Can This Book Be Saved?
Dave Dunn's foray into book rescue and repair was the result of bad luck that inspired smart thinking. "I worked 16 years for Colonial Press. They were purchased by a holding company, then sold to another holding company. They decided they wanted to do automobile manufacturing and I didn't fit," explains Dunn. "I left with the thought that all the things that [Colonial Press] didn't want to do, I would do for all manufacturers. No one wants to do the things like shrink wrapping little pieces together. So, I started doing the labor intensive things that no one else wanted to do."
Dunn's passion and knowledge of the industry are apparent immediately upon speaking with him. With more than 40 years of experience, Dunn has many manufacturing horror stories to tell. The stories are often comical, but Dunn realizes that the comedic value is not so obvious to the publisher and vendor in question. Although he and his team of 150 employees at the Book Trauma Center are equipped to handled nearly any book emergency, Dunn says this is not the goal of the business. "[We try] to deal with prevention in a way [as such] we're going to fix the problem so we don't get any more work. Our aim is to prevent illness rather than deal with a patient who is terminally ill. We are an emergency room."
Dunn feels that his business' niche in the marketplace is due to the high-production culture that is present at large manufacturers. "Large manufacturers today need to automate and minimize labor in facilities. To fix something, they have to shut down the line and address repairs. They're not used to doing that type of work, so they can't go that fast. To shut down the machinery means a loss in sales. It's far more cost-effective to load the books on the back of an ambulance. Our job is to get the inventory back in a short amount of time," he says.
According to Dunn, finding companies to correct binding problems is becoming increasingly more difficult. "Unless you deal with R.R. Donnelley or Quebecor World, you're not going to find someone. Library binders don't fit the industry. The trade binderies are used to taking in materials from a variety of printers and then reproducing the final product on smaller pieces of equipment," states Dunn. "[This begs the question], how do you repair a spiral book if you don't have a spiral binder? How do you fix a hard cover book if you don't have case binding equipment? Look at what' s happened in the binding industry: Horowitz is gone. World Trade Bindery tried to put a plant in Connecticut and they're gone." Enter the Book Trauma Clinic.
The intrinsic nature of the publishing business dictates that once a book is printed it is committed to the content between its covers. While not so much a problem in genres such as fiction, this does present problems in the area of medical publishing. For example, the Book Trauma Center received an influx of work in the late 1980s. Recalls Dunn, "At that time, if someone had to have a mastectomy, reconstructive surgeons were encouraged to use silicone implants. Well, what happened after it came out that they were not supposed to use silicone? What was the value of all of these medical textbooks advocating use of silicone? They would have been subject to contingent liability." To correct the problem and save nearly 250,000 books, the offending pages were removed and replaced with pages containing legally current copy. "We surgically cut out the old page, leaving a minute, 1/16' stub. Then, we laid a bead of copolymer adhesive in the channel where the page was taken out. The new page was then embedded on the upper side of the stub," says Dunn. "When the glue cures, which happens in a blink of an eye, that new page becomes the strongest in the book and it is virtually impossible to tell where the change was made."
And sometimes pages have to be added. Once, the team at the Center resuscitated 20,000 medical books that were missing 128 pages of 3,000. Someone at the publishing company inadvertently forgot to send the printer all of the copy. In that case, the missing pages were reprinted on the same paper, then the books were rebound and the covers were reprinted. In an instance such as this, Dunn stresses that "if you don't have the equipment to meet the quality of the original book, you won't get the business."
A large–and lucrative–part of Dunn's business today involves converting hard cover books to paperbacks. The benefits of conversion are readily apparent. "If [a publisher] sold 350,000 books and has 10,000 left over and 20,000 came back as returns, what is the value of that inventory," reasons Dunn. "For $1 a book, they can be converted. [The publisher] can now sell to a wholesaler quality trade paperbacks. If the wholesaler sells the book for $15.95, the publisher sold it to them for $8. Originally, the leftover inventory was worth nothing. But for an investment of $1 a book, each book is now worth $8."
Within that statement lies Dunn's commitment to returning as many books as possible back to the marketplace. For publishers, it behooves them to do what the doctor orders.
Dunn invites publishers to come hear him speak at BookTech 2002. He will regale and educate attendees during the "Book Binding: Make the Most of Your Budget" session on Tuesday, February 12 from 1:30 - 2:45 p.m.