There are at least a dozen methods of binding, and there are unique pros and cons to each depending on the purpose of the document. Some bindings are more durable than others; some allow your book to lie flat when opened, and some have a very attractive appearance.

If you’re currently trying to figure out which method to use, we’ve rounded off some of the most common techniques, complete with the pros and cons of each, so that you are able make an informed choice.

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1. CASE BINDING

Also known as hardcover binding, this is by far the best binding technique you could pick. In fact, in the past, all major books were hard bound. Basically, the inside pages are sewn together in sections. The sections are then glued to the end-papers which are finally glued to the cover’s spine. When opened, case bound books lay flat on the table.

Case bound book with pages open

Pros
  • Case bound books are an impressive presentation. They give your book a weighty feel and inspire an air of quality.
  • Books bound in this manner are highly durable and attract high retail prices.
Cons
  • Cost is the biggest drawback to the technique. The net cost of case binding can be several times the cost of perfect binding.
  • Weight can be an issue. Case bound books are generally heavier compared to their counterparts, which can result in higher shipping costs.

2. PERFECT BINDING

Perfect binding (also known as soft cover binding) is similar to case binding, except for the lower quality cover. A perfect binding cover is made from heavy weight cardstock paper that is often coated or laminated to protect the book. With this type of binding, the cover and pages are glued together with a super strong glue. Often the cover is longer than the pages, so the cover is trimmed to give it that perfect look.

perfect bound types of book binding

Pros
  • It’s an economical alternative to hardcover binding, both in terms of production and shipping.
  • Presentation is still of high quality, allowing the books to fetch good prices at sale.
Cons
  • Books don’t lay flat on table when opened due to gluing of cover to the spine of the book block.
  • The inferior paper-based cover also means that perfect bound books are less durable than hardcover books.

3. SADDLE STITCH BINDING

For books that might have short-term use (or those with a small number of pages), saddle stitch binding is an excellent alternative. Once pages are printed and organized, they are stacked and loaded onto a conveyor from where they are stitched together using metal staples. Stitching can be done with or without a book cover.

saddle stitch binding books laid out

Pros
  • This technique is highly economical, especially for small, short-term booklets.
  • Saddle stitched books lay flat (for the most part) when opened.
  • This binding method usually has a fairly quick turnaround, and can be done at most commercial printers in house.
Cons
  • When used for books with many pages, the nesting of pages within one another can cause creeping.
  • Books are less durable; the cover and pages can be easily damaged.
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4. COMB, SPIRAL & THERMAL BINDING

These are the three techniques commonly used when binding short-run books. Comb binds actually looks like a comb threading into a series of holes punched into the edge of the book. Spiral binding involves punching of similar holes but instead of the comb, a metal/plastic coil is threaded through the holes. Thermal binding is a bit different; the pages of the book are glued to the spine by heating the cover’s spine.

stack of spiral bound books

Pros
  • For short-run books, these one-off binding techniques are very effective.
  • These techniques are also extremely low-cost due to low or no-minimum order quantity.
Cons
  • All three options are generally not acceptable for standard distribution and retail channels.
  • Readers will know that your document is self-published.

There are tons of ways to make your publications stand out. Distribution needs should drive your binding decisions. We want to help you make your best book binding decision when printing your project. Ironmark can talk you through your next print project, contact us to speak to one of our print experts.

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Written by Matt Marzullo

For over 28 years, Matt Marzullo has been a noteworthy leader in the print industry, getting his start working weekend shifts in the family business as a teenager. Marzullo’s sharp business acumen and technical savvy allowed him to take risks others in the industry could not, making Ironmark one of the most forward-thinking communications companies in the field. His willingness to change processes and leverage new technologies for automation allowed Ironmark to enter new markets and serve enterprise accounts like never before. In 2019, Matt Marzullo was promoted to President of Ironmark and then in 2020 Marzullo became a partner in the business. Alongside CEO Jeff Ostenso, the two work seamlessly together as they move Ironmark into the next phase of its growth, acquisition plan, and national footprint. Today, Marzullo deploys his unparalleled business acumen and trail-blazing leadership to oversee Ironmark’s $40m portfolio of business and ensure the company remains at the forefront of the print and communications industry.

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