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Judging a Book By Its Cover – How to Choose the Best Binding for Your Book

September 13, 2021

Your book’s cover is as important as the words and ideas inside. Books can look pretty, but how they function matters possibly more than beauty. With over 40 years of experience in printing and binding books, Bestype helps you make the right decisions that make your book not only usable but attractive.

Your book’s purpose can determine which binding style may work best for your project. Perfect binding would work best for most magazine and catalog-style publishing projects. Do you need your open book to lie flat, like a cookbook or user manual? Selecting spiral or Wire-O binding makes perfect sense. Saddle-stitch binding is an alternative, affordable choice when your project has a shorter page count. When deciding that your book should be softcover, you may also want to consider a self-cover binding option. Let’s run through many of the choices available to Bestype Printing NYC customers.


An Overview of Book Binding Styles

Saddle-stitch binding collects 8 to 92 pages under a cover. The cover can be a heavier paper stock or use the same stock as the paper inside the covers. The interior sheets are laid out with two pages on the front and two pages on the back (4-page increments). Machinery nests the printed sheets and folds them. Staples are mechanically inserted through the middle of the sheets and stack the documents. Technicians complete the process by trimming each publication down to size, slicing away ragged edges and extra blank spaces. This technique is the least expensive of all the binding options offered by Bestype. The saddle-stitch bookbinding technique works great with programs, marketing booklets, portfolio books, and custom coloring books.

Perfect binding is what you see when examining a mass-market paperback book or even holding many periodicals. Perfect bound books have a squared spine with enough space to display identifying title text and a graphic image. In perfect binding, technicians prepare interior leaves, printed using one-page front-to-back (2-page increments) with text-weight paper. Machines gather and stack the pages, one on top of the next, in numbered page order. A cardstock cover surrounds the inside pages, attached along the binding edge with PUR glue. This strong and flexible adhesive prevents the pages from detaching from the spine. Perfect bound books can be as slim as 28 pages and as large as 2 inches thick. Depending on the types of stock used to print your perfect-bound book, pricing for this type of binding ranges from moderately expensive to more expensive. Perfect bound books include magazines, photo books, look books, softbound yearbooks, catalogs, memory books, art books, and handbooks.

Spiral binding creates books that can range from 8-pages thin to 2 2/4″ thick. Pages are printed back-to-back (2-page increments) and stacked between heavier cardstock. Then the cover and the interior pages are hole-punched along the edge. A continuous plastic coil is wound through the left edge of the perforated pages to produce the book. This technique is very inexpensive and allows for a wide range of sizes and page counts. Spiral-bound books stay open when they’re laid flat on a table. Spirals provide this advantage over perfect bound books and most case bound books. You’ve seen spiral binding used in notebooks, and it’s an increasingly popular choice for blank journals. The spiral makes handling this binding style easier for the user because pages move loosely around the wire (known as low spiral tension). Users can fold the book back upon itself to save space in crowded areas. This feature makes spiral binding a good option for manuals, cookbooks, guidebooks, and directories. Many educational workbooks and handbooks use spiral binding.

There are two major drawbacks to spiral binding:

  1. There is no spine to print an identifying title or graphic image upon
  2. Crossovers, or images laid out across two adjacent pages inside your book, do not display well.

Wire-O binding uses a metal coil to keep pages in place. The difference between spiral binding and Wire-O binding lies in the coil’s material and construction. Instead of being wound through the pages, Wire-O binding is inserted around the page perforations. Wire-O books can hold eight pages or be as thick as 2 3/4 inches. Wire-O Binding is slightly more expensive than coil binding. Your selection of cover cardstock and interior paper also affects pricing.
Like spiral-bound books, Wire-O books are usable, portable, and will lie flat when laid open. Pages are easy to rifle through due to a lack of spinal tension. The reader can fold back entire groups of pages and the cover around themselves. Wire-O binding is a popular option to produce books that need to stay flat when opened but need a slightly more professional flair. We recommend Wire-O binding for calendars, presentations, report books, and annual reports. Wire-O binding also lends itself to producing directories, product manuals, and user guides.

On its own, a Wire-O bound book can’t feature printing on its spine, but concealed Wire-O binding offers an option to encase this style inside a cover with a square spine. This option offers the ability to print along the spine — problem solved. However, like in spiral-bound books, crossover images also don’t present well using Wire-O binding.

The gap between page spreads and the spiral or wire creates an obtrusive break in the spread. If your project includes crossover images, saddle-stitch binding, perfect binding, and even case binding will offer the best experience for your reader.

Case binding produces several different styles of hardbound books — the most durable option for any project. This option is available for any sized manuscript. Case binding is also the most expensive binding option due to labor and materials. Pages are laid out and arranged in sections, sewn into reading order, and then glued into a hardbound spine. Covers can be designed using vinyl, cloth, leather, or laminated board. Endpapers attach the book’s interior pages to the main cover with glue. Sometimes a matching cardboard slipcase accompanies a hardbound book instead of a printed dust jacket. Both options help protect the book. Hardbound books can be simple or intricate. They may include detailed covers and endpapers, gilt page edging, and embossed cover features.


Choosing Softcover or Self-cover

Our customers enjoy having a wide range of bookbinding styles to choose from. Often, shipping costs factor into decision-making. Weight cancels out the idea of more expensive and heavier casebound books entirely. Softcover and self-cover books generally are less expensive to print, bind, and ship.

Softcover books are what most people think of when they see paperback novels. This category also includes catalogs and magazine format publications. Their covers are printed using heavier weights of cover cardstock, which protects the interior pages. Our customers usually choose industry-standard 80 lb. or 100 lb. gloss or matte cardstock for their covers and 80 lb. or 70 lb paper stock for their inside pages. Some books are also printed using lighter, thinner 70 lb. weight paper, making mailing or shipping more affordable. Soft covers are available for perfect bound and saddle-stitch bound books, and we can also use soft covers for spiral bound and Wire-O bound book projects.

Softcover books are an exceptional value. Printing technicians can finish the books with UV coating, which provides a lustrous, glossy finish and adds a thin protective layer of coating to your cover against damage from light. Softcover books are generally quicker to produce compared to casebound projects.

Self-cover books use the same paperweight for the front and back cover and the interior sheets. We recommend using 100 lb. gloss or matte paper stock for durability. However, self-cover book projects can use lighter-weight paper — your choice should be based on your costs. For example, a one-time use assembly manual for your product would work well using 70 or 80 lb. paper.

Self-cover books are generally saddle-stitched to create booklets. This produces a product that’s easy to fold into a self-mailer or insert into an envelope. We recommend choosing the self-cover option when your book doesn’t need to have a long shelf-life or be especially durable. The drawbacks to self-cover books are that they can be easily damaged when mailed.


Bestype Bookbinding Guidance

When you reach out to Bestype’s local print shop staff, we will help you find the perfect bookbinding method that works with your concept. Whatever you want to do, we’ll give you a helping hand and guide you through all the steps of book production. We make it even easier than online self-publishing companies. Please stop by our SOHO print shop during our convenient weekday hours to view samples and start the presses rolling on your book publishing project.

Are you ready to bring your book idea to life? Contact us today, and we will help you choose the most appropriate binding style for your book.


Image Credits: Freepik @Creative Commons

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