The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 16, Number 7-8
Dec 1992


Binders' Price Competition Seen as Threat to Book Life

Greg Campbell had an editorial in the January 1993 Campbell-Logan Newsletter that bears repeating, since it addresses an important topic that is rarely, if ever, discussed in a public forum. It is reprinted here with permission of the author, who heads the Campbell-Logan Bindery in Minneapolis and will serve as president of the Library Binding Institute, beginning in May 1993.

There is an emerging trend in library binding that is as disturbing as it is mystifying to us. That trend, while providing short-term glee to many library binding customers, should be of very deep concern. It is the lowering of prices charged for library binding in order to obtain binding contracts. What is occurring is a classic price war that rivals that of the airline industry. Public safety aside, it may be even more disastrous, as we are not talking about the inconvenience of occasional flight delays or lousy airline food. We are talking about the almost willful destruction of civilization in the loss by carelessness of priceless information, inspiration and our written or printed heritage.

Many binders are not able, or are no longer willing, to practice sound binding procedures for fear of increasing prices, losing customers or reducing already meager profits. We can think of no other product or service that libraries purchase which costs less today than it did last year or even five years ago. In all probability those other products and services have greatly improved. We honestly wish we could say the same for the majority of library binding. Sadly we cannot.

What is happening to high quality library binding in the face of lower prices? The bindings which you once could rely on, almost unquestionably, to outlast the paper that books were printed on cannot commonly be relied upon to do so today. This is not the result of more permanent papers. It is due to the realization that most librarians do not understand the differences in library binding products or see that the differences in these products affect differences in price. It is the result of profit motives, the unquenchable greed of excess capacity, robotic mechanization and the resultant "deskilling" of a craft that is trying to become an industry. We are at a point where many library binders are actually doing more harm than good to the books entrusted to them.

We feel someone must take a stand on this issue and it might as well be us. Some of you may see our stand as that of a little boy who is forced to eat sour grapes. We hope that the majority of you will see it as a rebirth of a William Morris-like revolution. Demand a better product rather than an inferior one. It is your responsibility as a customer to set and enforce the ground rules as to what is acceptable to the library and what is not. Library binders will adapt to the standards that are set by their market place. They can be very capable when they have to be. I hope to inspire them in that endeavor as I am asked to steer a course for our trade association in the coming months.

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