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What is a Bindery?

By Phil Shepley
Updated May 17, 2024
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A bindery is where printed work is manufactured after it has been printed. Some binderies are devoted only to binding and repairing books, rare or otherwise, while others process a variety of printed work. This can include cutting, folding, gluing, stitching, trimming, collating and more. A person who works in a bindery is known as a bookbinder, bindery operator or simply a bindery worker.

Binderies can either be independently owned or can be operated “in-house” within a larger company such as a publisher, library or print shop. In-house binderies have become increasingly popular, and in this case, the work is referred to as in-line finishing. An independently owned bindery, on the other hand, is reliant on outside companies to generate work. In either case, a quick turnaround is usually expected for production. This can be difficult because of the many ways that printed work can be processed.

In a library, for example, one rare book can take many hours to repair depending on the value and age of the book. Sometimes the work in a bindery can be simple as well, like collating two or three items together and putting them into an envelope to be mailed. The amount of pieces can vary as well ranging from a single piece to as many as several million.

There are many ways for printed materials to be finished with varying degrees of automation to do the work. For example, to fold a pamphlet there is only one step involved in finishing the work. In this case it would be running the flat sheets through a machine known as a folder. If the finished piece is an entire book, however, the process requires many more steps. These can include folding large flat sheets of paper, collating them into the correct order, and then fastening the book together in one of several different styles. This can require as few people as one bindery operator, or many more to see to it that the book has been correctly put together.

The bindery worker needs to have an eye for detail to ensure there are no mistakes. Other attributes that are necessary include patience, accuracy and the mechanical aptitude necessary to run modern machinery. Most of these skills are learned through on-the-job or vocational training. There has been an increase in the amount of automation in bookbinding and a decrease in use of printed materials. As a result, the need for binderies and bindery workers has recently seen a significant decrease. This trend is expected to continue as the future becomes more and more paperless.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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