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Book Binding: the Types & Machines Used by the Pros

Book Binding: the Types & Machines Used by the Pros

Publishing has never been easier for authors and businesses. Here is an overview of the many book binding options for self-published authors.

What Authors Need to Know About Book Binding

Publishing has never been easier for authors and businesses. Here is an overview of the many book binding options for self-published authors at AlphaGraphics Northwest San Antonio.

Publishing a book has never been easier. Many options are now available for small publishers and authors that want to self-publish a book. A variety of book binding technologies can create books that look just as professional as the ones coming from large publishing companies.

Authors and publishers looking for something a bit simpler can choose from multiple types of binding for books of all sizes. An experienced printing company with access to cutting-edge binding machinery can make publishing an effortless process for you. AlphaGraphics offers many printing and binding options. We are ready to assist you today.

Why is book binding important?

Books — the physical kind with pages you can turn and bookmark — remain extremely popular even in the era of electronic tablets. Actual books have no batteries that can run out. If you drop a book, it won’t break like an ebook reader might, and you can still read it.

Opened spread of book pages in front of sunset on the beach.

The type of binding used on a book is important for several reasons. You want your books to be sturdy and durable. If your book is intended to be leisure reading, for example, it should be able to endure being tossed into a suitcase and carried around at a beach, pool, or other destination. Whatever the book’s purpose, its binding should hold it together for a long time.

A book’s binding also makes important statements about its style and value. To put it simply, people will take a book more seriously if it looks nice. Hardcover books are probably the pinnacle of professional-looking book binding. Paperback books can also have a very professional look with the right kind of binding and cover.

What kinds of book binding are available?

The Northwest San Antonio Alphagraphics location offers a variety of binding services that will be listed below.

Perfect Binding

Perfect binding is a common binding technique for paperback books. Groups of pages, known as “signatures,” are stacked together by a perfect printing machine. The machine applies an adhesive to the side of the stacked signatures that will be the book’s spine. It then wraps the cover around the stack. Once the adhesive dries, the machine trims the other three sides to complete the book.

Hardcover binding

Two binding methods are available for hardcover books. Adhesive binding is similar to perfect binding, but uses a hardcover instead of heavy paper stock.

Smythe sewing is the most durable type of binding. Instead of using adhesive, the signatures are sewn together with thread. Smythe-sewn books are best able to lay open, making this method particularly useful for reference books.

Saddle-stitch binding

This type of binding works well for booklets, catalogs, magazines, and other short publications. The pages are printed on sheets that are twice the size of the finished product, with two pages on each side. The sheets are folded in half, and the book is stapled along the fold.

Side-sewn binding

A side-sewn book consists of individual pages, rather than signatures. The pages are stitched together about one-fourth of an inch from the edge of the pages. This type of binding is reasonably durable, but it will not have as long a lifespan as hardcover or perfect binding.

A stack of various white spiral-bound book spines.

Other types of binding

Various other types of book binding tend to be more cost-effective, but they are not nearly as durable as the bindings described above:

  • Spiral/coil binding
  • Wire-o binding
  • Concealed wire-o binding
  • Screw & post binding
  • Rivet binding
  • Comb binding
  • Plastic grip binding
  • Tape binding
  • Three-ring binding

What types of machines do professional book binding?

AlphaGraphics utilizes a state-of-the-art perfect binding machine that performs all of the functions of the perfect binding process: from folding the signatures to applying the adhesive and trimming the pages and cover. This type of machine is the best for binding large numbers of books.

Other binding machines can perform the different types of binding described above:

  • Saddle stitching machines
  • Side stitching machines
  • Spiral binding machines
  • Wire binding machines
  • Comb binding machines
  • Thermal binding machines
  • Tape binding machines

What’s the difference between DIY binding and professional binding?

It is certainly possible for an author or business to bind their own books, but when it comes to professional-looking, durable book binding, there is no substitute for experience. Printing companies that offer book binding services have the expertise and equipment to create beautiful books that will last. They can also do so at a greater scale than a DIY book binding operation.

Do big box retail stores offer book binding? Are there advantages to using a print shop instead?

Certain big box retailers offer book binding services. Office supply stores, for example, often have their own print shops that can do some types of binding.

These services are usually limited to less durable types of binding, such as comb or tape binding. These are best-suited for a formal presentation to a group at work, but not necessarily for large distribution for consumers.

A printing company, on the other hand, tends to have both greater expertise and a wider array of equipment.

Learn more about binding with AlphaGraphics

AlphaGraphics Northwest San Antonio provides an extensive range of printing solutions to businesses throughout the San Antonio area. We can help you find the best book binding for your project. Contact us today to get a quote.

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