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Jr. Visits Safebook

S. Levi

Do you love books? Bet you feel pretty bad when they get ripped. Well, imagine if you could wrap your books in something that would make them almost impossible to destroy. You can! That substance is called plastic, and a company called Safebook uses it to make books stronger than ever before.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

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Have you ever seen those plasticized, hardcover children’s books? Jr. takes a peek behind the scenes to see exactly how – and why – those books are produced.

Welcome to Safebook

As I walk into Safebook’s industrial unit, I’m struck by the sheer height of the room. A ladder propped against the shelves is stretched full length, but it doesn’t even reach the topmost shelf. There must be a lot of climbing done in here to reach all those books, I muse. The shelves are huge; I reckon ten kids could have a comfortable game of jacks up there if a shelf were empty. But the shelves are far from empty — they’re all stacked with piles of books.

Some books look half-baked; others seem ready to read. I wonder why there are ready books here at the beginning of the production line.

“Sometimes we get a shipment of books that are covered and ready to be shipped to the stores,” explains Mr. Naftali Wolf, “but the publishers decide they want to plasticize them. In that case, we strip off the covers, plasticize the pages, and build a new cover. In most cases, though, the books come to us from the printer, coverless, which is really the smarter way to do it.” Mr. Wolf then walks me through the process.

The Guillotine

He shows me to the first machine: the guillotine, used to cut off the existing cover, and to cut away extraneous plastic once the pages have been plasticized. He explains that as a safety feature he must use both hands to operate it; this way one hand can’t, chas v’shalom,


accidentally wander where it shouldn’t when the machine is in operation.

Zzzzzzzzzz. I watch in fascination as he simultaneously presses two buttons with his hands, and a foot pedal (called a press) with his foot, and a cover is neatly sliced off. I fully understand the need for safety and realize why it was given this name. (For those of you who don’t know the dark side of French history, in the 1789 French Revolution, angry peasants imprisoned and executed the king, queen, and hundreds of French nobles. A guillotine was used for the executions — we won’t go into the details…)

Right near the guillotine, a steam-generated hose is used to blast dust away from the cover with several short and powerful spurts. (I wish I could have one of those at home!) Now that the cover is off and dusted, the book block is ready to be bound again.

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