What is Book Binding & the Best Book Binding Methods

Book binding (or book bindery) is a very traditional and skilled craft, identifying the process of assembling, tying and securing handwritten or printed pages, including them in a protective cover. Pages are either sewn with thread or kept together by a layer of flexible adhesive material and then wrapped in a flexible cover or attached to a rigid board. A final resistant cover, which in some cases can be finely decorated and can be made from several different materials, is then attached to the boards.

Book binding methods have evolved over the centuries but, despite mechanisation changing book binding and the way books are made, when looking at hand-bound books, the techniques are very true to the past and retain a strong “artistic” element that make some books incredibly fascinating. Also, despite modern book binding being broadly split between hand and commercial, the complexity of any work still greatly depends on whether the book binding is a custom one, a restoration project, for a large run or small bespoke edition.

Choosing the right book binding method for your project greatly depends on the intended results, together with final usage and available budget. The most common book binding methods and techniques can be broadly split into 4 different categories: hardcover book binding, thermally activated binding, stitched/sewn binding or punch and bind.

Below are a brief list of the most common methods and forms of book binding options available. Please do get in touch if you would like to know more.

Large case binding

Section Sewn (also known as Smyth Sewn, a hardcover book binding method) is the hallmark of high-quality books as pages are physically sewn into the book using thread and reinforced with fabric backing and adhesive. When opened, books are bound using this binding method lie completely flat, differently from over-sewing (where pages are glued together into a text block), which also leaves smaller text margins.

Case binding is another very common hardcover book binding method where pages are sewn together in signatures that are subsequently encased between cloth-covered cardboard covers.

Perfect Binding (a thermally activated book binding method) is most often used for paperback or softcover books, manuals and catalogues. It consists of covering the folded pages with a cover made of heavier paper, glued together at the spine with a strong glue, which is heated to penetrate the book spine. Despite this book binding method being widely used, it’s recommended going for PUR binding, that makes use of Polyurethane Reactive (PUR) adhesive, making sure the pages are bound together for longer, especially advisable if you’re using a hardback cover rather than a soft one.

Thermal binding is also a fairly common, quick and simple book binding method that uses heat to bind the documents to their cover. Thermal covers are normally made to fit a standard size sheet of paper and come with a glue channel down the spine.

Large saddle stitching

Saddle-stitching (a stitched/sewn binding technique) is one of the easiest and cheapest book binding methods involving folding pages, creasing and stapling them together with a long jaws stapler. This is especially used for magazines or booklets.

Spiral or wire binding (a punch and book bind method) is definitely the most affordable form of mechanical binding, completed by punching holes along the page spine and keeping pages together with metal or plastic coils. This book binding method is not meant for particularly sophisticate results but the end result be made fancier by working on a bespoke cover. Also, as an alternative, the cased-in wiro binding technique can be used, that conceals the wire that keeps pages together inside a case.

Large wiro binding