When you need a lot of books printed at an affordable cost, any printer worth their salt will have a few options that meet that need. For notebooks, calendars, cookbooks, and informational booklets, there are three popular binding methods that won’t break the bank. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, so if you want to choose the one that best suits your project, you’ll need to know a little about each one.
Coil Binding is the most common of the three methods, and the simplest. It’s the kind of binding that you find on spiral bound notebooks, a single long metal or plastic wire that runs in a spiral through a series of holes in the paper and covers of the book.
This binding method allows the pages to turn all the way around, so that the book can be folded in half and still lay flat. The wire is crimped at both ends to prevent it from coming free, and because it pierces the book in so many places, any force placed on it will be spread out across its length, meaning pages aren’t likely to tear out of the book as they would a three ring binder. Because this method doesn’t use much space, it’s popular for bulky official documents that need to be mailed.
Metal coils like the ones in most spiral notebooks are strong, but can bend easily. For professionally bound books in this style, you’re more likely to see a coil made out of tough PVC plastic, which will spring back to its original form when bent. Plastic coils can be colored to match the aesthetic of any print job, and metal coils can be coated in colored plastic if desired.
One major drawback of a spiral binding is that because the wire is all a single piece, if one end comes loose and snags on something, the entire thing could pull out of the book, leaving you with a pile of loose pages. It’s slightly less durable than the other methods on this list, and might strike some as less professional because of its associations with school notebooks.
Another common issue has to do with how a spiral bound book ages. The more a metal wire spiral binding is bent, the more small irregularities will be visible in the binding. Loops will be pushed to one side of the book, or sometimes flattened. In extreme cases, this can make it hard to turn pages all the way around from front to back, which counteracts one of the main benefits of spiral binding. This problem doesn’t come up with plastic bindings as much, but if stressed over and over in the same place, they can break.
You can think of wire-O, also known as double loop binding, as a cousin to spiral binding. Instead of running the wire in a simple spiral form, it bends back on itself, making a row of teeth that insert into holes in the book block. Like spiral binding, it allows pages a complete range of motion around the binding, meaning that a book bound this way can lie flat in any configuration. The holes can vary in number and size depending on the dimensions of the paper you’re using, making this method just as flexible as spiral binding.
Double loop bindings usually use steel wire that has been galvanized or coated with plastic or another metal to improve its appearance and prevent corrosion. Metal wire is always somewhat susceptible to bending, but because double loop bindings use hinges made of two lengths of wire, it’s not as likely as with a spiral binding.
Generally, double loop binding looks more professional than spiral binding, and tends to be sturdier as well. As such, the price tends to be slightly higher, but its still much more affordable than, for example, a hardcover binding.
Because double loop binding uses a stiffer structure than spiral binding, it doesn’t suffer from the same kind of irregularities that you can see when a spiral binding has been bent too many times. At the same time, it’s still light and portable, and a good option if you need to send your books long distances in the mail.
This method doesn’t fall short in many ways. Depending on the printer you choose to complete your order, you may have fewer color options than with a spiral binding. Because it doesn’t stitch all the way through the book block like a spiral binding would, you’re more likely to lose pages if somebody pries the binding open.
Comb binding works in much the same way as double loop. The main difference is that combs are usually made of plastic, and molded as a single solid piece rather than formed from a long wire. This makes them more durable than double loop bindings, allowing them to be recycled several times, and used for different books after the first is no longer needed.
This method has some unique advantages over the others. Books bound this way can have pages added or removed as needed, which can help to keep track of constantly evolving projects. They can be colored, and even have enough space for a logo or title to be printed onto them, like you might see on the spine of a traditionally bound book.
The primary disadvantage of this method compared to the others is that pages cannot be rotated all the way around the book. It will still lay flat, but there will always be two pages showing, meaning that it will always take up a certain amount of space on a table or desk.
At Home or With a Printer?
All of the methods mentioned so far can be done using relatively inexpensive machines, and without the need for too much training. With projects of certain sizes, buying a machine and punching and binding your books yourself might be the more affordable option, but that isn’t always the case.
These machines tend to use processes with two or three steps, and if you need to produce a large run of books, the time spent binding them can add up. For business owners and designers without much free time on their hands, it might be a better idea to have your books professionally made by a trade printer.
And, of course, with a small enough run, it won’t make sense to invest in a machine that you won’t get much use out of. It’s a good idea to consult with a printer before making a final decision. Even if you don’t choose to work with them, their input can help you plan your project.