An Update on Hard-Cover Bookbinding
Boy, if you want to look at a print segment undergoing a revolution, look no further than hard-cover books. Hard-cover bookbinding was (and is) perhaps the most craft-intensive finishing operation — with traditional bookbinding techniques even older than print itself. We’ve all observed the digital impact on books and textbooks, and the question is: where are we now?
Well, both retail and textbooks sales are holding their own against the E-book onslaught. While the E-book revolution launched with great fanfare some years ago, their initial attraction has faded, and real books promise to be around for the immediate future. But there have been some changes to hard-cover production — overall run lengths are down, but the number of runs are up.
Overall inventory control, the rise of self-publishing, photobooks, and other factors drive this. The results are two-fold. The level of automation in the higher-end systems (Kolbus, Muller Martini, Meccanotecnica) has gone way, way up. High-end (and high-speed) casemaking and casing-in machines costing millions of dollars can be quickly made-ready with automation. But the other end is the ability of smaller printers to produce quality hard-cover books. A whole slew of automated, but essentially very short-run systems, are available from innovative manufacturers such as GP2, ODM, Fastbind, Standard Horizon and others.
But another possibility for printers is to be able to use their existing bindery equipment to produce hard-cover books. In this respect, there are a whole range of new materials that allow you to turn out a high-quality, hard-cover book. One of the most innovative companies in the field is LBS of Des Moines, Iowa. Over the years, LBS developed a series of custom end-sheets used to make a hard-cover book case. Their Universal, Combined, and Folded Tabbed endsheets can be fed from the cover feeder station of most perfect binders. These are pre-assembled endhseets with the "crash" or gauze backing. Some come with attached flysheets.
The endsheets are available in a variety of sizes, which can cover a wide range of book block thicknesses. They enable a printer to use their perfect binder for both soft-, and hard-cover production. LBS has also spent a lot of time developing an improved bookbinding board. Board is what makes a hard-cover case, but it is subject to warping due to changes in moisture content and adhesive application. LBS PrimeOne cover board claims to be the most stable and warp-resistant board on the market.
Despite the many challenges in the book market, the actual manufacture of hard-cover books has never been more advanced or accessible for the average printer, and that’s a good thing!