The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 1, Number 3
Feb 1976

An Invitation to Other Bookbinders:

So that all the needs of our customers will still be efficiently served when Academy ends some of its binding activities, I propose as the owner of Academy Book Bindery to encourage and help in the establishment of other owner-operated binderies in the area. This deliberate effort to encourage competition may seem bizarre, but it makes sense. There is enough room for everybody if we cooperate and if we do not compete for that segment of the market that promises quick profits for the smallest investment and least work.


During the months ahead, Academy will sponsor or recognize a number of specialized, independently owned hand binderies, cooperating under contract to share such business services as marketing, costing, purchasing, financing, and accounting on a regular basis. These cooperating binderies ...a Bookbinding Coop...will exchange "trade secrets" freely with each other to promote local awareness of bookbinding and help the craft succeed. I believe this approach will promote the health of the trade and will offer as many people as possible a congenial way of earning their livings by working with their hands.

The actual form of business organization may be a partnership, franchise, cooperative, etc., although to start perhaps an informal agreement would work best.


My convictions on this topic make some of my bookbinder friends understandably anxious. My belief is that in a trade on its way to becoming a lost art...bookbinding is surely one of the endangered species today...skills and secrets are in peril of dying every year. Thus, I think we must be more concerned about keeping skills alive than keeping others from profiting by them.


I hope to establish these binderies by inviting honest, competent people who have trained or studied at Academy or elsewhere to set up shop in the vicinity. When this is done, Academy will refer all work of a certain sort to them. Business services, as described above, will be cooperatively provided. Mailing lists and other information will be shared. The independent binderies in turn will be expected to maintain the quality standards established by Academy and to help other binderies in the Coop group by referring work, etc. Some of the work we currently do could be more efficiently and profitably done by specialty shops. Journals, Theses, Rare Books, and individual book repair, plus a miscellaneous residue are our main lines of work at present. Journals and individual book repair are the two kinds of work that probably will be dropped by Academy during the coming year and shifted to the independent binderies I have described. (Journals are time-consuming in handling, processing, and record-keeping. Many out of town binderies do this work, though admittedly not as well as Academy!) After long study, I have concluded that both customers and shop efficiency can be best served by the new arrangements being proposed.


The best arrangement from the customer's point of view might be a free-lance salesman or pickup and delivery service. This individual would handle everything including pickup, keeping records, making out book tickets, perhaps even collating the material, and transporting the journals to an out of town library binder.

I have been told that someone does (or did) this for Kalmbacher in northern Michigan, and that he made a good living. Library binders are able to give fairly low prices when they receive work in quantity. The job I describe would resemble a librarian's work with serials or bindery prep work. The financial investment would be minimal.

I would help select and approve the final choice of an appropriate library binder. Academy would supply the conscientious individual who takes on this job with our journal customer list (including some 70 departments, 200 individuals, and a card file of individual binding instructions).

The person described would be a member of our Bindery Coop.

Conceivably, this transfer could occur next July 1st when many house officers at University Hospital will be leaving town. Now let's see if someone appears to do this work. If not, I may select a good binder and suggest that customers send their books via UPS or U.S. Mail.


This does not fit in well with our other work since it requires special approaches. There are many hidden costs and cost control as well as standardization of the work is difficult unless it is given exclusive attention. But rebinding single books gives valuable experience and broadens skills as no other work can. I think it is the most personally rewarding type of binding business. A two-person shop, in my opinion, would be ideal for this satisfying type of binding business. Is anyone ready to accept my invitation to try?

If you are intrigued...curious....interested...or ready to do business in accordance with conditions similar to those described, why not call me at Academy Book Bindery.

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