A Bookmaker’s Guide to Binding Your Own Custom Books

One of the most important decisions you will make when creating a book, brochure, zine, or other bound presentation, is how to bind it.

While this may seem like a final step in the bookmaking process, this actually needs to be well-thought-out and planned according to your desired end result and intended use.

Many factors will determine which style of bookbinding is right for your project from the form and function of your book, to factors like budget and lead time.  We’re here to help you learn more about the different styles of bookbinding, and the pros and cons of each.

Getting Started 

Knowing what you’re looking for from a book will be the best place to start. Start by asking yourself a few simple questions. 

What is the main function of your book? 

How your book is used will make a huge difference in which style will work best. Will your book be getting a lot of heavy usage and page-turning? Steer clear of perfect binding and go for a spiral or a wire-o bind instead! 

Does your book feature more images, more copy, or both?

Text and images can make deciding between binding styles more complicated. Are your images all full bleed or full spread? You probably want a saddle stitch booklet (with square backing!) If you want to be able to see all of the pages at once, an accordion-style book is for you. 

Do you want something basic and budget conscious or coffee-table-worthy? 

If you’re looking for a basic booklet or pamphlet for a trade show, saddle stitching will be the most cost-effective method while still looking nice. For something that will make a lasting impression, and can hold up to the test of time, a hardback book is undeniably the best option. 

Professionally printed or D.I.Y.?

The style of bookbinding you choose will largely be determined by your budget and timeframe. A professional print shop that specializes in bookbinding can quickly and efficiently produce orders in a variety of different styles and finishes, while the D.I.Y. approach comes with more restrictions. Below are some examples of the different methods each route offers.

Binding styles offered at Yellowdog:

Wire-O
Concealed Wire-O
Spiral (Coil)
PURfect bind
Hard case cover
Saddle stitch
Saddle stitch with squareback
Accordion

Binding styles that you can DIY:

Pamphlet stitch
Sewn saddle
Coptic stitch
French link stitch
Japanese stab binding
Secret Belgian binding
Whip stitch

In-House Binding Methods

At YellowDog, we offer a variety of booklet printing, binding and finishing solutions to help you create the booklet, catalog, or pamphlet you envisioned. Below, we’re highlighting our most popular in-house bookbinding methods, and the pros and cons of each. 

Wire-O:

The Wire-O method utilizes square-shaped holes that are punched at the spine and bound with wire, causing pages to lay flat and equal across from each other. This style is best suited for books that contain full-spread images, such as product catalogs and manuals. Not only can the pages be opened a full 360 degrees for optimal viewing, but this method can accommodate a high number of pages as well as index tabs for easy organization. 

Pro: Can flip the book all the way around, spreads line up nicely across from each other.
Con: Can only go up to ½” thick before having to use a larger punch and binding edge clearance.

Concealed Wire-O:

This method uses the same method as traditional Wire-O binding but includes a cover that conceals the binding style from the outside front.

Pro: Lays flat and spreads sit nicely across from each other, room for book title and info on the spine which is visible when on a shelf
Con:  Same cons as Wire-O.

Spiral: 

The Spiral method utilizes holes punched at the spine and a plastic coil that wraps around the spine. In this method, pages lay flat, but there is a slight offset of pages across from each other when open. One of the primary user benefits of a spiral bound book is that the pages can be opened a full 360 degrees (cover to cover). 

Pro: Versatile and can flip the book completely around. 
Con: Pages are slightly offset when laying flat on a table making it flawed for full-spread images. 

Saddle Stitch: 

During the saddle-stitch method, pages are folded together and stapled at the spine. Similar to the wire-o method, saddle stitch binding is best-suited for full-spread images and text as there is no gap between pages. This style often utilizes a thicker cover alongside a thinner interior paper. If you use the same paper for both, it’s called “self-cover”, which is a style commonly used in magazines and catalogs!

Pro: Works great for content that goes across the gutter for continuous images.
Con: The page number has to be divisible by 4 for the structure to work. 

Saddle Stitch with Squarebacking: 

The only difference between this method and the traditional saddle-stitch method is that the spine of the booklet is shaped to a square edge to simulate perfect binding.

Pro: Looks clean like perfect binding without the cost. 
Con: Page number has to be divisible by 4, limit to the number of overall pages possible.

Perfect and PURfect: 

Perfect binding and PURfect binding both use an adhesive to bind together pages, essentially gluing them together at the spine. The style features a cover that wraps around the book block for a seamless appearance. However, while it looks perfect from the outside, the pages inside will never lay perfectly flat with this binding style. 

Perfect bound is the method of choice for most of the softcover books you see at book stores, manuals & technical guides, catalogs, and any other book larger than 64 pages. 

Pro: Clean finish with no punched holes in content.
Con: Can fall apart more easily with heavy usage, and needs to have a certain number of pages.

Accordion: 

This unique bookbinding style is made up of a continuous long sheet of paper and scored and folded into an accordion. This style is popular among artists looking to showcase their work in a unique and cost-effective way. 

Pro: Can be seen all at once as a continuous graphic, or used as a book with turning pages.
Con: Scoring may crack over time with use.

Hard Case: 

Hard Case bindings use a hard book board for both the front and back covers as well as the spine. The case is made and a book block is glued into it by way of the end pages, which keep the books intact. 

Pro: Professional finish and hard-back book feel.
Con: Pricey and time-consuming.

Let Us Help You Tell (and Bind) Your Story 

By now you should have a clearer idea of what your bookbinding needs are, both aesthetically and practically. 

If you decide you would like to have your project professionally printed and bound, we would love to help bring your idea to life and guide you through the process of creating your booklet, catalog, or pamphlet. 

Vera Benschop

Vera Benschop

Vera Benschop is our Print Production Manager and knower of all things book-making. When not running a tight ship on the YellowDog production floor, she’s handcrafting her own brand of photography zines. Check out her work on Instagram @benschopbooks.
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