Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Werner Rebsamen On Binding Methods

For Welbound Times by Werner Rebsamen Professor Emeritus RIT

Which Binding Method is Best?

One of my favorite sayings always was “Think about the Binding Method First – not Last!” Why would I make such a statement in my lectures? Well, with a unique testing facility at hand, we have seen too many failed products. I could write a book about it.
Before you do anything else, try communicating with a binder first. These experts have many “tricks” up their sleeves, most often effective tools for stretching a clients budget.
Only good planning prevents costly mistakes. How a book or other product will be bound dictates the imposition. Just imagine if you forget the extra paper allowances for a perfect bound or a mechanical binding. We did discuss the correlation of the guides to maintain perfect registration. Well I could go on but to avoid problems, good communication is perhaps the best advice to avoid costly mistakes.

Now, what binding types are available? That is of course a most valid question. While employed at RIT in education, next to our under- and graduate courses, we did conduct 100’s of industry seminars. My favorite was a three day seminar I chaired and taught in behalf of the Book Manufacturer’s Institute. Twice a year, for 23 years, I had interesting dialogs with people employed in the publishing industry, suppliers or manufacturers of books. Now back to the question on binding types. In order to select an appropriate method of binding, you must ask the question, what is the end-use purpose? If it is a cook book, should you consider perfect binding? Well, we have seen such cross-grain cook books going to the grave yard, 40’000 of them, all hardcover bound books, acting like a mouse trap! The first pre-requisite for such a product is of course that it does lie flat, unassisted by hands. Ideal for such a product would be a mechanical binding or if it need to be hardcover bound, select book sewing but make sure that the binders do not use a stiff hotmelt on the spine! First, do ask for an example and evaluate it. End-use performance is perhaps the most important item. Advanced samples let you be the judge.

Publishing production managers are under great pressure in regards to budgets. That is understandable but again, they should always keep in my, that a particular product has a specific function. For example, an art or a so-called coffee table book with lots of color works. Such a product must lie flat to be enjoyed which means, a production planner must be careful when selecting paper, must make sure the grain direction of the paper is parallel to the binding edge etc..

Below are some hints for choosing the right method of binding:
Saddle Stitch – Booklets, pamphlets, magazines, catalogs etc..
Advantages - they do lay flat, are inexpensive, use self or separate covers.
Gate folds and foldouts are possible. Widely available, most printers can do it in-house.
Limitations - are longevity, not recommended for heavy end-use. Lacks printable spine although that technology is now available. Thickness is another limitation.
Loop stitched versions to be placed into ring binders are available at some binders.

Side Stitch – Manuals, brochures, inexpensive products or for items which must last.
Advantages - A fast and inexpensive method. Strong Binding.
Limitations - Openability and thickness.
This method is this days largely replaced with perfect binding.

Spiral Binding – Available in wire or plastic. Excellent for presentation documents etc..
Advantages – use virtually any materials. Paper-grain or weight does not matter. Folds over 360 degrees. Does always lie flat.
Limitations – not as sturdy as double loop wire. If crushed, pages no longer turn. Cross-over designs do not align.

Double Loop Wire – Cook books, calendars, reference manuals etc..
Advantages – very versatile and durable. Lays flat. Can include hanger. Perfect alignments.
Sheets turn easily with all kinds of papers, boards etc.. Can be case-bound.
Limitations – If wire is crushed, it will not return to its original shape.

Plastic Comb – Reports, documents, reference materials etc..
Advantages – Widely available and economical. Imprinting of comb possible for spine identification. Can be re-opened to add pages (tool required)
Limitation – if comb is crushed sheets get damaged. Sheets do not turn past lay-flat position. Not for heavy end-use.

Perfect Binding – Reports, manuals, brochures, books, catalogs etc..
Advantages – Most economical for thicker products which can no longer be saddle-stitched.
Good overall look. Printable spine. With the right grain direction, good longevity.
Limitations – Does not lay flat. Minimum thickness is 3mm.

Lay Flat – Otabind or RepKover. soft-cover books with open spines similar to hard cover bindings are ideal for technical manuals cook books music notes etc.
Advantages – Lays flat if adhesive bound with PVA or PUR. Spine does not crease.
Used were hands-free reading is important.
Limitations – Not recommended for coated stock unless text-block is sewn or PUR adhesive is used.

Sewn Bindings – Through the fold, used for quality, most often case-bound works.
Advantages – Books lay flat. Simply the best quality and durability of any method.
Can bind a wide range of thicknesses.
Limitations – virtually none, more expensive than most other binding methods.

Saddle Sewn – Children books, documents such as passports etc..
Advantages – Far superior to saddlestiching. Ideal for thin books. Good openability, does lay flat. Exceptional page-pull strength.
Limitations – Should not be used on projects over 5mm thick.

Side-Sewn – Children and text books were exceptional strength is required
Advantages – Ideal for school text books and children books. Virtually indistructable.
Limitation – Openability, requires extra space for margins. Does not lay flat.

Case bound – Can be used in combination with adhesive, sewn or mechanical bindings.
Best for books of virtually any kind, reference, children, school, library, legal etc..
Advantages – Superior quality and durability. Good looks. A justification for a much higher price = increased revenues.
Limitations – High cost, the most expensive of all binding types discussed.

The best advice I could give to publishers was, always prepare a dummy, using the actual paper stocks in their correct weights and finishes. Carefully choose covering materials. Suppliers are eager to work with you in this regard. If individual shipping is involved, make sure you weigh the finished sample book. We had court-cases where just a few grammes tipped the postmasters scale to a higher category.
And finally as stated earlier – first, before you do anything else, communicate with the binder!

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