Book binding is the process of physically assembling a book from an ordered stack of paper. As a self-published author, it can often be difficult to choose the best book binding options for your books. There are so many options, and some self-publishing printers or print-on-demand services only offer certain types of binding. In this article, we’re going to talk about the most popular binding option and which popular print-on-demand services offer those options. We’ll also discuss how to know what option is right for you.

There are several different book binding methods, each with their own unique set of pros and cons.

Saddle Stitch Binding

Saddle stitching is a popular binding method for small books and brochures. It involves folding the sheets of paper in half and then stitching them together along the folded edge with string. The main advantage of saddle stitching is that it is relatively inexpensive and easy to do, making it a popular choice for smaller books, pamphlets, or brochures.

However, it does have some limitations. The binding is often not very durable. It’s not a great choice for larger books as the stacking of pages can cause issues with the gutter width.

The look and feel of a saddle stitched book is unique and eye catching. If you’re putting together a small book, devotional, or something that is unique and you want to catch the eye, a saddle stitched book might just be for you.

saddle stitched binding on journal
Saddle Stitched Journal by Dariusz Sankowski on Unsplash

Hardcover Case Binding

Another great book binding option is the hardcover or case binding method. Case binding is a more durable binding method that is often used for high-end books. This method involves attaching a hard cover to the book block, which is made up of folded sheets of paper that have been glued together. The main advantage of hardcover binding is that it is extremely durable and can withstand heavy use.

It is also significantly more expensive than other binding methods. The materials used are higher quality and add a significant overhead to the printing cost. This is why hardcover books are often the most expensive type of book. Authors have to price their books higher to compensate for the more expensive printing and binding costs.

Some printers offer extra options for case binding such as cloth covering, digital cloth cover, printed dust jackets, and printed case binding. All these options make beautiful books, but also add to the complexity and cost of self-publishing.

The hard cover provides a high level of protection for the pages, making it a durable option that can withstand frequent use. This is why a hardcover is used for high-end books, limited edition books, and books that will be collected.

If you’re thinking about self-publishing a hardcover book, you’ll need to make sure the book can hold up to the higher cost of printing and binding. Hardcover books often sell for $20 or more and you’ll need to make sure the quality of book you are publishing can bring in that price.

case or hardback book binding
Hard Cover Books by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Perfect Binding

Perfect binding, also known as paperback binding, is a popular binding method for trade paperbacks and mass-market paperbacks. This method involves gluing the book block to the cover, rather than sewing it, or binding it to hard material. Perfect binding is relatively inexpensive. Most, if not all, print-on-demand and self-publishing printers offer this option. It is the option most first time authors choose because if it’s ease and simplicity.

However, it is not as durable as other binding methods, and the pages can fall out if the glue deteriorates over time. Also, paperbacks have a tendency to resist laying flat while new. If the books is well used and the glue binding has broken down, they become easier to lay open, but then this means the binding is breaking down. Consider perfect binding the most well rounded book binding option, hence it’s popularity.

paperback book binding
Paperback Books by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Wire or Spiral Binding

Wire or spiral binding is a binding method that is often used for notebooks, journals, and other bound documents. This method involves punching holes along the edge of the book block, and then threading wire or plastic coils through the holes to hold the book together.

The main advantage of wire or spiral binding is that it allows the book to lay flat and open a full 180 degrees. Most cookbooks, sketchbooks, and journals utilize the wire binding option because of their use case needing to lay flat.

The issue with spiral binding is that most of the popular print-on-demand printers don’t offer this as a binding option. You’ll most likely need to shop around for a local printer to produce a spiral bound book.

blank spiral bound notebook
Spiral Bound Notebook by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Which Binding Method is Right For You?

Now that you know the most popular book binding options, how do you know which one to pick?

For most self-publishing authors, the choice is pretty easy. You either choose between the more expensive, but more elegant case binding (hardcover) option, or the more versatile and cheaper perfect bound (softcover) option.

But if you’re having a hard time choosing, here are some questions you might want to ask yourself before you make that decision.

  • What is the intended audience for the book?
  • Will the book be used frequently or primarily for display?
  • How much is the book intended to cost?
  • What is the page count of the book?
  • What is the size and shape of the book?
  • Will the book be sold in physical stores or primarily online?
  • Will the book be part of a series or stand alone?
  • Is the physical appearance of the book important for marketing and branding?
  • Will the book be used primarily as a reference or for leisure reading?
  • Does the author want to create a certain image or aesthetic with the book’s physical appearance?

Answering these questions might help you decide which option is right for you. For example, if the book is going to be used a lot, like a text book, then a case binding option might be the best. Also, if you intend to create a high quality, beautiful book that stands out and represents a series or brand, then you might choose the hardcover, case bound option again. But, if the intended audience is hobby novel readers, who primarily read for leisure, and are accustomed to buy paperbacks from Amazon KDP, then a paperback might be just as suitable.

Book Binding Options by Print-on-Demand Companies

Lastly, you’ll need to consider the printer and what options they offer. Not all printers offer the same book binding options. The two largest print-on-demand printers in the world offer similar but slightly different options for binding. Smaller local printers might offer a wider variety of options, but will often be more expensive and limited in the amount they can produce. They also usually have printing minimums whereas the large print-on-demand companies do not require minimums. Below is a table detailing the companies and what options they offer.

Case BindingCase Binding w/Dust JacketCloth Case BindingPerfect BindingSaddle StitchSpiral Binding
Amazon KDPYesNoNoYesNoNo
Barnes & Noble PressYesYesNoYesNoNo
Your Local PrinterYesMaybeMaybeYesUnlikelyLikely
Fedex (Kinkos)NoNoNoNoNoYes
US PressNoNoNoYesYesNo