Ink migration might be at the root of many bad book experiences. Publications that contain very sharp graphics often use inks that contain solvents. The solvents migrate toward the backbone and eat away the adhesive, especially when the book is wrapped, stored in a warehouse, and exposed to heat.
GLUES STRONG AS SMYTH
Ultimately, the backbone comes apart, and the pages fall out. Glues that cost more per-pound are engineered to avoid these problems, and provide bindings that hold up over time. Surprisingly, superior adhesives can be price competitive with popular cheap alternatives, Ardanaz says.
That is, if their application is managed according to the manufacturer's specifications. Ardanaz touts National Adhesive's PUR line, a polyurethane reactive hot melt that company officials say binds as well as Smyth stitching.
"These adhesives are a little more expensive, but usually you can apply maybe just a third of the total," Ardanaz says. "[PUR] has tremendously great strength and flexibility, and can handle all kinds of different heavily-coated stocks. We liken it to Smyth or staples, [because] it is parallel in strength."
It's a bold claim book manufacturers might have a hard time swallowing. But an internationally respected expert on binding says such skepticism might be ill-placed.
"I would imagine there's some truth to that," says Dr. Brian Roberts, operator of The Book Doctor, a hand bindery and book repair service in St. Johns, Newfoundland. Roberts has been repairing books for 30 years.
He uses an adhesive imported from Germany. It's a polyvinyl acetate glue engineered for use in hand binderies.
"To repair the kind of mess that's produced in that market, this is the best [approach] I know of," Roberts says.
Their bare budgets notwithstanding, librarians would gladly pay more for books that hold up. And they hope publishers will take note.