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The Sydney University Press team – (L to R) Hannah, Agata, Phil, Denise and Susan

It had been tentatively planned for almost 12 months, but last Friday the Sydney University Press team finally got to see another side of the publishing industry.

With three new staff members in the last year, it’s been an exciting time for the press. But one of the things on our collective to-do list has been to explore a side of book publishing that we don’t ordinarily see. After working with authors, editors and designers over a book’s lifetime, our text and cover files are sent to the printer and – somehow – completed books are sent back in their place. It was well past time that our newest staff learned something more of that ‘somehow’ process.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that publishers are fond of paper

Ligare Book Printers are based in Riverwood, NSW, not far from where the press lives at the University of Sydney, and have been one of our regular partners over the years. We are very fortunate to have had such a long relationship with one of just a handful of Australian book printers, and it was to Ligare that we ventured to explore printing and binding techniques and the range of new technologies in the industry.

Susan and Hannah admire the various types of covers and binding styles produced on-site at Ligare

Carrick Wilkie, our animated host, firstly showed off some of the interesting projects they’ve worked on recently, including paperbacks for children with metallic covers, artbooks with bronze embossing, textbooks with spot-varnished covers and hefty, record-breaking manuals with seriously strengthened binding.

Ligare’s workspaces are a little bit like the Doctor’s Tardis – bigger than it looks from outside and with lots of machinery and buttons with complex and mysterious purposes. There’s also a lot of paper around, in huge A0 sizes to 20-inch-wide rolls as tall as a chair, to stacks of printed books waiting to be bound or shipped.

Carrick talks us through the process of traditional offset printing, including creating aluminium plates

It was a relief to know that it’s not just office printers that are plagued by paper jams – it can even happen to the latest and greatest tech. The difference, I suspect, is that compared to the average office, printer techs with years of experience are on hand to sort out any jams immediately.

We were pleased to meet Sandy, a bookbinder who handles the bespoke or complex binding jobs that can’t be automated. His passion for his work was clearly evident: multiple awards, traditional tools of the trade, and books labelled ‘Sandy’s copy’ crowd his workspace.

Part of the impressive recycling scheme

The recycling facilities at Ligare are very impressive, with bespoke piping set up from all factory floors directly to one large compactus which compresses all spare and scrap paper into small cubes for pulping and re-use. This contributes to their FSC accreditation, which means they guarantee that the paper they source come from forests which are responsibly and sustainably managed – something which is very important to us at SUP and of course to future generations of SUP readers!

It was a great experience to get out of the office to learn something new, see another side of our industry, and connect with new and familiar faces. Now we just need to decide where to visit next!

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Discussion about publishing and new books from Sydney University Press and University of Sydney authors

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