book binding guide – part 1

Benjamin Burrows

Managing Director

book binding guide – part 1

How you bind a book or document will almost certainly affect how it is received, and how much it costs to produce. This article is the first in a two-part series that explains eight popular ways to bind a book.

how to choose the right book binding

In my experience, choice of binding is a balance between aesthetics, budget, and practicality (or purpose). Sometimes, the desire to bind in a particular way conflicts with how the book will be used, so it’s important to explore the details with customers and consider potential pitfalls. For example, should the book open flat to be easily referenced? Will it have a short shelf-life, or do you want it to withstand regular use or the test of time?

Stack of books with top book open in a book shop

Of course, the number of pages and the paper used will also influence the best approach. This two-part guide will take you through different book-binding types, and introduce a few common binding terms. Remember, it’s often possible to adapt or combine different approaches to achieve the right result, so seek help if you’re unsure.

1. saddle stitching

Saddle stitching binds pages together with wire stitches or staples along the fold. This type of binding is ideal for lower page counts although the maximum capacity (usually around 96 pages) will vary depending on the paper weight.

Saddle stitching is one of the simplest ways to produce a booklet and is a cost-effective option for brochures, catalogues, programmes, and magazines. The number of pages in a saddle stitched book must be a multiple of four, but foldout sections can be included to accommodate extra content.

Book being saddle stitched

The wire used in saddle stitching is typically made of galvanised steel, but brass or coloured plastic-coated wire is also available. Loop stitching is a form of saddle stitching where the wire includes a protruding loop so the booklet can be included in a ring binder without needing holes.

NOTE: In a saddle-stitched book, the edge of each internal sheet sits slightly further away from the fold than its predecessor. This is called ‘creep’ and is compensated for automatically by commercial pre-press software.

TIP! If you’re planning to print booklets yourself, factor for creep in your artwork – allow a 3mm bleed and avoid positioning page numbers too close to the outside trim.

2. side stabbing

Side stabbing is similar to saddle stitching but instead of the wire staples going through the middle of the fold, they pass through each sheet from front to back. The staples can be covered with cloth tape to hide the stitching and reinforce the binding – known as tape binding.

Side stabbled book

Side stabbing is a good choice when you want to be able to tear out sheets, e.g. in notepads, delivery slips or raffle ticket books. A perforation can be incorporated near the bound edge so that, as pages are removed, the spine remains intact.

3. screw binding

Similar to side stabbing, screw binding pins the pages together from front to back using small screws rather than staples. Screw binding allows pages to be removed, replaced, or rearranged from time to time, so is ideal for menus or high-end brochures and catalogues. The cover can be soft (paperback) or made from covered board (hardback) for a more luxurious look.

Screw bound book

Done simply, screw binding uses two cover sheets front and back, leaving the document’s spine and screws exposed. More elaborate covers can incorporate a square spine and conceal the screw fixings inside the cover.

Screw bound book of colour samples

Single screw binding allows the page contents to be fanned out and is a common approach for books of colour swatches or paper samples.

TIP! When designing a document or book to be side stabbed or screw bound, remember to allow a generous margin (usually around 25mm) along the binding edge.

4. perfect binding

Perfect binding is a versatile and economical way to bind books, magazines, reports, and catalogues.

The pages of a perfect bound book are held together with hot melt adhesive and attached to a soft cover under pressure to create a neat, square, and printable spine. The three open sides of the book are trimmed to create a perfectly straight edge (hence the name perfect binding).

How to perfect bind a book

The glue used in perfect binding can be either hot melt EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) or PUR (Polyurethane Reactive) adhesive.

Whichever adhesive is used, the spine edge must be roughened to allow the glue to penetrate the paper fibres and create a strong bond. With hot melt adhesive, the spine is usually milled and notched to create this rough surface. PUR adhesive is much stronger than hot melt and requires less spine preparation and penetration of glue along the spine. As a result, PUR-glued books will open flatter than EVA-glued books.

NOTE: Perfect-bound books don’t open completely flat. If that’s a requirement for your book, you should consider thread-sewn binding.

Part 2 of our book-binding guide covers thread-sewn binding, case binding, board books, and wire-o, comb, and spiral/coil binding.

If you need help to produce a professionally bound document, magazine, or book, we’re always happy to explain the pros, cons, and associated costs of different binding options. You don't have to be an expert to work with us and we've created several quick guides to help you get a better understanding of design and print, including:

Call 01865 242098 or get in touch using the button below.

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