Book Binding


Comparing the advantages and disadvantages of the three most common methods of binding.

By far the three most common kinds of binding the pages of a book together are;

  • Saddle-Stitch/Staple Binding
  • Perfect Binding
  • Japanese Stab Binding

They each have their strengths and weaknesses but usually the deciding factor in choosing between the first two versions is the number of pages to be held together in the publication. 20-25 pieces of paper (not pages) is a good average rule of thumb. Fewer than this amount makes a good candidate for saddle-stitching/stapling while a number greater than this makes perfect binding a better choice. (You may hear the common “under 48 always stitch” and “over 96 perfect bind” rules of thumb. This refers to the page count, not the pieces of paper).


Too many pages bound together by saddle stitching and the book will not lie flat and the result bows out. Potentially the stitching or staples may actually come out because of this added stress. Page layout for saddle stitching should be facing pages or spreads.


too many pages saddle-stitched

saddle stitch binding.png

  • Advantages of Saddle Stitching
    • Least expensive of all binding options
    • Fast
    • Widely available, as most printers saddle stitch in-house
    • Lies relatively flat
    • Special gatefolds and foldouts are possible
    • Can use a self-cover or a separate cover
  • Limitations of Saddle Stitching
    • Longevity. The wire stitching takes its toll on the paper and is not recommended for pieces intended for heavy use.
    • Limited amount of paper variations within the piece. For example, if you are stitching two 16-page forms together to create a 32-page self-cover brochure, and you want pages 3 and 4 to be red paper, then pages 1 though 8 and 25 through 32 will also be red paper. (There are other ways of configuring this 32-page brochure of course, but the idea here is that what happens on the front side of that form will also affect the back side of the form.)
    • No printable spine
    • Thickness limitations. Documents thicker than .125 to .25 inch may require another binding technique.
    • May require special design adjustments for creep, especially small formats with high page counts



  • Too few pages that are perfect bound do not give enough surface area on the spine for the glue to hold, therefore the pages usually fall out. Page layout for perfect binding should be single pages, usually printed on both sides, not facing pages.
  • Allow additional space in the inside margins to allow for the fact that the publication will not lie flat when opened.
  • inDesign layout should be single sheets, not facing pages
  • use the Print Booklet not the Print command
  • stack pages in correct order and arrange in the binding press or use clamps, add blank pages to the front and back of the stack (these will be your end papers)
  • arrange in press so that approximately 3/8 inch extends beyond the top of the press boards.
  • Apply 4 coats of PVA bookbinding glue to the spine, allowing approximately 20 minutes between each coat for the glue to dry. (it will be clear when dry)
  • after four coats of glue, remove the stack from the press

For a simple wrap around cover similar to that on a paperback book,

  • cut your cover so the it is the same height as your book but extends at least two inches longer than the total width of front, back and spine
  • mark the center of the cover on the inside
  • Position the stack on this center line and draw a line on both sides of the stack to mark the with of the spine
  • Score these lines to fold in
  • Mark two additional lines 1/4″ from these scored lines and score them to fold out
  • glue the stack to the cover by glueing only within the width area you just marked. You can use two waste sheets of paper to mask off the rest of both covers so that you don’t get glue on those areas.
  • Clamp and let dry
  • Finally, mark lines 1/4 inch in from the spine on both the front and back covers.
  • Again mask off the area outside these lines and apply glue to this small 1/4 inch area on both front and back
  • Clamp and let dry
  • Advantages of Perfect Binding
    • Overall valuable look and appeal
    • Printable spine
    • Longevity
    • Ability to creatively interleaf pages. Use a variety of paper weights, colors and finishes nearly anywhere you like.
  • Limitations of Perfect Binding
    • Does not lay flat. You lose design space in the gutter area
    • Not suggested for applications in which hands-free reading is
      important (e.g., cookbooks or instruction manuals)
    • Recommended thickness:
      Minimum: .125 inch (if spine is printed) or .0625 inch if spine isn’t printed.
      Maximum: 2.25 inches
    • Turnaround time. Even though both binding processes are done automatically, allow an extra day for perfect binding.

There are two binding processes that “simulate” perfect binding and might come in handy for smaller print runs or when gutter space is important to you: lay flat and side stitching.


jsb1.gif     3-Japanese-Stab-Bound-Travel-Journals.jpg

A third popular form of binding is an open binding technique called Japanese Stab Binding. This method can be done with any number of pages. Page layout for stab binding should be single pages, usually not printed on both sides, not facing pages.

Allow additional space in the left hand margin for the binding.

Case binding hard cover book

Hard Cover Coptic Stitch Binding