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From the seed of an idea, to the written word, to a finished shiny bound and covered book; there are quite a few steps involved in the book making process. Bookbinding is an ancient trade that pre-dates the invention of the printing press by thousands of years. Bookbinders were once regarded as craftsmen of the highest order. Today bookbinders do not usually design the covers of the books they work on, however, they are responsible for the high quality finish and "shelf appeal" of books through the cutting and binding processes of their trade.

People employed as bindery operators set-up, operate and oversee the operation of specific machines, equipment and computerized units that bind printed materials. A bookbinder does converting, by hand or machine, of printed or non-printed sheets by means of cutting, folding, stitching or other bindery process, to a finished product.

Bookbinders like to work with their hands; they have a mechanical aptitude and normal color vision. They must also be able to work on their feet for long periods of time and work to deadline as required in this industry. Attention to detail is also a skill required for the job of bookbinding. There are bookbinders who bind books by hand, but this is an ancient art form that is different from contemporary bookbinders. Contemporary bookbinders must be able to adapt to new technology as the industry changes in order to have the most success in this field
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  Average Earnings  
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  Interests and Skills  
This work appeals to those who enjoy working with their hands. Bookbinders require mechanical aptitude, manual dexterity and normal color vision. It is essential for bookbinders to pay attention to detail in all aspects of the binding process. They have an interest in the current technology and those who are successful will keep up-to-date with re-training and technological trends. Depending on where they work bookbinders may work evenings, nights and/or weekends.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Set up and operate specialized equipment and machines that cut, fold, gather, stitch and trim brochures, magazines, books, business forms and other printed material
  • Read production specifications
  • Detect imperfect bindings, incomplete cuts, incorrect stitch lengths, and torn, loose and uneven pages
  • Use measuring devices and adjust controls to regulate size of cut and machine speed
  • Use hand tools to set up and maintain equipment
  • Run computerized units to start, stop and regulate machines and equipment
  • Make adjustments to machines and equipment as required
  • A bookbinder may work days, evenings or nights depending on their place of employment. On any given day they will be expected to set up and operate binding machinery. They will also use tools to adjust the size of the cuts needed and the machine's speed. They will also keep an eye out for imperfect bindings, stitch lengths or torn, loose or uneven pages.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Bookbinders are employed by binderies, commercial printing companies, newspapers, magazines, and other publishing companies, and establishments in both the public and private sectors that have in-house printing, binding and finishing departments.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Bookbinders with years of experience on the job and awareness of the most current technology have the opportunity to move into supervisory positions in their field.

  Educational Paths  
Bookbinders receive their training either through informal, on-the-job training or through an apprenticeship program. Trade certification can be obtained either through an apprenticeship program or after several years of work experience. While trade certification is not mandatory in all areas to become a bookbinder, it can be a requirement for many employers and can also help secure employment.

Apprenticeship programs involve a combination of on-the-job training and classroom instruction. A pre-apprenticeship course may also be available which takes about five to six months to complete at a community college and is designed to help you get connected with a good company to apprentice with. It is important to apprentice with a reputable company as that is your education. While some apprenticeship programs may not require a high school diploma, it is important to note that employers generally prefer to hire high school graduates.

Apprenticeships can vary, however a typical apprenticeship lasts four to five years. The apprenticeship is a paid position however wages are about 50 percent of what an employer pays the journeyperson, with yearly increases. After successfully completing the apprenticeship requirements, their industry training and apprenticeship office awards the bookbinder a certificate of completion.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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