The Best of Bindery

Part 2: The pros and cons of common binding techniques

Last month we looked at some of the most popular methods of binding. Here, we delve deeper and examine their advantages and limitations. As I mentioned last month, I’ve always believed that binding techniques are much more than just a way to put a publication’s cover and inside pages together. Today’s creative binding options can make any book or booklet look and feel more professional and attractive, while also reflecting and even showcasing its contents.

Case Binding. Case Binding (also known as hardcover) is commonly used for high-end books and is ideal for items that must withstand the test of time.

Pros: A case-bound or hardcover book is sturdy to the touch, visually impressive and implies a high-value item that usually attracts a healthy price tag.

Cons: The higher price tag may adversely affect net profits, especially for short runs. As they’re heavier, shipping costs could be higher. Finally, an optional dust jacket (a paper wrapping covering the front, back and spine) may be added, which also involves extra costs.

Saddle Stitching. Here, two or three stiches hold pages together at their centre, with or without a cover. This method is commonly used for brochures, schoolbooks, calendars and other marketing materials.

Pros: Production costs are extremely low compared to most other methods. Books also lay flat when opened.

Cons: Margins for centre pages will not be the same as for outer pages because the “nesting” of pages within one another shifts margins. Therefore, this method is not recommended for books with larger numbers of pages. Pages and covers are more easily damaged (i.e. not ideal for retail sales).

Perfect Binding. In this instance, covers are made of flexible card stocks and may also be laminated or coated to protect them. The flexible cover is ideal for “softcover” books, guides and magazines with a limited number of pages.

Pros: Ideal for titles that have a shorter lifespan but still require a professional look. Less expensive alternative to hardcover books both in printing and shipping. You can also read book titles on the spine as they lie on the shelf.

Cons: There can be more wear on a paper-based or a card-based cover, along with some curling of the edges. Also, these books don’t lay flat when opened.

Spiral binding: Plastic Coil, Wire-O, Cerlox etc. Despite the fact that “book-of-one” digital printing is becoming more and more financially viable, many authors, especially self-publishers, still utilize these popular, low-cost forms of binding available at local quick-print shops. And while they don’t have as sophisticated an appearance as many high-end retail titles, they’re still neat and popular as educational books, technical and instructional manuals, cookbooks and other “blue-collar” publications.

Pros: Very low cost compared to other methods, so they’re ideal for self-publishers on a budget. Ideal for short runs – and they may often be the only option available if not using current, digital “book-of-one” technology.

Cons: They’re not as durable as other options. Seldom accepted for retail channel distribution – unless they’re specialty titles printed in a way that’s already accepted by consumers (i.e. cookbooks, workbooks, technical guides, instruction manuals etc.).