From time to time people send me books to review that might be relevant to printing. One of these books is Against the Grain, written largely by Graham Harris, who many of us in the printing industry will know as the founder of Tech-ni-fold.
The book mainly covers Harris’s journey from a lowly print finishing operator climbing slowly up the rungs of lower management to an entrepreneur who invents a useful tool in the Tri-Creaser and sets up a successful company to market it. That in itself would have been an interesting read, particularly given the context of the printing industry. But somewhat bizarrely, Harris has attempted to pitch the book as a self-help guide, promising to show every other budding inventor how to turn their ideas into a successful company.
I think the book would have worked much better as a simple tale of how Harris managed to grow a relatively large company out of a single idea. I would have preferred more details on the actual products that Harris invented. Tech-ni-fold is reasonably well known in the printing industry but it reads as if Harris is worried that other readers will be bored so he skips over the details. Then again, the intricacies of folding probably won’t mean much to most people.
As it is, the ins and outs of getting the business off the ground is fascinating and Harris doesn’t hold back in detailing how he went about doing this, what his options were and the costs and profits involved. There is a lot about marketing that will be of interest to anyone running their own business and not just inventors. However, Harris does have an irritating habit of restating parts of the story. The first three pages of ch 4, for example, are a summary of the previous three chapters. It makes the book feel like a marketing exercise, constantly restating the key elements to persuade readers to buy the product in question, not much use to those readers not involved in print finishing.
The book is really in two halves, with the first half describing Harris’ life and how he came to invent the Tri-Creaser, and the second half then devolving into a self-help guide for other would-be inventors. There’s an obvious interest for anyone involved in the printing industry in how the Tri-Creaser came about and I would certainly have preferred to read a lot more about this and the other products that Harris and his company have come up with.
The book could definitely have done with much tighter editing. There’s far too much repetition which makes the book feel waffly. Much of this is around the second half encouraging people to invent for themselves and set up their own company. But for all that it is a fascinating read into how a company like Technifold came into being, and the sheer hard work involved in inventing the products, filing the patents and then marketing the finished items.