Congratulations Digital Printer, You’re a Bookbinder!

A lot of the news we get refers to the decline of print, and books in particular. Yet statistics paint a different picture. Self-publishing is going gangbusters, with would-be authors able to get into print (and eBooks) relatively easily. Photo books are still growing, as the urge to record family history has created another growing market for print. There’s even a local market for customized yearbooks.

Couple this with high-quality (and relatively low-cost) color digital print platforms, and you have opportunity! Color digital printers now realize that they can produce the complete product in-house, including high-quality hard cover books.

Hard cover binding has always presented the toughest finishing challenge. It’s a multi-step process in which you create the book block and cover (case) separately, then mate them, and add more “finishing touches” to the combined product.

Nevertheless, machine manufacturers have come to the rescue. Several domestic and foreign vendors have created short-run hard cover machines, which allow even first-time bindery operators to turn out quality finished books. Previous generations of these machines were geared towards longer runs, with setups that required lots of training.

The new workflow can produce one or two unique books at a time, where it’s necessary to change sizes rapidly. While the investment in these systems is not small, it’s comparable to the cost of a medium to higher-end digital printer.

Because the nature of short-run work also means short turnaround times, having all processes in-house allows printers to compete more effectively. The casemakers, casing-in machines, presses and joint-forming machinery are fairly easy to use, and their build quality is very good. Many machines feature color touchscreens that guide the operator through the production process.

Book binding is a time-honored craft for which some of the tools used date back a few hundred years. It’s still a craft that is taught in specialty programs that require a two-year commitment (with programs typically full!). So your employees are not going to become master bookbinders in a few weeks .

Don has worked in technical support, sales, engineering, and management during a career in both the commercial offset and digital finishing sectors. He is the North American representative for IBIS Bindery Systems, Ltd. of The United Kingdom.
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