Book Binding

Written by Christopher Ransom
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Book binding refers to the type of binding used when printing a book. There are several different materials and methods used to fasten the pages to the spine when printing your book. As anyone who's held a book in their hands knows, books come in all shapes and sizes. What most readers haven't considered, but you as the publisher of your own book should consider, is that the type of binding used for a given book will help determine its quality, appearance and usability, and overall cost of printing.

Because the type of binding used for your book will influence the cost of manufacturing and perhaps the success of your sales, it's important to understand the common binding options available from most book printers. The type of binding used to print your book should also be considered with respect to the type of book you are printing, as well as the market or audience of your book. Before choosing a binding style, look at other successful books in your field. Is your book a heavy cookbook that will have to stand up to years of abuse in the kitchen? Or is your book a smaller paperback targeting a volunteer organization with a limited budget?

Types of Book Binding Used Today

The two most common bindings are paperback, also known as "perfect bound," and "hardcover," sometimes referred to as "Smythe-sown case bound," "trade cloth," or "hard bound." In addition to these common book binding methods, we'll look at spiral binding, aka comb binding, and saddle-stitched.

Paperback books are cheaper to produce and sell more copies than hard bound. Paperback books are usually produced in what is known as "mass-market" or "trade paper" size. Mass market books, measuring 4.25" x 6.75 inches, are the preferred format for large quantity press runs because they are cheaper to print and are designed to last for a few reads only. Think John Grisham's ubiquitous airport paperbacks-that's mass market for you. Paperback books designed with a more literary audience and longer lifespan in mind are usually printed in "trade-paper" format, which measures 5.5 x 8.5 inches. In either of these formats, the pages of your book are bound to the spine and covers using an adhesive. This is what is called "perfect bound".

Hardcover books cost more to produce but generally last much longer than paperbacks. Like most products of quality, you get what you pay for. The two most common types of hardbound books are Smythe-sewn and Adhesive. Smythe-sewn books are of the highest quality because the pages are sewn AND glued to the binding surface, the spine. Smythe-sewn books will stand up to more abuse and can be read on a flat surface. For these reasons many textbooks, picture books and other books designed to stand the tests of time use Smythe-sewn binding. Adhesive books are also of a good quality, provided the materials used (the glue and the paper) are quality materials. Adhesive book binding uses glue to adhere the pages to a strip of cloth, which is in turn glued to the spine of the jacket.


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