Printing and Binding Options
To help you make an informed decision
among the numerous bindery options, here are descriptions
of several ways you can attach loose sheets of paper or
complete signatures (printed press sheets folded multiple
times to yield complete 4-, 8-, 16-, or 32-page portions
of a book). Bindery methods vary according to cost, durability,
Also called edition binding, this method results in what
is commonly called a hardcover book. It is the most expensive
option yet also the most durable. Stacked signatures are
gathered and sewn together for strength. This book block
is trimmed on three sides and then glued into a spine, front
cover, and back cover (a single unit) made of binders board
covered with paper or cloth. The first and last sheets (end-sheets)
are then pasted to the board. To reduce the cost of thisbinding
method, you can set perfect-bound book blocks into cases
rather than first sewing the signatures together and then
gluing them into the covers.
Like case-bound books, perfect-bound books are also made
up of stacked signatures. These are gathered into a book
and the edges of the spine are ground off (or notched).
When this book block is glued into a paper cover, the glue
that attaches the signatures to the spine can flow into
the notches or ground-off areas. The increased surface area
for the glue allows for more permanent adhesion. The covers
and book blocks are then trimmed flush. Unlike case binding,
perfect binding involves only gluing the spine to the cover.
Without reinforced endsheets or a binders board cover material,
perfect-bound books are less durable than case bound books
but are significantly cheaper. Sewing the signatures and/or
notching the spine rather than grinding it improves durability.
Perfect-bound books do not lie flat when opened because
the spines are fully glued to the cover. By using a flexible
glue on only the edges of the spine, perfect-bound technical
manuals or cookbooks, and the like, can be made to lie flat
on a table. This method is more expensive than perfect binding
and requires more time for the glue to cure.
Signatures are nested (set one into the other rather than
stacked as in the previous methods) and then stitched through
the fold with staples made of thin wire. These books can
lie flat. However, saddle-stitching only works for shorter
books of up to 80 pages or so. These books also have no
spine on which to print a title.
Side stitched books are essentially loose sheets of paper
stapled together. A paper cover can be wrapped around the
entire stack and glued to form a printable spine. However,
side-stitched books (National Geographic Magazine is an
example) do not lie flat.
Also called plastic comb binding, this method is good for
technical manuals that have a lot of pages and must lie
flat. The stack of pages comprising the book is punched
with a series of holes along the binding edge through which
a plastic comb is inserted. This comb, which curls into
a cylinder along the length of the book can provide a screen-printable
spine. It can also accommodate numerous pages, and pages
can be added or removed as needed.
Both of these mechanical bindings hold far fewer pages than
comb binding. Wire-O is a series of parallel wire loops
attached along a wire, while spiral binding is a metal or
plastic continuous loop passing through the punched holes
in a spiral from the top to the bottom of the book. Neither
binding method will accept as many pages as GBC. Also neither
provides a printable spine or allows for pages to be added
or removed. However, both binding methods allow the product
to lie flat.
This is just like spiral binding. However, since wire can
be crushed, plastic is a resilient alternative. Also, plastic
coil bindings come in multiple colors.
Post Binding, and Velo Binding
These are often used for presentations. In the first case,
the covers and book pages are taped together over the binding
edge. In post binding, screws are used in much the same
way as side stitching (but the books can be disassembled
and pages can be added or removed). In velo binding, a thin,
flat piece of plastic runs the length of the bind edge on
the front and back of the book, and thin plastic pegs attach
the two through the pages of the book.
This is exactly what the name implies: the binders we used
in school. The vinyl covers can be silk screened or paper
inserts can be printed and then inserted behind the clear
covering of some ring-binders.
(GBC, Wire-O, spiral, plastic coil, tape, velo, post, and
ring) are more expensive per unit than perfect binding or
saddle-stitching, and unlike most offset printing operations,
their unit cost does not decrease with increased volume.
They also require ample margins since they take up a lot
of room at the bind edge. On the positive side, they can
allow for the inclusion of many inserts of various types
and sizes within the text. Because of their cost, mechanical
bindings are usually best suited to short runs.
[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]