Will books go the way of video rental stores? Not if Rutherford woman Sue Scraggs can help it.
Sue believes in the tangibility of the printed word and the distinct smell of well-thumbed pages.
She’s read hundreds, if not thousands, of books over the years, often staying up until two, three or four in the morning, because she “couldn’t put the bloody thing down”.
It’s been a 50-year love affair, starting with her first job as a table hand, at the age of 15, with the now-defunct Newey & Beath Printers in Broadmeadow.
Back then, they did all the page collating, perforating and embossing by hand.
“They’ve got machines to do all that now,” Sue told Newcastle Weekly wistfully.
Sue worked at numerous other printing companies around Australia, moving from job to job whenever her husband was posted to a new location with the Army.
They eventually settled in Rutherford, where Sue has operated her “cottage industry”, Sue’s Book Binding & Repairs, for the past seven years.
It’s not enough to pay the bills, but it keeps the rare trade humming, and what’s more, she often works with community organisations, such as historical societies and churches, free of charge.
Generations-old bibles, dictionaries and storybooks are among the most common types of books needing repair, particularly those with inscriptions and sentimental value.
“I’m often asked if I read the bibles – no, I just fix them,” Sue quipped.
In five decades, Sue has only turned away one book for repairs (ironically, a bible), as a combination of an obscene amount of sticky tape and rice paper-thin pages made it unsalvageable.
Usually, she will cut the book out of its cover; insert new end pages and new ribbon; reinforce the back with calico; re-cover it, if the book’s original cover can’t be saved; and emboss it with gold lettering.
Sue admitted that her customers were mostly elderly, as they were the ones who held the printed word dearest.
“Some of these books have been in people’s families for generations and they want to preserve them to pass on,” she said.
“Or they don’t want family to discover them in their current condition after they’re gone and throw them out.
“Kindles are so popular these days and the younger generations are all about buying new; I don’t think they even realise you can get [books] fixed.”
Sue can be contacted on 4932 6390 or 0409 326 392.