We are often asked about the various methods of binding books. So I thought I’d just give a simple description of some of the different techniques here, plus a note on some issues arising from them.
This is a very common finishing method, which basically involves folding the text pages in sections so that they run in the correct order, and stapling, or “stitching” them together (or to a separate cover, which is often printed on heavier material). Very occasionally, books can really be “stitched” using a material such as ribbon, to create a decorative effect, but more often the term refers to the use of staples. Using this technique, folded sections are collated one inside the other, with the staples being applied through the spine, and the books are then “three knife trimmed” to give a clean top, bottom and front (“fore edge”).
There is a limit to how many pages can be finished in this way. There has to be a minimum of 8 pages, but, depending on the material used for the text pages, it may be worth considering one of the other binding techniques below for anything above, say, 60 pages in total.
One issue that may arise when jobs are saddle stitched is “creep”. Creep is caused by the fact that the outer pages in a saddle stitched book have to wrap around the outside of all the inner pages, which means they are in effect larger than the pages towards the centre of the book. This can mean that unless an appropriate allowance is made, page elements – page numbers, for example – can be nearer to the fore edge of the centre pages than on the pages nearer the cover. This is a factor that should be considered during the process of designing a document – particularly if the document is to have a large number of pages.
Perfect, or PUR binding
Perfect binding is a great method of finishing books containing more pages. Like saddle stitching, this involves folding text sections so the pages run in the correct order, but instead of collating the sections one inside the other, they are “gathered” one on top of the next. The pages are imposed in such a way to leave a small gutter at the spine. After folding and gathering the sections, the gutter on the spine edge of the pages is milled away, and glue is applied to the fresh paper edge. The covers are then drawn over the text blocks, and the book is again three knife trimmed – forming a book with a spine. This is how most paperback books are created. The only real difference between perfect binding and PUR binding is the use of PUR glue in the latter process. This is immensely strong, and avoids the problem of text pages falling out of bound books, which did used to be an issue with perfect bound jobs in the past.
Burst, or “notch” bound books
This is a very similar technique to perfect or PUR binding, except instead of milling away the gutter in the spine before applying the glue, the spines are instead notched, and glue is injected into the notches. This means the books can lie flatter when open than perfect bound books, but some people find the appearance of the notches when the book is forced flat a little untidy.
This technique involves folding sections as above, but prior to the application of any glue, the sections are sewn together by a machine to make book blocks. These can then be bound to covers, either using the perfect bound/PUR method, which provides extremely durable paperback books where the internal pages open very flat; or by casing them into hard covers – usually cloth covered boards. This is the method used for creating most hardback books.