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Re: Repair <- vs -> conserve
- To: BOOK_ARTS-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Subject: Re: Repair <- vs -> conserve
- From: "Jack C. Thompson" <tcl@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 30 Apr 1997 01:23:12 -0800
- Message-id: <199704300906.CAA28549@SUL-Server-2.Stanford.EDU>
- Sender: "The Book Arts: binding, typography, collecting" <BOOK_ARTS-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Gawd! I go away for a couple of days and all hell breaks loose. Not my
fault; Peter's fault.... :-)
Reading all the related posts in one go gave me time to be curious, become
angry, chuckle, and then write this.
Dennis Gouey is right and Steve Hales is wrong.
I'm in my 21st year of private practice as a conservator. I also own a
video production company and a small press which produce work related to
Over the years I have been the sole proprieter/employee and the employer of
as many as five people. The rate which I charge for bench work is $100/hr
and I do not charge for materials, unless the material needs to be ordered
for the job on the bench and then I only pass on the charge.
For those who have no further interest, hit the *delete* button now.
Dennis argues for a level playing field. Steve says: "No bookbinder,
>professional or otherwise, has an ethical expectation of any sort of income
>or salary at all."
I haven't the foggiest idea what Steve means here. Expectation of income
has absolutely nothing to do with ethics. One need only refer to civil
service manuals (which seem to have been handed down to us from Babylon),
union contracts, or the terms of tenure in academe.
What Dennis (and Peter) did not say, and what Steve does not appear to
know, is that there *is* an ethical problem of serious proportions which
has not yet been addressed in this thread.
Moonlighting conservators who use intitutional property to conduct a
private practice unethically compete with private conservators. Period.
It gets worse. There are non-profit institutions which have a conservation
lab and staff, but which require that the staff spend upwards of 50% of
their time working for private clients.
Those labs are foul anathema to the profession. The conservators who work
for those institutions take their pay and benefits under false colors. The
institution acquires tools and equipment at little or no charge (grants,
corporate donations [for which the corporation earns tax deductions],
Conservators working for an institution (as a moonlighter) have greater
access to the available pool of clientele (my business is listed in the
yellow pages, but many referals come from libraries/museums which people
often call first); institutional labs which seek private work will not
refer people to me at all. Unless they screw up; and that has happened.
So, conservators working with/for institutions can charge less than I do,
because they do not have to underwrite the cost of supplies, equipment,
space, property insurance, health insurance, the other half of their Social
Security insurance, etc.
This is not ethical.
Dennis and I pay an internet provider for the privelege of communicating
via this medium. Peter and Steve come to us through their employing
For those who have read this far, here is a figure which is important if
you ever want to make a little extra money by employing staff. The rule of
three: it takes three employees to make money for you. You pay for the
first two. Figure it out.
Videotapes. I've produced 40+ videotapes. In the beginning, my pricing
was based on the rates charged (per minute of film) by educational film
producers because there were not that many educational videotapes at that
time. Now, ed. film producers are still around, but one can rent Hollywood
movies for $1-3, and purchase them for $15 and up, so I charge $19.95 for
most of them (not many people are interested in watching me strip membrane
from ox intestine to make gold beater's skin to repair a medieval
manuscript so I only charge $14.95 for that one and there is still no run
on that title or awards).
One company which carries my videotapes offers them for sale at nearly 3
times my price (they buy them from me at a discount) and they sell quite a
number of them, even though the libraries which purchase these tapes from
them could save quite a bit of money by buying them directly from me.
I don't go to the trade shows; librarians go to trade shows. I sell my
videotapes for $19.95; the company which sells to libraries and goes to
trade shows sells them for nearly $60.00; this helps me understand why
institutions feel compelled to compete with me for income. Ethics have
nothing to do with it.
The press. I recently published the results of some years of research
about iron gall inks. This research was not underwritten by any
institution. I took time away from the bench; time at night and weekends;
time away from my family; I added some 50 volumes to my research library of
over 4,000 volumes and used a local university library for 3 research
items. A friend contributed an important appendix on Asian stick inks.
The book was published at a price of $8.95.
My cost, including text printing, cover design, printing, scoring, binding,
came to approx. $2/copy. That should leave approx. $7/copy profit.
However, most books are sold through wholesalers and they want a 40%
discount, i.e., an $8.95 book for $5.37. My profit on a book which retails
for $8.95? $3.37
If I were a professor at a university that publication would count toward
tenure, with appropriate pay and benefits. As it is, it accounts for
The next time you purchase a remaindered book, think of the publisher.
But do not think of ethics. Ethics have no place in business as conducted
by non-profit institutions or governments.
But to return to the original question; Sue does not seem to me to be a
person inclined to reback a Gutenberg with cloth and PVA and I hope she is
not discouraged by the murky waters her question disturbed.
She will have to make her own way as some of us have done; my only advise
to her is that no-one believed in me until my rate was raised to $25/hr.
It may be another of those laws of the universe, but I'm not certain.
This has been fun; let's do it again. One of these years....
Jack C. Thompson
Thompson Conservation Lab.
7549 N. Fenwick I hear and I forget,
Portland, Oregon 97217 I see and I remember,
I do and I understand.