Book Binding Styles: Which is Right for Your Book?

Book Bindry

Did you know that book binding is a craft that is thousands of years old?  It is unclear where it originated first but today it remains a complex manufacturing art.  Dozens of different bind styles exist and the type of style you choose for your title depends on who you are marketing it to as well as what it will be used for.

Types of Book Binding

Perfect Bound

Soft Cover Book Binding

Soft Cover Book

This bind requires that a book block be fed into a binding machine and about 0.125 inches be trimmed off the spine or back of the book.

The individual pages are then roughed (scraped up) so that glue being applied will have a stronger hold.  This is sometimes referred to as adhesive binding.  You might commonly see this book binding style in paperback novels however it is also used in hardcover books.

Book Bindry

Notch Bound

In this style of binding, each signature or grouping of pages has notches along the spine area that are made during the folding process.  Like perfect binding, adhesive is also used here except the bind style uses less paper because the spine is not ground down in the process.  Both notch bound and perfect bound styles are good for traditional paperback or hardcover books.  They are also very efficient and clean looking styles of binding.

Otabind or Layflat Book Binding

This type of bind is very unique and works great for books that must have the look and feel of a perfect or notch bound book but need to be able to lay flat on a table when open.  Other lay-flat books are Smyth sewn but this method is more time consuming and expensive.  Otabind offers the efficiency and appearance of perfect binding and the convenience of the Smyth sewn with the ability to lay flat.

To make this bind style, the manufacturer must feed a book block into a binding line and cut off about 0.125 inches from the binding edge (the spine).  A detached cover is then applied and the spine of the cover is allowed to float separately from the book.  This makes it possible for the book to lay open on a flat surface without closing like a perfect bound book would.

Otabind Book Binding


Sewing is a book binding style where gathered book blocks are fed, one signature at a time, into an automatic sewing machine.  Each signature is sewn together through the spine with a sewing thread that passes continuously through the entire book.  This method is used for both hard cover and soft cover books.  It is also known as Smyth sewing and can produce a book that will lay flat.  This method is common for books that are required to lay flat like reference or music books.  It is also a very sturdy bind style.

Saddle Stitched Book Binding

This method has pages held together in multiples of four by a wire stitch or staple.  Two to three stitches or staples are placed directly through the fold (spine) of the book.  They go all the way through as a staple would on a collection of pages.  This method is commonly seen online in soft cover books that are very thin.  For instance in magazines, pamphlets or thin workbooks.

Other Types of Book Binding

  • Easy-Tear :  This is commonly used for workbooks or teaching aides.
  • Trim-4: Short for trim four sides where all four sides of printed pages are trimmed before being bound.  This method is used for ring binding.
  • Side stitch: a very durable form of binding that does not lay flat.
  • Welded: In this style, adhesive in paper formulation is welded by laser.
  • Plastic Comb: this style uses a plastic comb to hold pages together and is commonly used in computer manuals.
  • Wire spiral:  This is also commonly used in manuals and also seen in popular notebooks.
  • Wire-O: Similar to wire spiral.

The type of binding selected for a book is determined by the end purpose for that book.  Cost and time may also be factors in the decision.  The binding style helps make the book easier to use or helps it last longer depending on its purpose.

Having the wrong bind style applied to a book can create a poor user experience for the end user and can also contribute to shorter longevity.  For instance if workbooks don’t lay flat for their users, they are frustrating to use.  If a non-durable bind style is applied to a book that will go through a lot of wear and tear (like a college text book), it will fall apart very soon.

What tips do you have for first time publishers about book binding?  Join in the conversation by commenting below.

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