iBookBinding in 2019: Year in Review

This was a year of hard work, great weariness, constant experiments, and achievement. I can’t say that iBookBinding faced many challenges, but I personally had my fair share of them. It was a fantastic year. However, I’m glad to start a new one. It also was a year of meeting with lots of wonderful people, sharing ideas, and finding new ways to collaborate and create.

Almost a week before Christmas, we kickstarted our vacation by flying to Thailand with a stop in Moscow. And that was the first time in the history of our vacations when we didn’t drive around as crazy using every day for gathering new impressions. We had our breakfasts at the hotel, had our dinners out, went to the spa for a massage, and slept all the rest of the first three days.

I guess that gives an understanding of how exhausting the last months have been for both of us.

But let’s start from the beginning.

Making iBookBinding a Full-Time Job

I started making books more than ten years ago. My career as a bookbinding teacher began in 2014, and I taught almost until the moment we left Russia for the Netherlands early in 2018. However, for most of my adult life, my main job wasn’t related to making books. In some months, my side income was indeed higher than my salary, but it never was a stable source of money for my family.

Before our move to the Netherlands, we decided that I wouldn’t try to find an office job and will focus my attention on making iBookBinding a source of income out of a hobby.

I guess it was even trickier because in Moscow I had a studio where I could teach and make bookbinding equipment with my power tools. It is almost two years since we moved to the Netherlands, and due to many reasons, I haven’t rented a workshop yet. So, one of the revenue items was forfeited entirely, and the other has lost a hefty chunk of more expensive tools (large presses and stuff).

I started 2019 with business results of the previous year marginally better than the results of 2017.

However, I didn’t lose determination, as I saw some new opportunities in my position. I finally started taking part in bookbinding fairs, and they made all the difference for 2018.

At the end of 2019, I still cannot say that iBookBinding had transformed from a hobby (even a full-time hobby) to a business, but it finally started to look like something of that sort. I even hope that next year I will be able to allocate myself a salary similar to what I had while I worked as a computer technician at one of Moscow’s schools (please note that the pay wasn’t high by First World standards =))


Speaking about statistics, here are some numbers:

  • iBookBinding Etsy shop had twice as many orders this year as there were during all previous years of operation
  • On Facebook, we passed the 10.000-follower point this summer, and we continue to grow
  • We started this year with 1.000 followers on Instagram, and now there are more than 4.000 of them
  • There are more than 100 different items offered at our shop at the moment (3d-printed or made with wood or Plexiglas)
  • I designed several new things and updated multiple old designs this year (more about that below) — all of them have already received high praise from happy customers!

However, all these achievements come at a price. I tried to keep the pace and post on iBookBinding as often as possible. But as creating interesting, useful, and educational content was always my goal, it usually takes a lot of time to prepare even the shortest post. This year I had help from several amazing people who joined the team to write about bookish things. With almost every one of them, it was only a temporary arrangement, and by the end of the year, I simply had no time for writing, because the number of orders has tripled in the last four months. Once again, that’s great, but it doesn’t leave much time for anything else.

Keeping iBookBinding an Educational Platform

My greatest hope is that I will be able to continue publishing educational content on iBookBinding. Both written by other authors and me. Hopefully, the rising revenues of our shop will allow inviting more people to join the team. I don’t think that’s a business decision, as posting free tutorials seem to generate a lot of income =)

However, it is my belief that the world needs as many sources of information about bookbinding, book arts, and book history as it can get. And if it’s in my powers to continue publishing, I’ll do that.

And, by the way, we always welcome guest posts!

Online Bookbinding Courses

On the other hand, I still hope I will be able to launch online courses finally. I probably already wrote about them last year or even two years before. The first course has been in works since I don’t remember when and it’s 80% done since this summer. But, once again, the general overload and lack of time didn’t allow me to return to working on it since.

I have several of them in works now, but the one that is almost done is dedicated to turning-in the cover material near the book’s corners. Yeah, I guess, I’ve got the idea because of our most popular corner cutting jigs.

I started with a plan to make a five-lesson course: three video-lessons for paper and cloth bindings and two dedicated to leather binding. Well, now there are around twenty of them, and the number only grows.

I really hope you will like it when it’s finally done.

Creating New Tools and Updating the Old Designs

After teaching, one of the best joys for me is experimenting with tool designs, creating new items, and updating the old ones. Yes, I like making books, but as I don’t earn money as a bookbinder anymore, I rarely do anything these days. I have several projects in mind that I’d like to make for my wife for myself. Even more projects ideas are planned for sharing on iBookBinding (and making tutorials). However, designing tools will remain one of the main activities for me.

New Tools Offered at iBookBinding

Signature Punching Tools

The new family of items that attracted most of the attention this year were punching cradles and punching tools for making holes in signatures before sewing them together in a book block. I planned to add the item to the shop since at least two years ago. However, there never was time until I was asked about them by several customers almost simultaneously.

Of course, the general idea isn’t new. There are many versions of the tool offered by different companies and individuals. There even are some 3d-printed versions as well. But as with our corner cutting jigs, I tried to make the old tool a bit better!

Now, you have multiple options to choose from:

  • Three designs of the tool:
  • Different distances between the holes:
    • 5 mm
    • 10 mm
    • 15 mm
    • 1/4″
    • 1/2″
  • Different length of the tool:
    • 220 mm (8 2/3″)
    • 310 mm (12 1/4″)
    • 350 mm (13 3/4″)
    • 400 mm (15 3/4″)
    • 500 mm (19 2/3″)
    • 600 mm (23 2/3″)

And all of them can be printed in any of almost twenty colors we have in stock!

There also are other versions of the tool in works. Including a larger one, that would have fixtures for attaching it to a workbench with screws or clamps.

L-Shaped and T-Shaped Spacers and Gauges

This item was also long planned. These gauges of different width (from 3 mm to 30 mm) can be used for planning distances between the boards of the book’s cover or between the boards and the spine. We had offered straight spacers for ages, but these new versions have one great advantage: they allow you to position the covers and the spine at one level by using that stop they have at the bottom (or at the top, depends on your preference).

L-shaped gauges come in two variations. One of them is a sort of a truncated T-gauge (check the photo), so you can use two of them to aline both cover boards and the spine, and they wouldn’t obstruct each other as the T-gauges would do in that situation.

I really hope they will get the attention they deserve, as I already tested the tools, and I love them!

You will find all our spacers here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/iBookBindingStore?section_id=21376670

Plexiglas Book Cradles

This family of items was added because we decided to update our book scanning system (more about that below). There are two main versions of the cradle that come in different sizes: suitable for smaller and larger books. The first version has a spine, and the other just has an inner corner without any support for the spine, so it can be used with a book of any thickness.

As with many of our other items, there are planned some new versions of book cradles to be added to the shop next year.

Please find everything on offer at the moment here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/iBookBindingStore?section_id=27286991

Tombow Glue Holder

It wouldn’t be possible to add this item to the stock with a customer’s recommendation, as I never used Tombow glue and never suspected that it needs a holder. But apparently, this glue has large followership among the hobbyists, and I found it quite fitting for our shop.

Here is an impromptu holder I started using for my much larger glue =)))

Updates to Old Designs

Book Scanning System

As I mentioned above, our book scanning system has received an almost complete makeover. The plastic/wooden cradle was replaced with Plexiglas (that can serve as a book cradle when you aren’t scanning books); the top part was also changed to Plexiglas because the original glass was a bit too fragile. We tested the updated version multiple times, and it doesn’t seem to influence the quality of the scanned books.

The other update to the system is the addition of fixtures for photo cameras. That was one more reason for switching to Plexiglas as the glass we sed wasn’t able to survive the strain the weight of the camera put on it.

As previously, the system is offered in multiple sizes designed to accommodate almost anything from small to very large books.

All version of the system can be found here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/iBookBindingStore?section_id=25381151

Book Presses

Book presses were one of the things I removed from stock after our move to the Netherlands. However, as they are not as time-consuming in the making as, for example, laying presses, I decided to return them earlier this year. However, they received an update as well. Previously, they had to be tightened by wing-nuts. So to achieve good pressure, you had to use pliers or some other additional tool. Now a set of 3d-printed knobs (with a steel nut embedded inside) is included to the set. This makes operation the presses much handier.

As before, there are three types of book presses we offer (in multiple sizes):

  • Basic book press
  • Book press with a sewing frame
  • Book press with a sewing frame with hooks for cord adjustment

All presses are gathered in this category: https://www.etsy.com/shop/iBookBindingStore?section_id=19168124

Papermaking Molds

Surprisingly, we offered only simplified versions of smaller square papermaking molds. The more classical design was available only for the largest size (37×37 cm). Now, this error is fixed. The other change is the addition of sets for making paper shaped as letters and digits.

For the molds with laid paper patterns, please use this link: https://www.etsy.com/shop/iBookBindingStore?section_id=26645063

Sets of Tools

Not new items per se, but something that we didn’t offer before. Now we have sets of different tools sold with a reasonable discount (up to 25%). Currently, two sets include punching cradle and corner cutting tools, and two other sets include sewing frame, sewing keys, punching cradle, and corner cutting jigs.

Here is the link: https://www.etsy.com/shop/iBookBindingStore?section_id=27641107

Website, Facebook, and Instagram

I was experimenting a lot with the posting schedule this year. For quite a long time, iBookBinding had daily posts that included news, tutorials, other educational publications, exhibition announcements, and more. I wasn’t alone doing that job. Several people joined the team at different moments of time. However, it is a very exhausting job to keep a daily posting schedule, even if you have a person to share the duty. Even if you have spare time.

Recently, we shifted the main focus of our attention to our Instagram account. I have a lot of interesting bookish things to share and gather even more of them with every passing month. It wouldn’t be immodest to say that we have a very beautiful and informational feed on the platform. If you haven’t followed the account yet, I urge you to do the right now!

It is the current plan to transform most of the Instagram posts into Facebook posts and publications on the iBookBinding website (adding some more detail there). With all the workload of the recent months, that’s the only feasible way of keeping them active. And I know from my own experience that while losing search engine positions happens quite fast and easy, gaining them back is a long and painful process.

As even with the shortest posts I always try to share some knowledge, I really hope that the community of iBookBinding will be ok with that change. I’d be glad to see some input on the matter from you in the comments section below.

Hopefully, we will be able to invite more authors this year. Hopefully, we will be able to get translators working on Spanish and Portuguese versions of the site this year. Hopefully… well, we’ll see how it goes =)

Inspiring Bookbinding Projects of the Month

By the way, one of my favorite series (and I see that the community likes it as well) is the recent revival of “Inspiring Bookbinding Projects of the Month.” There are three posts published in recent months, and I’m quite impressed with every project we shared to date.

Stay tuned for December’s projects to be shared early in January!

Ways to Support iBookBinding

Any interaction with iBookBinding is helpful. Whether you only follow us on Facebook or Instagram, or you are buying our tools. However, every positive comment and message helps us to move forward =)

Please share and like our posts. That’s one of the most important things that helps in the modern world of social media.

However, if you are willing to spend a couple of dollars per month, there is another way to support our work: you can become our patron on Patreon. Pledges start with only a dollar. Starting with $5 per month, you’ll get digitized books about bookbinding, book arts, and book history we prepare for our supporters!

Here is the link: https://www.patreon.com/ibookbinding

The same books are available, by the way, on our Issuu account (for a small fee, though).

Please Support us on Patreon!

The minimum level of contribution is only $1 per month. Pledges received from our patrons cover the editing services for our bookish podcast!

Moreover, starting with the pledge level of $3, you will get a digitized vintage book about bookbinding, book history, or book arts each month from us!

These pledges help iBookBinding to continue its work and bring more information about bookbinding and book arts to you!