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Tucson, Arizona, United States
I work as Panther Peak Bindery and am a bookbinder, conservator and instructor working outside Tucson, Arizona for individual and institutional clients across the country. I am a two term President of the Guild of Book Workers, was a Fulbright Scholar, taught at North Bennet Street School for over nine years and was the fastest in my middle school class at running up and down a flight of stairs (really!).



Friday, March 9, 2012

Festival of Books

This weekend I'm going to be at the Festival of Books here in Tucson.  It's the fourth year of the Festival and I heard that it has become the third or fourth largest gathering of its type in the country.  They expect around 100,000 people.

I did it last year and it was really fun.  It's always nice to talk to people who are interested in what I do.  Last year was the first time I did it and so I had no idea what to expect, what people would be interested in, how many people I'd actually talk to.  As a result I used one table where I set up examples of repairs (because most people have no idea what a good book repair is) and brought some models of historic bindings.

One thing I find fascinating about books is how few people understand how they are made, or how they are intended to function.  I truly believe that most people know more about how their car works, how the internal combustion engine works, than they know how their books function.  I suppose I believe that because it explains why the public is to willing to buy incredibly poorly made books just because the cover is pretty, or because they like the content.   Commercial bindings have become the Yugos of manufacturing, and that's a sad, sad thing.

But, with all these things, I think it creates a renaissance of hand made, quality books that a segment of the public appreciates and understands.  I think most people would understand if it could be explained to them.  Still, it's sad that the Kindles of the world are replacing awful bindings, instead of replacing well made bindings.  It just doesn't feel like a fair fight.

A book from 1508 I repaired.

So that's what I try to do at the Festival.  Show people how books were made, and how they should be made today.  I'm avoiding my rant here about how books can be sewn by machine for less than a penny per section and less than a second per section. That means that the typical book could be manufactured in a sewn binding for less than 25 cents per book.  (See how restrained I am about this, by not putting that last sentence in italics and underlining it?)  Of course a sewn book on good paper will last centuries. Centuries.

A sewn book.

When I was at Washington students would come in with engineering textbooks which had fallen apart in a few weeks because they were glued bindings.  For which they had paid over 75 dollars!  Irony, eh?  They obviously replaced them, but not doubt it just happened again.  If they're going to produce crap then why not give up and run to the Nook?  After all it feels like publishers (at least the large ones) aren't really producing books any more, they are just producing widgets that have the appearance of books.

The book in the picture just above was less than a month old and broke.  Why?  Because the people manufacturing the book had no idea how to make a book of that weight and heft strong enough to last longer than that.  It was just a widget to them.

I spent the past two days getting my things together.  It felt like packing for a trip where you just want to get on the plane because then there isn't anything more that can be done.  It'll be nice to get set up on Saturday morning.  I'll have some historical models, some new stuff to sell and information on upcoming classes.

Should be beautiful weather.  And thousands of nice, book loving people.  Now I just need to show them the exciting world of binding.  And not rant too much.

I'm at booth 110, the same as last year.  Stop by if you're there and say hi.

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