NAMPA — While much of the world is looking for ways to digitize information, the steady demand for the bookbinding services of Tim Wangler proves there is still a need to make books the old fashioned way.
Wangler is the owner of Idaho Book Bindery, one of the few shops west of Denver that still hard-binds books professionally. These days, much of the work Wangler does in his Nampa shop involves soft-cover books for the ever-growing self-publishing industry.
Because self-publishing a book can be costly, authors tend to seek out smaller binderies to put together the final product. Self-publishing has become Wangler’s niche.
“It’s us, or it’s Amazon,” he said.
Wangler didn’t set out to become a professional bookbinder. He graduated from Boise State University with a degree in production operations management. He worked as a supervisor at a corrugated box business for five years before he heard about a man selling old book binding equipment out of his garage.
Coming from a family of small business owners, Wangler decided to take the chance and dive into the world of bookbinding. He bought the equipment and set up shop in Nampa under the name “Idaho Book Bindery.”
Then, the Great Recession hit.
The economic downturn was hard on the print business and many others. It was also a time when more companies turned to digital media and consumers followed suit. Wangler, who had just invested in some big equipment, ended up selling the new pieces to keep his business afloat. He reduced costs even more by moving to a smaller warehouse on Sundance Road.
These days, business is robust, said Wangler, who does most of the work himself. When necessary, he brings in a part-time employee to help with larger orders.
“We’re stronger for it than we were back then,” Wangler said.
The bulk of his clients are big, commercial print houses like Caxton Printers of Caldwell and High-Tech Color of Boise. He does binding jobs for governmental and other large organizations, such as Idaho Power’s latest annual report.
While he could tell you the ins and outs of how to bind a book, Wangler is completely self-taught in bookbinding. He learned on the job.
“Thankfully our customers have been understanding. We’ve had plenty of goof-ups,” Wangler said with a laugh.
He added, “There’s nothing wrong with making mistakes as long as you own them.”
While some publishing industry experts predict e-books will one day render hard copies obsolete, Wangler has a different take. For example, the Pew Research Center recently reported that Millennials read more than older generations. And, a 2016 international study by an American University linguist found that 92 percent of college students preferred paper books to e-books.
“People are going back to print,” Wangler said. “And so I think there’s going to continue to be a market for both areas, print books and e-books.”