Thursday, June 09, 2005

Embarrassing Errors In Printed Matter Go to the Book Doc
Dunn & Co. Replaces Pages, Redoes Bindings by Hand, One Tome at a Time
Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg. Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Jun 8, 2005. pg. A.1

CLINTON, Mass. -- A publisher misspelled the word "Massachusetts" in the title of a guidebook, rendering it "Massatusetts." A bindery glue in a nursing handbook failed to hold, and the pages fell out. Thousands of copies of a quilting book printed overseas developed an awful smell while sitting in the hold of a ship during a dockworker's strike. A Chinese printer transformed "Grow Your Own Trees" into "Grow Your Own Tres."

All of these casualties found their way to a former cotton mill in this old industrial town, where a little business called Dunn & Co. has carved out an unusual niche it calls "book trauma."
Modern book publishers have high-tech distribution and just-in-time warehouses, but their wares remain old-fashioned products that roll off big printing presses. In writing and editing, mistakes can be taken care of with the click of a mouse, but books with problems must be fixed by hand, one at a time.

It is labor-intensive work few want to do. Some manufacturers and binderies do small repair jobs, but primarily as a courtesy to their customers. "I can't think of any other companies that do what [Dunn does]," says John Edwards, chief executive officer of Edwards Brothers Inc., a book manufacturer in Ann Arbor, Mich.

"If a book isn't ready for prime time, you call Dunn to fix it," says Andrew Weber, senior vice president of operations and technology at Bertelsmann AG's Random House Inc.

Dunn's caseload offers a window into a world of books gone wrong. A few years ago, John Wiley & Sons Inc. slipped up by providing the wrong academic credentials for an author on the title page of a new college textbook. "We put the books on hold at the warehouse, called Dunn and asked how fast they could pick them up, rip out the title pages, and tip in new ones," says Elizabeth Doble, vice president of production and manufacturing. Dunn fixed the problem by manually removing each title page with a sharp blade, and then inserting a newly printed, corrected page.

When the spine of a book called "Heaven & Earth: Unseen by the Naked Eye" wouldn't tear off, Dunn bought cans of compacted air, turned them upside down, and used the cold accelerant to freeze the glue so the spine would be easy to remove.

Esther Margolis, president of a small, independent New York publisher called Newmarket Press, a unit of Newmarket Publishing & Communications Corp., says she relied on Dunn to remove a printed exchange between an editor and an author that was inadvertently included in a finished book. "It was cheaper than reprinting, and quicker," she says. Dunn removed the page, printed a new one, and glued it in by hand. "Readers were never able to tell," says Ms. Margolis.
A salesman for a Buffalo, N.Y., phone book sold a full-page ad to an escort service, and it was printed in nearly 800,000 copies of the directory. Dunn was enlisted to replace the offending pages, which it did by hand. Dunn did the same service for a medical textbook that labeled a cancerous tumor benign.

Sometimes Dunn rescues publishers from their own miscalculations about how many books to publish. In October 2002, Random House's Villard imprint published "Mysterious Stranger" by magician David Blaine. The stacks that didn't sell were sent to Dunn, which converted them into paperbacks by tearing off the spine and hardcover "boards" and then gluing on a new cover. Every month Dunn transforms an estimated 600,000 hardcover books that way.

Founded in 1976 by David Dunn, a former book manufacturing executive, the company originally focused on book binding. In 1983, after several accounts went out of business, Mr. Dunn began targeting publishers' mistakes. The company employs about 125 people full time, including three of Mr. Dunn's nephews, a brother-in-law, Mr. Dunn's sister, his wife, his three daughters and their three husbands. The business generates about $7 million in revenue and grows an estimated 5% annually.

Its Web site features a hospital door with the words "Emergency Entrance" emblazoned on it. Viewers who click on the doors are then directed to a menu of specialists described as "book physicians." The list includes Head Book Nurse, Head Book Trauma Surgeon and Medical Book Billing.

It performed one operation earlier this year when Syracuse University Press sent 800 copies of Ghada Samman's novel "The Night of the First Billion" to Dunn. The problem: The last line of the book was inadvertently left out. "Nobody caught the mistake until it was too late," says Mary Peterson Moore, the press's manager of design and production. Inside Dunn's factory, a skilled worker used a blade to cut out the offending page. She then ran a line of glue to the area where the page had been excised. The new page was then set into the glue, and the book closed. The operation left no scar.

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