It's A Small World After All
I spent the bulk of my finishing career in the mailing and commercial bindery environment. I never had the chance to spend a lot of time in the traditional hard-cover bookbinder’s world. My first exposure was in listening to Professor (now Emeritus) Werner Rebsamen at the Annual Research and Engineering Council Of The Graphic Arts. He was (and still is) our “go-to” guy for all things hard cover. Werner spent most of his life in the bookbinding trade, and has literally traveled the world assisting printers (and governments) solve their bindery problems.
Hard-cover bookbinding is a craft that has a history measured in centuries, and one of my discoveries was how small the specialty machinery world in hard cover actually was. Coming from commercial bindery, I’m familiar with many different (world-wide) manufacturers of buckle folders, saddle-stitchers, perfect binders, and more. By contrast, how many companies make edge-gliding machines? (One, as far as I can tell). How about head-and-tail banding? Ribbon inserting? Antiquing of cases? Gold embossing and foil stamping machines?
Don’t get me wrong. Both Muller Martini and Kolbus sell highly automated (and costly) hard-cover production lines that can be configured with a lot of these features as add-ons. But there are also a small number of vendors who specialize in more esoteric hard-cover finishing operations. I’ve met many of them at the semi-annual Hard Cover and Library Binding Institute meetings. They service a market which many commercial bindery folks are not well aware of, the library re-binders, specialty binders, religious publishers, memory books, and others. This segment has been hit by the growth of e-books and cuts in funding for many libraries. But these vendors know their market and customers well, and they rapidly adapt to any changes or machine feature requests that they come across. They will survive for quite some time.