Just as you have many choices for printers, paper, and folding, you’ll find lots of options for book binding too. Each binding method has a specific benefit, whether it’s low cost, durability, or the ability to lie flat when open. Be sure to ask your printer for advice on choosing the appropriate binding for your project.
Here are some of the most common binding methods and applications for each of them.
Case Bound (Hard Cover)
You would likely choose this kind of binding for reference books, archival materials, textbooks, children’s books, and gift books.
With case bound binding, the signatures of paper (usually one signature is 32 pages) are glued together, then glued to a gauze strip. After that, the entire book block is glued with end sheets onto hard covers. For added durability, the signatures can be sewn together first, allowing the book to lie flatter than a perfect bound book (see images below) but not as flat as Wire-O® or spiral bound books (see images below). The spine of the book can be squared or rounded depending on the equipment that the case binder has. Notice it has hinges (grooves) along the edges of the cover near the spine.
Some hard covers feature printed artwork laminated to the boards. Others can have dust covers, which are the paper “jackets” you see on books. Those books with dust covers usually have a cloth covering on the boards. Alternatively, they could have paper covers that look like cloth, but are less expensive. The title of the book may be foil stamped onto the spine and/or front cover.
Perfect Bound (Soft Cover)
Most commonly used for paperback books and documents, soft covers are bound in a similar way as hard cover books. Perfect binding is also used to bind novels, annual reports, and self-help books.
With this type, after the signatures are gathered, the spine is ground to create a rough surface and then glued to a paper cover. For added durability, the spine can be notched (cut with v-shaped slits), allowing more surface for glue. This is called notch-perfect binding. While the glue is still hot, the paper cover gets wrapped around the spine. Alternatively, you can ask to have the signatures sewn instead of glued. The sewn option allows the book to open somewhat flat, though not as much as other kinds of bindings.
Otabind or Lay Flat
Otabind or Lay Flat binding is frequently used for technical manuals, directories, cookbooks, and reference books. In this type of binding, the signatures are gathered and glue is applied to the spine, then the book block is capped covering only the glue. The capping is side glued and a cover is applied, adhering only to the side glue and detached from the spine. This particular process was patented, but the patent has expired, which is why you’ll hear the term “Lay Flat” binding more often than Otabind.
Its advantage is in its name; a book with Lay Flat binding opens completely. You’ll find it’s much easier to use a cookbook that lies flat on a counter than one you have to hold in your hands to read.
You’ll find that spiral binding is well suited for short prints runs of reports, brochures, presentation materials, workbooks, cookbooks and manuals.
With this type of binding, the cover and interior pages are punched with holes through which a single plastic or wire spiral is inserted. You’ll find the plastic spirals available in many colors and wire spirals mostly available in black. This versatile, inexpensive binding allows the pages to lie flat, although they may not align exactly. Beware: The ends of the spiral can snag fabric and other things.
Used for reference manuals, address books, cookbooks, and journals, this type of versatile, durable binding will allow the pages to lie perfectly flat on a counter or table.
With this type, the cover and interior pages are punched with holes through which a double looped wire is inserted. Why a double looped wire? Because it allows for nearly perfect alignment between pages. Ask your designer or printer for additional variations available.
Used on thin booklets, brochures, newsletters, and catalogs, saddle stitching is among the most widely used and inexpensive kinds of binding available.
With this type of binding, the signatures are all gathered and folded together. Then they are placed over a “saddle” and stapled along the spine. The book lies relatively flat, but it doesn’t have a spine and may not last under heavy use. Quick to assemble, saddle stitching can accommodate gate folds and foldouts.
If your document is thicker than a quarter of an inch, you likely won’t be able to use this style of binding.
Also a fast, easy, and inexpensive type of binding, side stitching requires a minimum of a one-inch margin on the spine side. It’s commonly used for digitally produced documents, manuals, and large brochures.
With this type of binding, the loose pages and cover are stitched together with staples on the outside of the book block. The cover can be two sheets or one sheet wrapped around the spine. It won’t allow the pages to lie flat and thickness of the document is limited.
From these choices, it becomes clear that various applications call for different options for book bindings. Ask your printer for the kind best recommended for your project.