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Subject: Rounding and backing

Rounding and backing

From: John R. Fairfield <70304.3023>
Date: Monday, February 5, 1996
Caroline Gilderson-Duwe <c5d [at] gml__lib__uwm__edu> writes
>There are conflicting points of view regarding rounding and backing
>of commercially bound library materials.
>Has anyone had success [etc.]

As many of you know, our company has provided and supported the flat
back, wide hinge product for the last ten years.  The product was
sold and produced by General Bookbinding Co. for six or eight years
prior to our acquisition of the company in 1986 and during these
past ten years, two things have been consistent.  We have received
dozens of letters from customers who really like the features of the
flat back, wide hinge product and we have repeatedly been forced to
respond to the criticism of our competitors who are not comfortable
with the product.  It appears those two trends will continue,
regardless of the facts that continue to be provided to the library
binding community through various sources. Let me try to answer the
questions raised by Caroline in her 18 Jan message to the DistList.

First, it is important to recognize that the issue is not just flat
back or rounded and backed.  It is flat backed, wide hinge or
rounded and backed, narrow hinge.  A flat backed, narrow hinge is
not an acceptable product (or at least shouldn't be) under any
circumstance.  All tests conducted during the past 10 years have
confirmed that the flat backed product requires a wide hinge.

Second, the current edition of the LBI Standard [8th edition] is now
10 years old and is in need of revision.   I think everyone agrees
on that score.  "The Guide to the LBI Standard" is an excellent
document that was published in 1990 and is much better at helping
one through the decision making process for commercial library
binding and I refer you to both the preface (very well written by
Paul Parisi and Jan Merrill-Oldham) and Section 9.0,  Rounding and
Backing, on pages 29 and 30. The information presented in that
document [The Guide] is an excellent analysis of where the industry
currently stands on the different products, as well as the options

Additionally, as many librarians know, there is a NISO Committee,
Chaired by Barclay Ogden of The University of California, Berkeley
that has been working for 4 years to write a new LBI/NISO Standard
and much of the effort is directed towards the questions raised in
your inquiry.   A great deal has been done, a lot has been learned,
and there will be some guidance provided.  But it will not be "The
Answer!" That's because there continues to exist an emotional
attachment to tradition and a resistance to change that is difficult
to overcome--no matter what tests are conducted or what the results
may be.

For years it was stated that rounding and backing provided superior
openability.  Now that the NISO tests have proven that is not so,
openability has been set aside as important and the negative
comments have become directed towards "aesthetics" and "the books
sink forward in the cover when they are flat backed."  All books
that are large, heavy, double fan adhesive bound, and case bound
sink forward in their cases. Flush bottoms help a little but the
"sinking forward" occurs because we have moved too far in double fan
adhesive binding.  If the openability of DFA is required on the
large, heavy, clay coated paper there are trade-off's.  The spine is
not as stable as a sewn volume, whether it is rounded and backed or
flat backed.

My suggestion is that patience be exercised by all until the
LBI/NISO Committee has completed its  work.   Hopefully, many of the
questions will be answered, but it is not helpful if binders
continue to pursue demagogy and distortion of facts in an attempt to
gain a competitive advantage.  In the end no one will be well

One answer is that there are few absolutes.  Sometimes a book is
well served to be rounded and backed and sometimes a book is better
served to be left flat backed.  "Fitness of purpose" is a very
appropriate term that should apply to commercial library binding on
many issues, including flat back, wide hinge or rounded back, narrow

We encourage every librarian to discuss the merits of the product a
binder is prepared to offer.  It is not our role, as binders, to try
to sell against what our competition does.  We would much rather
talk about the positives of what we do and why we do it.  I am
always confused by those who speak so strongly in opposition to a
particular product, but then sell and produce that same item
regularly.  If a binder is so against the flat backed, wide hinge
product, why do they produce it and sell it? Where is the logic, or
the ethics, in taking such a strong "anti" position but offering
that same product to anyone who wants to buy it?

I encourage every librarian to ask their binder why, if they don't
believe the flat backed, wide hinge product is acceptable, they
continue to produce it in their plant.  Ask them what percentage of
their current work is done as a flat back, wide hinge product.

Those of us who believe FBWH has a place in commercial library
binding have no trouble discussing the merits of what we do and why
we do it.  Those who believe in the value of RBNH should have no
trouble discussing the merits of what they do and why they do it.
You should be skeptical of those who have nothing to present but
criticism of the "other product."

Jack Fairfield
Information Conservation, Inc.

                  Conservation DistList Instance 9:59
                Distributed: Thursday, February 8, 1996
                        Message Id: cdl-9-59-004
Received on Monday, 5 February, 1996

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