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Binding is What Keeps Books Together

Updated: Apr 13, 2022

The Ties that Bind

By Michael Heath /


In Bruce Springsteen’s The Ties That Bind the artist sings about the dilemma of staying with someone or moving on. Most of us, at one time or another, faced the decision of whether to break free from a relationship. Are we brave enough to move on? Springsteen even makes a lyrical reference to a Johnny Cash song: you walk cool, but darling, can you walk the line?

The manufacture of books is a bit drier than studying the poetic words of one of the nation’s greatest songwriters. The ties that bind pages can vary. They may be wire, staples, plastic, thread and/or adhesives. Here are some background definitions that you should know to help understand the making of a book:

  • Signature – a group of sheets folded in half, to be worked into the binding as a unit.

  • End sheets – folded sheets of a hardcover book that are glued to the spine edge and inside the cover to tie the text block (pages) and case (hardcover) together.

  • Dustjacket – removable paper cover used to protect a book from dirt and damage.

Main Types of Bookbinding

A book can be bound in one of several different ways. Here is a list of the most common binding options and related definitions:

  • Perfect bound – most often known as paperback, adhesive is applied to the spine and the pages are covered with a folded heavier-paper cover.

  • Saddle stitch – not a true spine as we often know it, but instead the pages and heavier-paper cover are held together with staples.

  • Smythe Sewn – thread is sewn through folded signatures and supported by adhesives and cloth backing. Normally used in the making of hardcover books.

  • Adhesive case wrap – a hardcover type of book where paper is wrapped over cardboard (the case) and glued to the text block (pages).

  • Kivar casebound – durable simulated leather material used on cardboard to create a case that is glued to pages.

  • Spiral bound – a spiral shaped piece of wire or plastic runs through the ends of sheets holding pages together.

What Your Book is Will Help Determine How It Should be Bound

Perfect bound is a common way to bind books and is used in both fiction and nonfiction. Saddle stitch is an economy approach to bookbinding and is usually used when a book has fewer than enough pages required for a spine. Smythe- sewn binding is a high quality, more expensive binding procedure that is normally used for library and archival books where there is more wear and tear. Adhesive case wrap is commonly used in children’s picture books and cookbooks where there is printing on the boards (directly on the cover). Kivar casebound (plain, no printing) is used in fiction and non-fiction hardcovers in conjunction with a dust jacket. Spiral bound has a lay-flat feature that is great for classroom use and referencing.

The decision to stay with a partner or not can be heart wrenching. How your book is constructed should not be. Determining the genre and category it falls into will bring you closer to knowing the way it should be bound. This is a discussion we often have with our authors.

For more information of book design view our book design services for self-publishers.

read more Tips For Writers articles for self-publishing authors.

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