Bookbinding Introduction

This is going to seem a bit odd for a blog about photographing objects to start chatting on about bookbinding, but it’s part of my schtick. Some photographers sell wall art, some just sell digital images and leave the rest to their clients, others hype albums. I do the wall art, and the digital images, but I also sell books. I create custom guestbooks, collection catalogs, manuals, and I hope to work with a museum to do a gallery guide. I’ve already shown what I do to create a catalog, back in my April blogs on the teacup collection,  culminating with Photographing a teacup collection: The Catalog on April 18, 2016. Another photographer recently asked “What kinds of bindings are there?” That got me thinking, I probably should go over the various types of bindings for people.

There are a lot of ways to bind paper together into a book. The factors are:

  1. How you want it to look
  2. How many pages you are binding
  3. How long you need it to last
  4. What’s the budget

The “off the shelf” options are (in order of price):

  • Saddle stitch: You print the book four pages to a sheet, double sided so that when you fold the paper in half you have a book. The print shop will use a metal staple to hold it together. I hand sew mine, because it looks elegant.
  • Comb binding (Cerlox binding) is dirt cheap and combs come in a variety of sizes, is easily removable and even reusable. It lasts a long time, although paper tends to tear eventually. I find it looks polished, yet cheap. Great for reports, but it is difficult to put any information on the spine, such as the title, unless you have a great number of pages and can use a 1″ comb. Much larger than that and it gets pretty unwieldy.
  • Coil binding allows the book to open flat. Coils come in many colours, and being flexible is great for mailing out.
  • Twin loop binding is like coil binding but has two wires per hole. I personally find it messes up the paper in a hurry, but others find it elegant.
  • Velo binding has a permanent plastic binder melted together through the pages, looks similar to a hardboard book, and makes it difficult to copy. It probably lasts for decades.
  • Perfect binding is what is used on paperback books and looks the most elegant, outside of hardcover book binding. Basically, you take the individual pages and glue the spine edge. Eventually, the glue dries out and the pages fall out, but you can expect it to survive at least 10-20 years.
  • Sewn bindings (and there are many different styles) look the most elegant. I’ve done Japanese stab bindings, which are sewn from the side, often with different colour threads for an artistic effect. These are pretty, but the book won’t lie flat. What I like to do is the basic German case style (the standard hard cover book). I like this because I can print the cover in full colour on white book cloth, including a printed spine with the name of the book on it. It looks pretty darned impressive, if I may say so.

In a couple of  future posts, I’m going to walk through the process of building a hard cover guest book. If you’re not into that, feel free to take those two weeks off, or read some back issues.

This blog is published every Monday at 9:00 am, Eastern Standard Time. If you have comments, questions, or can think of a better approach, feel free to leave a comment. I’ll try to get back to you with a pithy answer.

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Author: Pete Cramp

I've been crazy about photography since I got my first camera in 1970 (I was eight), and went to Niagara College for radio/television/film production. My career took a strange detour into Information Technology, where I coordinate IT disaster recovery plans, but I've taken 2016 off to establish my photography business, in preparation for retirement. My passion is documentation of historical artifacts and antiques, shooting anything from pocket watches to antique tractors. Through my company, "Artifact Photography" I offer photographic services to collectors, museums, and small businesses.