, it is important that learners are able to keep the book flat open when writing on them, hence saddle stitching would be specified, however for teacher guides which are bigger books, in terms of page size, PUR would be the preferred choice. Covers and binding ensure that the pages of the book remain together, contribute to durability and should be appropriately chosen based on the type of books being produced.


It is known that the printing industry has a significant negative environmental impact, related to air pollution and wastewater, it is becoming relevant in most reading projects that this should be addressed and promote the use of best practices by obtaining certifications. To reduce the negative environmental impact of a reading project, the national and international tender could focus on the use of certificates and standards in paper mills and for paper that guarantee well-managed processes. One of these certificates is the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), this certification ensures that produces come from responsibly managed forests, which provide environmental, social and economic benefits.

In the guide, the technical specifications of 13 books often used in reading projects are described, including comments and recommendations. Using these technical specifications during a reading project will ensure that the books produced will be of a constant high quality, sustainable and cost-effective.

Download full guide 


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