Occupation Profile for Bookbinders

Perform highly skilled hand finishing operations, such as grooving and lettering to bind books.

 
 

Significant Points

  • Employment is expected to decline rapidly, reflecting the use of more productive machinery and the growth of imports of bound printed material.
  • Opportunities for hand bookbinders are limited because only a small number of establishments do this highly specialized work.
  • Most bookbinders and bindery workers train on the job.

 

 
 
Overview
$30,260.00 Median Annual Wage 0 Average Job Openings Per Year
5.8 Average Unemployment Percentage 70.4 Percentage That Completed High School
7,000 Employment Numbers in 2006 22.6 Percentage That Had Some College
6,000 Employment Numbers in 2016 (est.) 7.1 Percentage That Went Beyond College Degree

Sample Job Titles
Apprentice, Bookbinder
Binder
Binder, Books
Bindery Worker
Book Binder
Book Conservator
Book Cutter
Book Finisher
Book Mender
Bookbinder
Bookbinder Apprentice
Bookmaker
Custom Bookbinder
Cutter
Hand Bindery Assembly Worker
Hand Bookbinder
Paperback Machine Operator
Repairer, Book

Training
  • These occupations often involve using your knowledge and skills to help others. Examples include sheet metal workers, forest fire fighters, customer service representatives, pharmacy technicians, salespersons (retail), and tellers.
  • These occupations usually require a high school diploma and may require some vocational training or job-related course work. In some cases, an associate's or bachelor's degree could be needed.
  • Some previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience may be helpful in these occupations, but usually is not needed. For example, a teller might benefit from experience working directly with the public, but an inexperienced person could still learn to be a teller with little difficulty.
  • Employees in these occupations need anywhere from a few months to one year of working with experienced employees.

On-the-job training remains the most common form of training for entry level bindery workers, but new technology will require workers to obtain more formal training. Attention to detail and mechanical aptitude are important for these jobs.

Education and training. High school students interested in bindery careers should take shop courses or attend a vocational-technical high school. Occupational skill centers also provide an introduction to bindery work and bookbinding. For entry-level positions, most employers look for high school graduates or those with associate degrees.

Training in graphic communications also can be an asset. Vocational-technical institutes offer postsecondary programs in the graphic arts, as do some skill-updating or retraining programs and community colleges. Other programs are made available by unions to their members. Four-year colleges also offer programs related to printing and publishing, but their emphasis is on preparing people for careers as graphic artists, educators, or managers in the graphic arts field.

While postsecondary education is available, most bookbinders and bindery workers learn the craft through on-the-job training. Inexperienced workers usually are assigned simple tasks such as moving paper from cutting machines to folding machines. They learn basic binding skills, including the characteristics of paper and how to cut large sheets of paper into different sizes with the least amount of waste. Usually, it takes one to three months to learn to operate the simpler machines but it can take up to one year to become completely familiar with more complex equipment, such as computerized binding machines. As workers gain experience, they learn to operate more types of equipment. To keep pace with changing technology, retraining is increasingly important for bindery workers.

Formal apprenticeships are not as common as they used to be, but still are offered by some employers. Apprenticeships allow beginners to acquire skills by working alongside skilled workers while also taking classes. The more structured program provided by an apprenticeship enables workers to acquire the high levels of specialization and skill needed for some bindery and bookbinding jobs.

Other qualifications. Bindery work requires careful attention to detail. Accuracy, patience, neatness, and good eyesight are all important. Mechanical aptitude is necessary to operate the newer, more automated equipment, and workers with computer skills will increasingly be in demand. Manual dexterity is needed in order to count, insert, and fold. In addition, creativity and artistic ability are necessary for hand bookbinding.

Certification and advancement. With experience, binders can expect increased salaries and more responsibility. Completion of a formal certification program can further advancement opportunities. Without additional training, advancement opportunities outside of bindery work are limited. In large binderies, experienced bookbinders or bindery workers may advance to supervisory positions.

Nature of Work

The process of combining printed sheets into finished products such as books, magazines, catalogs, folders, and directories is known as binding. When a publication or advertising supplement has been printed, it must then be folded, glued, stitched, stapled, or otherwise turned into the finished product that will be seen by the public. Bindery workers set up, operate, and maintain the machines that perform these various tasks, while bookbinders perform highly skilled hand finishing operations.

Job duties depend on the material being bound. Some types of binding and finishing jobs consist of only one step. Preparing leaflets or newspaper inserts, for example, requires only folding. Binding of books and magazines, on the other hand, requires a number of steps. Bindery workers first assemble the books and magazines from large, flat, printed sheets of paper. They then operate machines that first fold printed sheets into signatures, which are groups of pages arranged sequentially. They then assemble the signatures in sequence and join them by means of a saddle-stitch process or perfect binding (where no stitches are used). In firms that do edition binding, workers bind books produced in large numbers, or runs.

In libraries where repair work on rare books is needed, bookbinders sew, stitch, or glue the assembled printed sheets, shape the book bodies with presses and trimming machines, and reinforce them with glued fabric strips. Covers are created separately and glued, pasted, or stitched onto the book bodies. The books then undergo a variety of finishing operations, often including wrapping in paper jackets. In establishments that print new books, this work is done mechanically.

A small number of bookbinders work in hand binderies. These highly skilled workers design original or special bindings for limited editions, or restore and rebind rare books. Some binders repair books and provide other specialized binding services to libraries.

Bookbinders and bindery workers in small shops may perform many binding tasks, while those in large shops tend to specialize. Tasks may include performing perfect binding or operating laminating machinery. Others specialize as folder operators or cutter operators, and may perform adjustments and minor repairs to equipment as needed.

Work environment. Binderies often are noisy and jobs can be strenuous, requiring considerable lifting, standing, and carrying. Binding often resembles an assembly line on which workers perform repetitive tasks. The jobs also may require stooping, kneeling, and crouching, but equipment that minimizes such activity is now widely available.

Bookbinders and bindery workers normally work 40 hours per week, although weekend and holiday hours may be necessary if production on a job is behind schedule. Many large printers operate around the clock, so some bindery workers may work on shifts. Part-time workers made up 11 percent of this occupation in 2006.

Related Occupations

Sources: Career Guide to Industries (CGI), Occupational Information Network (O*Net), Occupation Outlook Handbook (OOH)
Earnings

Median hourly earnings of bookbinders were $14.55 in May 2006, compared to $13.16 per hour for all production occupations. The middle 50 percent earned between $10.48 and $19.34 an hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.30, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $22.69.

Median hourly earnings of bindery workers were $12.29 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $9.67 and $16.02 an hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $7.93, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $20.14.

For the latest wage information:

The above wage data are from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey program, unless otherwise noted. For the latest National, State, and local earnings data, visit the following pages:

  • Bindery workers
  • Bookbinders
  • Job Outlook

    Employment of bookbinders and bindery workers is projected to decline rapidly between 2006 and 2016, but opportunities should be good because many job openings are created by bindery workers who transfer to other occupations.

    Employment change. Overall employment of bookbinders and bindery workers is expected to decline rapidly by 21 percent between 2006 and 2016. Over this period, demand for domestic bindery workers will slow as productivity in printing and bindery operations increases. Computers have caused binding to become increasingly automated, and coupled with other technological advances, have reduced labor requirements. Consequently, more printing companies are expected to perform bindery services in-house rather than send the work to specialized binding shops. Also, some bindery jobs will be lost because of outsourcing of work to firms in foreign countries where books and other materials that take a long time to make can be produced more cheaply.

    More efficient binding machinery will slow growth in demand for specialized bindery workers who assist skilled bookbinders. The number of establishments that do hand bookbinding is small, also limiting growth.

    Job prospects. Bindery workers generally face favorable job opportunities because many workers leave these jobs and there is a recurring need to replace them. However, improvements in binding machinery mean fewer will be replaced than leave. Additionally, many skilled bookbinders are older and will likely retire in the next decade. Experienced workers will continue to have the best opportunities for these skilled jobs. Prospects for all bindery jobs will be best for workers who have completed training or certification programs, internships, or who have experience in a related production occupation.

    Employment

    In 2006, bookbinders and bindery workers held about 72,000 jobs, including 7,200 as skilled bookbinders and 65,000 as bindery workers. More than 3 out of 4 bookbinding and bindery jobs are in printing and related support activities. Traditionally, the largest employers of bindery workers were bindery trade shops, which are companies that specialize in providing binding services for printers without binderies or whose printing production exceeds their binding capabilities. However, this type of binding is now being done increasingly in-house, and is now called in-line finishing.

    The publishing industry employed less than 1 in 10 bindery workers. Other bindery workers were found in the employment services industry, which supplies temporary workers to companies that require their services.

    Knowledge
    • Mathematics — Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
    • Engineering and Technology — Knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology. This includes applying principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment to the design and production of various goods and services.
    • Sales and Marketing — Knowledge of principles and methods for showing, promoting, and selling products or services. This includes marketing strategy and tactics, product demonstration, sales techniques, and sales control systems.
    • Medicine and Dentistry — Knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.
    • Physics — Knowledge and prediction of physical principles, laws, their interrelationships, and applications to understanding fluid, material, and atmospheric dynamics, and mechanical, electrical, atomic and sub- atomic structures and processes.
    Skills
    • Equipment Maintenance — Performing routine maintenance on equipment and determining when and what kind of maintenance is needed.
    • Coordination — Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
    • Active Learning — Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
    • Writing — Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
    • Troubleshooting — Determining causes of operating errors and deciding what to do about it.
    Abilities
    • Near Vision — The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
    • Stamina — The ability to exert yourself physically over long periods of time without getting winded or out of breath.
    • Explosive Strength — The ability to use short bursts of muscle force to propel oneself (as in jumping or sprinting), or to throw an object.
    • Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
    • Hearing Sensitivity — The ability to detect or tell the differences between sounds that vary in pitch and loudness.
    Tasks
    • Supplemental — Meet with clients, printers, and/or designers to discuss job requirements and binding plans.
    • Core — Perform highly skilled hand finishing operations, such as grooving and lettering, to bind books.
    • Supplemental — Design original or special bindings for limited editions.
    • Core — Cut binder boards to specified dimensions, using board shears, hand cutters, or cutting machines.
    • Supplemental — Insert book bodies in devices that form back edges of books into convex shapes and produce grooves that facilitate attachment of covers.
    Activities
    • Monitoring and Controlling Resources — Monitoring and controlling resources and overseeing the spending of money.
    • Guiding, Directing, and Motivating Subordinates — Providing guidance and direction to subordinates, including setting performance standards and monitoring performance.
    • Assisting and Caring for Others — Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
    • Repairing and Maintaining Electronic Equipment — Servicing, repairing, calibrating, regulating, fine-tuning, or testing machines, devices, and equipment that operate primarily on the basis of electrical or electronic (not mechanical) principles.
    • Getting Information — Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
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