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What are the Different Types of Binding Covers?

Stacks of books with hardcover case bindings.
A cookbook with a coil binding.
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  • Written By: Hillary Flynn
  • Edited By: Lindsay D.
  • Last Modified Date: 24 July 2014
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Gone are the days of printing on scrolls made from the pith of the papyrus plant, parchment made of animal skin, and palm leaves serving as the binding material for ancient religious texts. Modern times have brought modern materials, resulting in a myriad of bookbinding options.

The first consideration when selecting a book cover is the size and purpose of the book. Options range from inexpensive do-it-yourself systems for business or school projects, to professional hardbound options for the author publishing a book for public sale. Binding covers generally fall under two categories:

1. Personal: suitable for non-published works under 100 pages, such as home projects, student reports, and business documents. These include:

  • Smooth Plastic Covers: This durable material is waterproof and resistant to tears. It comes in a variety of colors, including clear, and can be purchased as a printable or non-printable cover.
  • Grain Covers: These are sometimes referred to as leather-look, grain embossed, and leather embossed. They're made with an uncoated paper stock that's both durable and tear resistant, but not waterproof. Also printable, these are similar to the smooth plastic cover, but offer a texture that changes the look.
  • Linen Covers:Linen covers offer the most elegant look, with attributes identical to the grain binding covers, but with a different texture that resembles a heavyweight high quality linen bond paper.

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All the covers above are available in different weights, quality, and sizes. Binding choices include plastic combs, wire coil, and a non-spiral VeloBind spine that resembles the teeth of a comb and allows for neat stacking, but does not allow the book to lay open and flat. Inexpensive machines can be purchased to self-bind, or they can be prepared by almost any copy or print shop.

Alternatively, another inexpensive method is to fold the pages and wrap with a heavy paper stock cover that can then be positioned on a saddle stapler. This is easy and cheap, but it's more difficult to add pages later, whereas the plastic combs, wire coil, and VeloBind combs can be easily removed and replaced with a larger version that accepts more pages.

2. Professional: suitable for published works to be purchased in a public market.

  • Softcover Binding Covers: The most popular softcover uses a coated paper cover stock that is attached with the Perfect Binding Method. The pages of the book are stacked into a book block, ground at the edge to roughen them up, then adhesive is applied and they are glued into the cover. This method is the most popular and produces the least expensive binding cover, but these books do not lie flat and the spine can crack.

    Otabind Binding Covers offer another inexpensive choice to bind with a softcover. The advantage of Otabind is flexibility. Covers are still attached with adhesive, but the flexible spine allows paperback books to lay open and flat. This is ideal for cookbooks or other reference materials that must lay open as they are being used.
  • Hardcover Binding Covers: Case or edition binding covers are the highest quality and the most expensive choice. Pages are assembled and either sewn together or glued together with adhesive, then wrapped in case boards covered in cloth, coated paper, or occasionally leather. Sewing methods and adhesives vary, but the most common and durable method is to sew first, apply adhesive, and anchor the text block to the cover.

Once bound, a jacket can be printed and wrapped around the book, or alternatively, a cloth bound cover can be stamped on the spine and cover and used without a jacket.

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