After producing books that withstand decades of abuse, publishers are now shipping titles that hardly survive a week. New books from top imprints are falling apart days, weeks, or months after being delivered to libraries and schools.
Pages peel away like sheets off a notepad. Cover stocks rip, revealing sleeves where spines used to be. Callused strips of glue crack apart with little coaxing. And surprisingly, even Smyth stitched titles are coming undone.
"We order books once a month, and I noticed [new] books were starting to come apart," says John McManus, director of the Millinocket Memorial Library, in Millinocket, Me. "I thought it was overuse by patrons. But one book fell apart picking it up off the cart. It hadn't even gone out yet, and the whole thing just came apart, which is unbelievable."
Another librarian reports problems with hardcover editions of Scholastic's Captain Underpants and Ricky Ricotta books. "These are very popular, so I would expect normal wear and tear," says Caryn Werlin with the Bridge School Library, in Lexington, Mass., in an e-mail. "But what I have been seeing for the past year is anything but. Most of my copies have come unglued from the spines."
Werlin called Scholastic and pointed out their catalog states bindings are suitable for trade and library use. Scholastic's picture books are Smyth sewn and reinforced. Books for older readers are casebound, and have three-piece cloth and board covers.
"The [customer service] supervisor said that after books circulate once, they do not replace them," Werlin says. "Most are falling apart after five to 12 circulations. This is completely unacceptable."
HALL OF SHAME
Perhaps not surprisingly, publishers appear to be dodging the issue. None responded to BookTech's request for an interview. But if the companies behind these poorly made books don't seem to care, John Clark does.