HOW TO – make 140 million books

Page after PageThis week Puffin took a trip all the way to Norfolk to visit Clays, the magical company who make all the millions of books that Penguin publish. Here are some of the amazing facts I learned.

  1. Clays was formed in 1817, so has been producing books for almost 200 years
  2. They employ 700 super-whizzy people to make sure all the books get made on time
  3.  The Clays buildings spread over 11 acres (that’s more than 7 football pitches) in an otherwise tiny village called Bungay (Bungay, Bungay, Bungay – I could say that all day!)
  4. Clays produce more than 140 million books a year, which means 3 million books a week, which means ½ million books a day, which can mean 20,000 books made by one machine in one hour – phew, that’s a lot of books . . .

The book making process is very clever and complicated, and too much for a little Puffin’s brain to fully take in, but this is what I know. There are three elements involved in making a book – printing, colour, and binding – and this is what each of them involves.



–          Here the text of a book is printed onto big aluminium templates, which each hold one section of the book, so that there are lots of templates for each book.

–          The templates are then stamped onto huge great rolls of paper that whizz through a machine.

–          The machine then cuts these rolls of paper into sections, and folds them neatly into book shapes.

–          Huge numbers of each section are made, and taken to a different part of the factory.


–          This is the process that makes the book covers.

–          The first step is just like the printing – the design is printed onto different stencils, but this time they’re not only printed in black, but also blue, pink and yellow.

–          Each coloured stencil then stamps big pieces of card. The colours are so precise that the combinations create all the other beautiful colours we see.

–          Then the card moves onto a different machine that adds all the extra parts that make covers special – the metallic or embossed sections.

–          Here the machine brings down another heavy stamp, which adds either a foil layer or embossing (which makes things stand out) to sections of the book. For this part the factory workers have to be really careful to make sure that these additions line up perfectly with the rest of the printed design.

–          Now the covers are complete!


–          This element is the most exciting because it is here that the whole book comes together.

–          Machines bring all the different sections of the book together onto a huge conveyor belt.

–          It then releases one copy of each section at a time so that the book pages come together in the right order.

–          Next a big clamp grabs the book and hot glue is applied to it which binds all the pages together.

–          More glue is then applied to add the book cover to the pages.

–          The whole book then whizzes round the building for a long time to cool down.

–          Finally, it goes through a machine that neatly cuts all of the sides.

And that’s a finished book! Ready to be sent off to all the different bookshops and, most importantly, to Puffin HQ!




2 thoughts on “HOW TO – make 140 million books

  1. Pingback: HOW TO – make 140 million books | bookwormlets

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