The In-House Processing of Paperbacks and Pamphlets
Serials Review, John Dean
The preparation of
unbound material to make it fit for the library shelf has always presented
problems for librarians. Most of the problems involve decision-making
on binding form, documentation, and processing time; frequently the time
spent agonizing over these decisions and sorting material into various
categories costs more than the binding itself. As there seems to be an
increase in the acquisition of paperback books by libraries, it is appropriate
that some alternative processing techniques for paperbacks and pamphlets
have had to deal with the paperback for quite some time. First appearing
in 1841 in Germany through the Tauchnitz Verlag series of English and
American reprints, the paperback came into its own with the first Penguin
series of 1935. This fiction series was retailed in England through Woolworth's
stores, and sold seven million copies in two year's, a significant portent
for the future. While these early mass sellers were all reprints of other
publishers' hardcover editions, the founding of Pelican by the same company
in 1937 brought the publication of serious works, including many specially
commissioned for the series.
There has been a
steady increase in numbers since that time, and a great surge over the
last ten years. The mass paperback market is growing at the rate of roughly
10 per cent per year, and the proportion of trade books produced in paperback/soft
cover increased from 19 per cent in 1972, to 25 per cent in 1979.
For the most part (Pelican excepted), paperbacks have been regarded as
inexpensive republications of hardbacks, but there are indications that
this might change drastically. At the Book Manufacturers Institute conference
last fall (1980), Selwyn Enzer (Assistant Director for the Center for
Future Research, University of Southern California) predicted "a
reversal of roles played by hardbacks and paperbacks": most books
will in time be first published in paperback, only "good ones"
being republished in a more permanent hardback.
Enzer's predictions are correct, librarians will no longer have the choice
between paperback and hardback purchase, and the proportion of paperback
acquisitions will increase at a much higher rate. The element of choice
does not exist for most numbered series and certain foreign publications,
but when it is possible to choose, the choice is usually made on the basis
of cost. According to the latest complete Bowker figures, the difference
between average prices for hardbacks and paperbacks is striking: hardbacks
average $18.95 (excluding books priced over $80.00); trade paperbacks,
$7.05; and mass market paperbacks, $2.06.
librarians have long been accustomed to dealing with paperbacks through
the routine handling of periodical parts, though these may be regarded
more as temporary paper covers than paper "backs." One "piece"
serials, such as annuals, certain proceedings and transactions, and numbered
monographic series, may be regarded as genuine paperbacks, and here too
the trend seems to be towards fewer hardbacks. The overall effect of these
changing proportions is an apparent subsidization of acquisitions costs
by the binding budget, the transfer of binding costs from publisher to
library. If the paper and basic construction quality
of paperbacks and hardbacks are equal, this change of emphasis is not
necessarly as disadvantageous as it first appears, especially if the book
selection process is highly speculative.
Many of the questions
raised by librarians concerning anticipated use for new materials, and
demonstrated use (or lack thereof) of materials already in the collection,
are identical to those pertaining to binding decisions.
There are clearly difficulties in making "on suspicion" binding
decisions for new materials, as a decision not to bind can result in the
destruction of books receiving unexpectedly high use, while the expenditure
of binding funds on other new books which subsequently receive little
or no use (and may even, as a result, be discarded) is wasteful.
have tried a variety of measures in attempts to come to grips with these
problems, with varying degrees of success. The
most readily available binding methods are those offered by commercial
binders, generally consisting of adhesive binding with a cased cover.
Sometimes the cover is covered in cloth or cloth substitute, while some
binders laminate the original cover to the case. These bindings have the
advantage of strength and seeming permanence (although occasionally the
new case is too heavy and inflexible causing the book rather than the
cover to disintegrate), as well as a generally very low price. A recent
quick sampling of commercial binders produced an average "under twelve
inch" price of $2.86.
Low as this price
is, however, it still seems expensive for some books of an ephemeral nature,
and the average "turn-around" (i.e. time out of the library
for binding) is a little under six weeks. With all the customary technical
processing delays resulting from slow delivery, mail slowdowns, catalogue
hold-ups, etc., it is often not feasible to create yet another delay for
binding. Preparation, sorting, packing, and documentation activities associated
with commercial binding can also result in high costs of staff time for
Many libraries seek
refuge from delays and record-keeping costs through the use of in-house
processes. Some of these binding methods are sound. Many are aided by
commercially available products, such as adjustable binders, pamphlet
cases, and plastic covers. A few libraries maintain units producing bindings
of a weird, fantastic, and often destructive nature, at usually unknown
cost. Most of the problems noted above were in evidence at the Milton
S. Eisenhower Library of the Johns Hopkins University prior to 1974. At
that time, a procedure was established to deal with all paperbacks in-house
with a method based upon the following design criteria: (a) the method
must be suitable for all paperbacks without significant modification;
(b) it must be low cost (i.e., under 50 cents per unit); (c) it must be
reversible (i.e., capable of being easily rebound); (d) it must not require
elaborate equipment, specialized skills, or extensive work space; (e)
it must significantly strengthen the paper binding, permit it to stand
on the shelf without support, and prevent the covers from falling off;
(f ) it should be attractive, with the essential author/ title information
clearly visible on the spine.
Accordingly, a simple
binding, expressively termed the "stiffen," was devised, and
wholesale processing began in early 1974 in a small bindery area. The
stiffen is not a true binding as it merely reinforces the original publisher's
paper cover and lasts as long as the publisher's primary structure. But
the reinforcing elements are very carefully balanced to avoid overload
to the original structure and at the same time to offer much greater strength.
After the process
had been refined in the bindery area, and the results carefully monitored,
a small processing unit was added to the existing plating and labeling
operation in the cataloging area. This transfer placed the unit under
the workflow control of cataloging and ensured that, as "stiffening"
did not require a change of location, all pre-shelf processing could be
accomplished on the same level and on a twenty-four hour basis. Because
of the low unit cost, all paperback materials are stiffened (with the
exception of periodical parts), which eliminates the need for all decision-making
as well as for any specification records.
The stiffen does
not have the strength of a proper binding, but in over seven years of
processing more than 56,000 items in this manner, less than one half of
one per cent have needed a more robust rebinding as a result of heavy
use. While this tends to demonstrate overall low use more than the quality
of the stiffen, it is apparent that very large cost and time savings have
resulted from its use. A complete description of the process is given
below. It is taken directly from the John Hopkins University Manual Guide
number 1A (1979).
of Paperback Materials
The term "stiffening"
refers to the strengthening of paperback books by reinforcing the original
publisher's cover at the joint and at the front and back. The primary
structure of the book is unaltered by stiffening treatment which does
not add significantly to the weight of the book yet appreciably lengthens
its life. Stiffening is amenable to both high-production machine processing
and single volume hand work. It is suitable for materials likely to be
in active use for short periods of time, or materials likely to be used
infrequently over long periods of time. All paperback acquisitions (except
for certain rare items) may be stiffened as it is inexpensive, avoids
individual decision-making, and is almost totally reversible. Should unexpected
high use cause the need for rebinding in cloth, the initial low cost of
stiffening is justified as only items of demonstrated high use need to
be bound in the relatively expensive cloth form.
used at the Milton S. Eisenhower Library of the Johns Hopkins University
consist of: Elvace 1874, polyvinyl acetate adhesive; white-lined chip
board, 30-inch by 40-inch,* .042-inch; Gane Bros. special hinge cloth.
Boards are cut to six standard sizes (in centimeters), 19.5 x 13, 21 x
14, 23 x 15, 25.5 x 17, 28 x 21, 33 x 25. The hinge cloth is cut into
strips 2 centimeters wide by the height of the standard board size (e.g.
19.5 x 2). Other types of materials may be used providing that they approximate
those shown above m thickness. It is very important that the board does
not exceed .050-inches in thickness, and the hinge cloth does not exceed
the thickness of "C" grade bookcloth.
*[Please note that
this material is known to be acidic and that some more permanent/durable
board should be used for books of permanent research value.]
If possible, and
the volume of materials justify, both a gluing machine and an electric
guillotine should be used. If only a small number of items need to be
processed, a simple hand paper shear and various small hand tools are
all that is necessary.
1 bone folder
1 pair scissors
1 steel ruler (preferably 18 inches long, showing both
inches and centimeters)
1 hand paper shear (preferably about 18 iuches in
1 glue brush (preferably Gane's $4--2 rubberset)
1 can adhesive (a P.V.A.)
1 gluing machine, 18 inches wide, with board gluing
1 electric guillotine, at least 18 inches in cutting width
Sheets of wax paper or rigid plastic
Normally the items
for stiffening will have been sorted into different sized lots according
to the standard board sizes and should be processed in complete lots (i.e.
each operation should be completed on every book before proceeding to
the next phase). Processing falls into four basic phases.
- The book cover
is opened and a glued strip of hinge cloth is laid down the joint, extending
onto the book itself by approximately .5 centimeters (see figure 1 below).
The covers are left open to dry.
- A board of the
appropriate size is glued and laid with the glued side uppermost onto
the front of the book approximately .5 centimeters from the joint (see
figure 2 below).
- Holding the board
in position, the cover is closed down onto the board's glued surface,
and rubbed down with the bone folder, ensuring that the outside joint
is carefully creased (see figure 3 below).
- After this has
been repeated on the other side, the book is placed between sheets of
plastic or wax paper and left under a weight along with a pile of similar
size books until dry.
- When all books
have been processed, the tail, head and fore-edge are lightly trimmed
on the electric guillotine. If no guillotine, the protruding waste edges
of the boards and hinge cloth are trimmed off with the hand paper shear.
inside covers may carry information which needs to be saved, such
as maps, biographical data, series data, etc. A simple method of preserving
this information is by photocopying and tipping into the book at the
same time as stiffening.
stiffen is not suitable for single signature pamphlet-like materials,
which can be processed by insertion into a pamphllet case. A useful case
is that made from the same basic materials as the stiffen, and employing
the same simple tools. Shown below is a reprint of the Johns Hopkins University
Manual Guide number 18A (1980), describing the process in detail.
The pamphlet case
is a simple folio case consisting of two boards connected by a cloth spine
hinge and paper spine strip lined with a piece of stout acid-free paper.
It is designed to protect single fold paperback materials not suitable
for stiffening but utilizing the same basic materials and equipment.
by Nora Ligorano
As stated in the
instruction on “stiffening," adhesive
is Elvace I874; white-lined chip board, .042 inches in thickness, cut
to six standard sizes; spine cloth (any stout bookcloth from a general
supplier) cut to 5 cm wide by the height of the board plus 3 cm; paper
spine strip of any stout paper (probably an offcut from the acid-free
lining) cut to the height of the board by 2 cm; lining paper of acid-free
stock (Permalife Ledger, or Promatco Art Process) cut to the size of the
opened out case minus 1 cm from each dimension.
The same equipment
noted for stiffening, except that only the hand paper shear needs to be
used. The electric guillotine is useful only for cutting materials for
The paperback items
should be sorted into size lots according to the standard board sizes,
and the pamphlet cases stocked in the standard sizes. The method of pamphlet
case construction falls into tln'ee basic stages.
- The spine cloth
is glued, and the paper spine strip is laid down its center (see figure
- The boards are
laid onto the cloth against the paper spine strip and "turned in"
at the head and tail. All surfaces are rubbed down with a bone folder,
particularly at the board edges (see figure 2).
- Glue the lining
paper, and lay onto the inside of the case, leaving an even "square"
or border around the edge. Make snre that the inside of the joint is
set down (see figure 3).
It will be found
that pamphlet cases can be made most economically in bulk in the various
standard sizes and kept in stock.
by Nora Ligorano
As paperback, single-folio
items need to be processed, the appropriate case can be drawn from stock
and the item inserted. For inexpensive, replaceable items, metal stapling
may be used to secure the item to the center of the spine. For more permanent
items, attachment is probably best done by sewing with a simple three
The stiffen and the
pamphlet case are simple procedures which, if applied sensibly, can bring
an often unsatisfactory situation under consistent control.
Glaister's Glossary of the Book. Berkeley, University of California
Press, 1979. (back)
Glaister provides a concise summary of the development of the species.
Trisha Gorman. "New Bookmaking Techniques Offer Hope for Economics."
Publishers Weekly 218 no.23 (1980): 16. (back)
Publishers Weekly 219 no. 1 (1981): 40. (back)
4. Bower Annual of Library and Book Trade Information.
The most recent complete figures are for 1979. THe latest edition (1981)
of Bowker has an average "below $81" hardcover of $21.71 ($23.57
all inclusive), trade paperback average of $8.29, with mass market paperback
average prices not yet reported.
5. "The Interim Report on Book Paper of the Committee
on Production Guidelines for Book Longevity" (April 1981) seems to
indicate an increasing use of groundwood in mass-market paperbacks and
textbooks, and the likeihood that this will soon affect other books also.
If this trend does not change, hardcovers will be basically no better
than paperbacks in terms of paper quality. (back)
6. See my remarks on study and analysis of journal use
in "Binding and Preparation of Periodicals."
Serials Review 6 no. 3 (1980): 90. (back)
7. Margit Kraft, "An Argument for Selectivity
in the Acquisition of Materials for Research Libraries." Library
Quarterly 37 (1967): 284-295.
While the shortcomings of librarians in the area of book selection have
been discussed at length in the literature, Margit Kraft's criticisms
are sharp and wide-ranging. She is particularly critical of the wholesale
acquisition of "scholarly" materials, as the "only answer
to indiscriminate publishing is increasingly selective buying." (back)
8. A list of supplies and suppliers, with further
comments on materials:
- Board. White-lined clfipboard is available from local suppliers. Board that is
more stable (but unfortunately more expensive) is: Process 20 pt. Library
Board, from: Process Materials Corporation, 301 Veterans Boulevard, Rutherford,
NJ 07070. Also: Barrier Board Sheets, .052 inches, from: The Hollinger
Corporation, 3810 South Four Mile Run Drive, Post Office Box 6185, Arlington,
VA 22206. Appropriate board is also supplied by other reputable companies.
In view of the emphemeral nature of paperbacks and the generally low quality
of paper, it is questionable whether or not a permanent/durable board
is necessary on a large scale.
- Hinge Cloth/Linen. Any sized linen-type material will
serve, providing that it is not thick and stiff. A material which is appropriate
for this purpose, is "Special G hinge cloth" from: Gane Bros.
and Lane Inc., 371 Route 17, Mahawah, NJ 07430.
- Adhesive. There are various P.V.A. adhesives on the market,
many of which are appropriate. A strong, quick-setting adhesive is: "Elvace
1874" from: DuPont Plastic Dept., Room 5146, DuPont Building, Wilmington,
DE 19898. An adhesive which has a thicker, slower-drying consistency,
is "Velerette," from Slomans Labs, Inc., 32-45 Hunters Point
Avenue, Long Island City, NY 11101.
- Lining Paper. Suitable lining paper should be fairly
strong, because it functions in the inside joint of the pamphlet case.
A strong and stable paper is: "Permalife Text," manufactured
by the Howard Paper Company, and available through local merchants.
- Bookcloth. A good quality buckram should be used. If
available from a binder, offcuts can be useful providing that the grain
runs parallel to the joint. A binder's merchant, such as Gane Bros. and
Lane, will supply buckram in rolls. (back)