Different types of book binding

Different types of book binding

There are a number of ways books can be bound. We describe these methods below, along with advantages and disadvantages.

Perfect binding

Perfect binding is our preferred method of binding for publications over around 64 pages.

Perfect binding is a method of bookbinding where a flexible adhesive (ethylene vinyl acetate [EVA] adhesives) attaches a thick card cover to the spine of the collated, assembled pages.

Perfect binding puts all the pages together in a “book block”, roughens and flattens the edge, then a flexible adhesive attaches the paper cover to the spine. The book is then trimmed on three edges to provide a “perfect” finish. Paperback novels are one example of perfect binding.

Perfect binding, for us, involves printing books as collated sets (something that is possible with digital printing, but not traditional litho or offset printing). We print these usually four up or two up, and guillotine them into book blocks

Booklets, telephone directories, and some magazines use perfect binding methods. Compared to other binding methods, perfect binding is quite durable and has a low to medium cost. It can be used with publications that are several inches thick.

Perfect binding is by far our most common binding method. It is always used for books over about 64 pages, but can be used for publications as low as about twelve pages — it is often used for children’s books that may be around 36 to 48 pages, and often A4 landscape.

Case binding

You can choose to have your book with a custom hand crafted hard cover binding. You get a genuine, top quality, hand crafted hard bound book with buckram (very heavy cloth) bound onto a heavy card. The buckram can be virtually any colour. Books are sewn in the spine and glued. They have end papers glued on the inside covers. They also have head bands (small velvet like bands at the top and bottom of the spine). In other words, they are almost indestructible! Books can have gold or silver lettering on the cover and on the spine.

Here are the main case binding options.

  • Plain coloured buckram (most colours are available) with or without gold or silver embossed lettering on the cover and / or the spine.
  • A ‘pasted down’ cover which is a printed, laminated cover that is adhered to the thick board that makes the hard cover hard. This covers the entire book — front, back and spine — and folds over into the inside covers. This replaces the buckram cover.
  • Either of the above, with a dust jacket — a very long sheet printed on one side, usually celloglazed to protect it, that folds all the way around the book with a flap of about 100mm or more that folds into the inside covers.

Case binding looks great, but in practice few short run self-published books are case bound because of the cost. Most case binding these days is done in Asia as the price advantages are overwhelming. However case binding is Asia is uneconomical below around 500 copies. We are able to case bind small quantities, but what we do is completely had crafted and therefore comparatively expensive.

PUR binding

PUR binding is another method of making paperback books. It is very similar to perfect binding as described above. The only difference is the adhesive used, which is Polyurethane Reactive (PUR) adhesive.

Polyurethane Reactive (PUR) adhesive is the strongest book binding glue available.  It has excellent flexibility characteristics, and readers are less likely to be able to crack the spine of a PUR bound book. Readers are also less likely to be able to pull a page out of a book.

Less glue is required, which in turn means the book can more easily be laid flat that an book bound with EVA adhesive. The glue can withstand colder and hotter temperatures than EVA glue.

PUR adhesives can adhere to a wide range of substrates, including ink, celloglaze, all kinds of paper including UV coated paper, and mylar (plastic). This means that PUR binding may be best for complex publications using multiple substrates.

What’s the catch then — why isn’t everyone using PUR for perfect binding? Price is a significant factor — PUR binding is a minimum of 30% dearer. PUR glue must be discarded after the PUR binding machine is shut down — unlike EVA glue. Advances in EVA glue have meant that this more traditional adhesive is now extremely strong — much more so than, say, twenty or thirty years ago — thus rendering the advantages of PUR binding less attractive.

We offer PUR binding if customers request it.

Saddle stitching

Saddle stitching is our preferred method of binding for publications up to around 64 pages, although we can perfect bind (see above) down to about 12 pages.

Saddle stitching, for us, involves printing uncollated sheets and using a collator to collate them into sets, fold and “stitch” them together with two staples in the gutter, or spine. The booklets can be guillotined by a three way trimmer as part of the process, or separately guillotined.

The outer margin of the pages closest to the centre of the booklet are closer to where the book will be guillotined than those closest to the beginning and end of the booklet, so careful attention must be paid to “creep” to ensure the outer margin of the text is consistent throughout the book.

Saddle stitching does not work for publications above around 64 pages because the booklet will bulge at the spine.

Saddle stitching is cheaper than perfect binding. One other advantage is that saddle stitched booklets tend to sit flatter than perfect bound or case bound books.

Lay flat binding

Lay flat binding is our term for three different but closely related kinds of binding — wiro binding, coil binding and comb binding.

These three kinds of binding all create publications which can be laid flat on a table, or, for instance, on a music stand.

They have one other common characteristic — the gutter, spine, or inner edge of the book is punched and the wiro, coil or comb is passed through the holes created by the punching process.

Unfortunately this results on four other less desirable characteristics — punching weakens the pages which can all too easily be torn out; the wire/coil/comb can sometimes come undone, with the result that one or more pages might come out; the result is not very attractive; and you can’t read the title when the book is on a bookshelf.

These disadvantages notwithstanding, lay flat binding is extremely popular if a document just has to lay flat — on a table, on a music stand or lectern for instance.

Wires, coils and combs are available in multiple colours and for multiple thicknesses. The most common of this kind of binding — wiro binding — is not much more expensive than perfect binding. We regularly supply wiro bound products for our customers.

There is an alternative form of wiro binding, which does allow for a spine which can be read on a book shelf. It is called half Canadian binding. The cover is carefully scored so that when closed, there is a square spine. Part of the wiro binding is visible on the back cover. We offer this service on request.