What Are the Different Types of Book Binding?

There are lots of different techniques out there for bookbinding, and every designer, artist, and creator has their own preferred method. The type of binding used in a project impacts how professional the final product looks, as the binding method used is crucial to consider for how you aim to present your work. It’s important to choose a book binding service with a variety of options, such as the following methods.

What Are the Different Types of Book Binding?

1. Important Terminology

Complete comprehension of the terms associated with bookbinding is crucial for choosing the best binding option. Signatures are discussed with almost every binding method; a signature is a large piece of paper that is folded to become a section in a book, then bound together with other signatures. “Creeping” is also considered with binding, as inner pages tend to “creep” out farther than the outer pages, and is more prevalent with some types of binding.

There are four categories of binding methods: adhesive binding, flat binding, sewn binding, and mechanical binding. Adhesive and sewn binding is rather self-explanatory; adhesive binding refers to the method of using an adhesive material to bind, and sewn binding refers to binding using sewing. Flat binding is when the pages are attached to a cap, which allows them to move separately from the spine, and mechanical binding is simply any kind of binding that doesn’t fit into the other categories.

2. Perfect Binding

Also known as softcover binding, perfect binding is used for paperbacks and softcover books, such as commonly distributed novels and coloring books. Perfect binding entails adhering signatures to a thicker piece of laminated cardstock or thin cardboard using a strong adhesive material, resulting in a bendable and softer cover and spine. The name “perfect binding” comes from the pages being trimmed to be perfectly uniform with each other, something that is not necessarily standard with other kinds of binding.

Perfect binding is one of the most popular binding methods, as it looks professional, allows for a spine that can bend but is also wide enough for print to be displayed on it, and books bound with this method are easy to package, ship, and carry. However, perfect binding may not be as durable as some other methods, and the final book will not lay open flat as books bound with other methods may be able to.

3. Hardback or Case-Bound Binding

The most durable of all binding methods, hardback bound books are made by gluing or sewing signatures together into a book block, then put into a cardboard cover (called a case) and secured even further by using an end sheet of paper to connect the first and last signature to the cover. The case is then wrapped in decorative leather, cloth, or vinyl material. Some hardback books even come with an additional protective paper dust jacket.

Hardback binding gives an authoritative feeling to any book, and allows for a wider range of artistic freedom on the cover– and regardless of the saying, people do judge books by their covers! The material that is wrapped around the case offers a different textural feeling, and words, designs, or images can be impressed into or added to the cover for a three-dimensional touch. Other elements, such as metallic foils or thread, can be used as well.

4. Ring Binding

If the contents need to be rearranged or easily removed from the binding, a ring binder (most commonly a three-ring binder) is a perfect choice. Ring binders are made of a case and metal rings attached to the spine to keep hole-punched pages inside it. Art Bookbinders of America has a stamped ring binder option, where a binder will be made to the look and standard of a hardcover bound book, but without the permanence of page order.

Both simple and cost-efficient, ring-binding is ideal for works that will be added to, subtracted from, or just rearranged. Ring-binding is also an extremely popular choice for textbooks, as it allows students to move around pages as fit them best or add in pages of notes, worksheets, tests, or any other materials to benefit and enhance their studies.

5. Spiral and Comb-Binding

Both spiral and comb-binding are very similar to ring binding, with the exception of the covers and spines. While ring-binding requires a sturdier case with the metal rings, spiral and comb-binding have a soft cover made of plastic or laminated paper, They also have no spine, instead revealing the side of the pages and the curled wire or plastic used to keep them bound together.

While they differ from ring binding in that regard, both spiral and comb-binding are great choices for books that will have pages removed from or added to them, such as cookbooks and planners. Despite this, they are also sturdy and made to last a while. Books bound this way are also more convenient in many ways, such as being able to lay open flat and taking up less room to store than a hardback or ring-bound book.

6. Screw or Post-Binding

Screw-binding is another binding method offered by book binding services that allow for additions to be made to the contents and is commonly seen used for scrapbooks and portfolios. True to the name, this method uses screws to hold pages between the front and back covers or in a case. The screws can be left visible or be hidden away behind a piece of material to make a spine.

Screw-bound books are durable and sturdy and can be opened wide without the worry of breaking. While other binding methods may limit the contents, screw-binding works with all kinds of papers, everything from thicker cardstocks or scrapbook paper to thinner tracing paper. A single screw can be used to create a booklet that can spread all the way out and display every page.

7. Saddle Stitch Binding

Not every book is long or meant to be kept on a shelf long-term. Perfect for booklets, newsletters, catalogs, and the like, saddle-stitch binding simply requires the pages to be stacked on top of each other in a saddle-like position and then attached down the middle with staples or a thin piece of wire. Covers aren’t required, and can easily be made of the same material as the pages.

8. Smyth-Sewn Binding

Considered to be one of the top-quality bookbinding techniques, Smyth-sewn books are the preferred option for professional settings such as libraries or physical archives. Smyth-sewn binding entails stitching the signatures, carefully through each page and along all of the folds, before attaching all of the signatures together. A cover is then applied using an adhesive.

This method of binding is made to last and is also one of the most durable options available. Pages won’t fall out of Smyth-sewn books thanks to the way it’s all stitched together. Smyth-sewn binding is also perfect for books with pictures or diagrams that span two pages, as Smyth-sewn books are able to lay open flat.

9. Additional Types of Sewn Binding

Alongside Smyth-sewn binding, several other sewn binding techniques are similar in strength and durability. Center-sewn books are bound by stitching down the middle of signatures that have been stacked on top of each other. On the other hand, side-sewn books are attached by stitching together the stacked signatures down one side, resulting in an even sturdier book.

Section-sewn binding is similar to Smyth-sewn, though it just involves sewing the signatures to each other (rather than sewing through each fold) before attaching a case. Coptic binding also entails sewing the signatures together, though with this technique the covers are stitched on as well, leaving the side open to reveal the stitches. Singer-sewn binding is a variation on center-sewn, as the method is the same, though it’s decorative and is used to stitch together only one signature.

10. Special Book Binding Service Techniques

Free-bound books are an upgraded version of spiral or comb-bound books, looking more professional and lasting longer. Using a permanent binding, similar to hardback binding, the signatures are attached to a white laminated cover and spine with the title professionally printed on the spine. Offering the ease of turning pages that comb-bound books have, free-bound books look nicer while costing less than hardcover binding.

WonderBound books are a fusion of perfect binding and hardcover binding; the method is identical to perfect binding, but the cardstock cover looks like and has the same level of quality as a book that is hardcover-bound. The artistic freedom and extra professional look of a hardcover book become available for softcover books with this kind of binding. It’s also a less expensive option than hardcover binding.

With how many different binding techniques there are, it can be overwhelming to decide which type is perfect for your work; perfect binding, hardcover binding, or one of the other options. At Art Bookbinders of America (ABofA), we are eager and ready to help you make the best choice for your publication. Use ABofA to ensure that your work is bound professionally and expertly.


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