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How to become a Bookbinder

bookbinder careers

What does a Bookbinder do?

Print finishers/machine bookbinders turn printed materials into finished articles such as books, booklets, catalogues or cartons. They use machines which cut and trim paper to the correct size, fold sheets into sections, glue, stick or staple sections together, and bind books. Most of these machines work automatically and can be set up to run for long periods of time.

Print finishers set up the machinery, feed it with paper, watch for breakdowns or misfeeds, and take away and stack the finished products.

They may work on one type of machine, but are more likely to work on a range of different machines, and also carry out routine maintenance.

Craft/hand bookbinders bind by hand small numbers of books such as family histories or books for libraries and museums. They use specialist hand tools to make bindings for books and to sew pages, then add decoration such as gold lettering and edging, or marbled end papers.

Some binders restore and repair antique books, cleaning discoloured pages or using fine quality leathers and papers to match those originally used.

What's the working environment like working as a Bookbinder?

The working week is usually 37.5 hours, with some companies operating a shift system. Overtime may be available at busy times, requiring evening or weekend work. Self-employed binders set their own hours according to their work-load.

Print finishers/machine bookbinders work in a factory or workshop. Some machines are noisy and require the use of ear protectors.

Craft bookbinders may also work in a factory or workshop, or often in a library or museum. If self-employed they usually work from home, but may need to travel to meet customers.

What does it take to become a Bookbinder?

To be a print finisher or machine bookbinder you should:

  • be practical and dexterous
  • have an aptitude for work with machinery
  • be quick to learn new skills
  • be able to measure and count accurately
  • be reasonably fit
  • be able to work alone and as part of a team.
To be a craft bookbinder you should also:
  • be able to communicate well with customers
  • be content to work alone for much of the time
  • have artistic skills.

Bookbinder Career Opportunities

The greatest concentration of companies is in London and the South East, and around Bristol and Leeds. Around 20,000 people work as finishers or bookbinders.

Work is available for companies which specialise in finishing and binding, in the finishing department of a printing firm, or in the print unit of a large organisation such as a local council, university or college.

A few big companies employ more than 500 people but most local firms employ fewer than 25. The franchised chains of “quickprinters” found on most high streets offer a wide range of printing services and employ staff for print finishing work.

A skilled print finisher or bookbinder can be promoted to supervisor in their department, or they may move to the finishing department of a bigger company or to a specialist print finishing company. Some opt for a different type of job within the company such as printing or sales.

There may be opportunities to work overseas within large companies.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Bookbinder that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

British Printing Industries Federation (BPIF)
Farringdon Point
29/35 Farringdon Road
Tel: 0870 240 4085

Jobs in Print

City and Guilds
1 Giltspur St
Tel: 020 7294 2800

The Society of Bookbinders

Proskills UK

Facts and Stats:

  • There are one million people in the sales profession, excluding retail sales

  • Half of all sales people are in business-to-business sales.

  • Until something is sold, nothing happens (think about it).
  • The sales process in company IT may take three years.