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Don't Tag a Book on Its Cover

BindTech, a Nashville, Tenn., bindery, received a patent for a process that can embed an RFID tag in a book cover as it is being manufactured.
By Beth Bacheldor
Tags: Library
Dec 11, 2007BindTech, a 15-year-old bindery in Nashville, Tenn., recently stumbled on an RFID application that could be a boon to book publishers. Now BindTech just needs to convince the book publishing industry of its benefits.

The company was trying to figure out how to put an electronic article surveillance (EAS) tag on a DVD case to prevent theft. "No matter where we put the tag, it interfered with the cover graphics," says Dennis Dehainaut, BindTech's VP of sales. So they started thinking about ways to embed the tag in the case. While they didn't come up with a solution for hard cases, they did hit on an idea for paper-based binding, which could be used for boxed sets of DVDs, CDs—and books.

BindTech received a patent in June for Smart Guard, an in-line process that can embed an EAS or RFID tag into the board of a book cover as it is being manufactured, before the book is bound. The tag is concealed by the end leaf, the blank paper that is glued to the inside of the front cover. The process includes what Dehainaut calls debossing, which creates a small indentation for the tag, so it is flush with the book cover. The RFID tags can be encoded with unique ID numbers either before or after they have been embedded.

BindTech says Smart Guard could enable publishers to track books through the supply chain, providing real-time information about where they are during manufacture, distribution and point of sale. To alleviate privacy concerns, retailers could deactivate the RFID tag when a consumer purchases a book.

Boekhandels Groep Nederland (BGN), the Netherlands' largest bookseller, and many libraries have been using RFID tags to track books, but the tags have to be applied manually. Embedding tags as the books are being produced could save a lot of time and money, says Dehainaut. "Libraries spend 35 or 40 cents per book to tag their items," which includes the cost of the RFID label and labor, he says. With Smart Guard, he says, it will cost a book publisher approximately 8 or 9 cents to embed a tag in a book.

"Publishers still look at this as an additional cost," says Dehainaut. "But if they considered how much time and money they could save throughout their whole distribution channel if books had RFID tags, there is no question about the advantages. It may take a forward-thinking book publisher to start the bandwagon. But I don't think this is a question of if, but when."
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