Description of a Bookbinding Job

by Scott Morgan

Maybe you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but you could safely judge the quality of a bookbinder by how well the pages and cover of a book hold together. Bookbinders build books and periodicals and attach covers to them. And even in the digital era, bookbinders still have plenty of books to bind.

What Bookbinders Do

In commercial binderies, bookbinders assemble books, catalogs and magazines from large, flat, printed sheets of paper that they feed into machines. These machines fold these papers into groups of pages called signatures. Bookbinders then assemble these signatures in the proper order and join the pages together by saddle stitching -- stapling through the middle of the binding -- or by gluing, called perfect binding. Small and specialty bookbinders repair rare or old books by sewing, stitching or gluing the covers or pages by hand.

Work Conditions

Most print binding and finishing workers work in commercial printing facilities that often resemble assembly lines. The setting is noisy and the work often involves lifting, standing and carrying. It can also be tedious. Repetitive tasks, such as folding and trimming leaflets or newspaper inserts, are often part of the day. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most printing workers work full-time and often nights, weekends and holidays to meet production schedules.

Education and Training

Most bookbinders and bindery workers learn on the job. Many start out as helpers, moving paper stock or other simple tasks, and learn about the characteristics of paper and how to efficiently cut it into different sizes. Learning the most advanced equipment, such as computerized binding machines, can take up to a year. Binders need basic math skills for calculating measurements, a general aptitude for computers and basic mechanical ability.

Pay and Job Outlook

The BLS set the median annual wage of printing workers overall at $33,150 in 2010, but $28,920 for print binding and finishing workers. Employment opportunities for print binding and finishing workers is expected to decline 3 percent from 2010 through 2020, due to the growing popularity of electronic books. However, demand for quick turnaround in commercial printing endeavors may provide some employment opportunities.

Photo Credits

  • Zedcor Wholly Owned/ Images