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Bookbinder and Bindery Careers, Jobs and Employment Information

Bookbinder and Bindery Career and Job Highlights

  • Typically bookbinders and bindery workers receive training on the job.
  • As a result of more efficient binder operations, new business methods, and competition form imports, employment is projected to fall.
  • Prospects for hand bookbinders are small since only a few firms perform this kind of work.

Bookbinder and Bindery Career and Job Description

Binding is the method by which printed sheets are put together to form books, magazines, catalogs, folders, directories, or product packaging. To bind a book, the sheets must be cut, folded, gathered, glued, stapled, stitched, sewn, and wrapped. Bindery workers are responsible for setting up, operating, and maintaining the equipment used in the binding process.

The tasks of workers vary according to the type of material being worked on. For instance, binders who perform edition binding work on binding books in runs, as they are produced in large volumes. Job binding workers bind books that are created in smaller volumes. In firms that specifically perform library binding, binders repair books and provide various specialized binding services to libraries. Pamphlet binding employees make leaflets and folders, and manifold binders bind business forms like ledgers and books of sales receipts. Blank book binding workers bind blank pages to create notebooks, checkbooks, address books, diaries, calendars, and note pads.

There are certain kinds of binding and finishing processes which require just one step. For instance, leaflets or newspaper inserts only need to be folded. Other processes, such as binding books or magazines must be done in progressive steps.

Books and magazines are created by bookbinders and bindery workers using large, flat, printed sheets of paper. First, skilled workers must run equipment that folds these sheets into “signatures,” or stacks of pages arranged sequentially. Then the signatures must be sewn, stitched, or glued together by bookbinders. After that they can be shaped into books using presses and trimming machines, and reinforced by glued fabric strips. Covers are produced separately, and then glued, pasted, or stitched onto the body of the book. The book then will be put through many different finishing processes, normally consisting of at least wrapping the book in paper jackets.

A few bookbinders are employed by hand binderies. These employees are highly skilled workers and must create original or special bindings for limited editions, work to restore and rebind rare and old books. This kind of work involves a lot of creativity, understanding of binding materials, and good foundation based in the history of binding. As one might imagine, hand bookbinding involves the greatest array of different types of bindery jobs and tasks.
Those bookbinders employed by small shops likely will do a variety of binding duties, while those employed by bigger companies will specialize in one or two tasks, like operating sophisticated manual or electronic guillotine paper cutters or folding machines. Other workers may concentrate their efforts in the preparation and adjustment of machines, as well as repairing devices as required.

Bookbinder Training and Job Qualifications

The majority of bookbinders and bindery workers pick up the tricks of the trade as they work on the job. Beginners will be given routine duties like moving stacks of paper from cutting machines to folding machines. They will be taught fundamental binding skills and principles, such as the attributes of paper and how to best to cut big sheets of paper so as to minimize paper waste. With time and experience, workers are assigned harder jobs like embossing and adding holograms, and will learn how to run some of the equipment. It can take a just a month or two to learn how to operate the simple machines while it may take a year or so to learn how all the ins and outs of complicated machinery, like computerized binding machines.

Though formal apprenticeships are not as common as in years past, some employers still offer these positions. Workers might choose an apprenticeship program in order to gain the specialized skills require for many bindery jobs. For instance, in order for a worker to learn the finer aspects of book restoration or how to create valuable collectors’ pieces a 4-year apprenticeship will probably be needed.

Those high school aged students that have an interest in a bindery occupation should enroll in shop classes or go to a vocational-technical high school. There are also other avenues for becoming acquainted with bindery operations, such as occupational skill centers that are normally run by labor unions. Workers must constantly receive more training in order to keep up with advancements in technology. Students possessing computer skills and mechanical aptitude are particularly needed.

Bindery workers must have fundamental skills in mathematics and language. One must a good eye for detail, and be patient, accurate, neat, and have good vision. Workers must also have good hands so that they can easily count, insert, paste, and fold pieces. Mechanical aptitude is essential in order to be able to run automated machines. Hand bookbinding also requires some artistic ability and imagination.

Another asset is any training one might have in graphic arts. Training in graphic arts can be obtained through vocational-technical schools or through various skill-enhancing or retraining programs and community colleges. To attend some of these programs one must have prior bindery experience, while other course and programs are offered by labor unions to their members. Training in graphic arts can also be obtained through four-year college degree programs, but typically they concentrate on preparing people for careers as graphic artists, educators, or managers in the graphic arts field.

Promotions outside of bindery work will be limited unless one has extra training. Bookbinders or bindery workers that have gained experience and work for big companies may have the prospect of becoming supervisors.

Bookbinder Job and Employment Opportunities

Since the need for printed material is slowing down and productivity in bindery firms is improving, employment is projected to fall through 2012. Adversely affecting this decline is the movement of work being outsourced to off shore companies which can produce books with long lead times relatively cheaper than here. The positions that do open up will be an effect of retirements and those leaving the industry. Binding has become more and more automated thanks in part to the increased use of computers. Some “in-line” equipment that is controlled by computers has the ability to run many tasks in sequence, starting with raw stock and producing the desired good. Innovations like automatic tabbers, counters, palletizers, and joggers help decrease labor as well as enhance the appearance of the finished good. Such advancements are encouraging printing companies to purchase in-house binding and finishing machinery, allowing them to utilize printing machine operators during downtimes by operating the bindery equipment.

As bindery equipment becomes more efficient, the growth in demand for specialized bindery workers who aid skilled bookbinders will fall. However, since modern technology involves a large investment in capital expenditures and employee training, the need for bindery workers with computer skills and mechanical aptitude is growing greatly.

Since there are relatively few hand bookbinding companies, the prospects for hand bookbinders are small. Those workers with the most experience will have the best chance of obtaining such jobs.

Historical Earnings Information

In 2002, the average wage for bookbinders was $13.31. The middle 50 percent made anywhere from $9.88 to $17.73 an hour. The bottom 10 percent made less than $7.84, and the top 10 percent made upwards of $21.90 an hour.

In 2002, the average wages of bindery workers was $10.50. The middle 50 percent made anywhere from $8.27 to $13.86 an hour. The bottom 10 percent made less than $6.95, and the top 10 percent made upwards of $17.95 an hour. Typically, unionized workers had higher wages.