Book Binding

One of the most important decisions you need to make when designing a book is to do with the book binding. There are several types of book binding and the choice of which one to use will depend on the following:

  • how and where will the book be used?
  • how many pages will there be?
  • what budget is available?

Here is a list of the most commonly used types of book binding.

Saddle Stitching


Book binding - saddle stitching

Saddle stitching – economical for both short and long runs

Saddle stitching is very economical and is ideal for many types of booklets, brochures and magazines. Normally, you have 2 wire staples through the spine of the book holding it together.

There is a limit to the number of pages that can be bound using this method. As a rule of thumb, 80 pages is about the limit. Over that, the book gets too bulky and saddle stitching is not practical (although there are some exceptions).

The other aspect that has an bearing here is how the brochure is printed i.e. digital printing or lithographic printing. In general, digitally printed brochures will start to bulk up at the spine with far fewer pages than its lithographic equivalent. This is to do with the way the sections (pages) are gathered before binding. If your brochure has more than, say, 48 pages and it will be printed digitally, you may be better off to look at perfect binding.

Perfect Binding


Book binding - Perfect Binding

Perfect bound book

Perfect binding is where groups of pages, called sections, are gathered together and held in place by glue before the cover is applied. It is a very versatile form of binding and can be used to bind the slimmest of books right up to your ‘War & Peace’ sized novels. It can be used in combination with a wide choice of covers. While it is usually – but not always – more expensive than saddle stitching, perfect binding has many advantages such as:

  • a single volume can run to hundreds of pages
  • you can use different types of paper for different sections of your book
  • in most cases you can print on the spine so the book can be easily located and identified on a shelf.

When discussing perfect binding, there are three variations you might want to consider. The choice often comes down to the budget.

Perfect binding with PVA glue

This is the least expensive option and is what is usually meant when someone says ‘perfect binding’. If done correctly and used with appropriate materials, it should hold the pages together and stand up to a reasonable amount of wear and tear. Sometimes, however, pages can fall out over time especially if undue pressure is put on the spine to ‘make the book sit flat’.

Perfect binding with PUR glue (PUR binding)

To the naked eye, this looks the same as perfect binding but a rubber based, polyurethane reactive (PUR) glue is used for binding. PUR glue is very flexible and so makes the spine much more robust and ensures the pages remain intact even if the book gets abuse throughout its lifetime. It is often selected as a less expensive option – when thread sewing would break the budget.

Thread sewing and perfect binding

Thread sewing is the traditional way to bind books that are expected to last a long time in top condition. The sections are literally sewn together to make a book block before they are glued together in the usual perfect binding way. As it is a relatively slow process, the cost can be prohibitive but, if affordable, it is the best way to ensure a high quality book.

Wiro Binding


book binding - wiro binding

Wiro bound book designed to lie flat

Wiro binding is normally selected when a book is designed to sit flat on a table or desk e.g. for a text book. It can be used to bind a variety of material styles and you can mix papers and synthetic materials, It is a relatively slow production process and is often uneconomical for large print runs. However, it can be an ideal binding method for short run and digitally produced books.


Ring binding


book binding - ring bound book

Ring binding used to allow for addition or removal of pages

Ring-binders are used to bind publications that are complex in design and/or where additional parts of the publication are expected to be inserted over time. Unlike the other forms of book binding outlined, the spine can be opened to add or remove sections of the book. Ring binding is often used for binding manuals and training handbooks.