If you’re planning to print a run of small pamphlets, guides, or small booklets, you might have run into the terms saddle stitch books and perfect bound books. Both are popular binding methods, and though they both have their advantages, many characteristics are shared between the two. They’re both much less expensive than hardcover bindings and are well suited for books with low page counts. So long as those qualities fit your project and you work with competent wholesale book printers, either method would be fine. That said, we can do better than fine. Keep reading, and we’ll give you a breakdown of both methods, and their pros and cons.
How are Saddle Stitch Books Are Made?
Saddle stitch books are bound together with staples made of thin metal wire. First, the sheets are printed out and collated according to page number, then they are folded in half along the middle, creating two pages per sheet of paper. This way, a saddle stitch book can lay completely flat, a benefit that perfect and hardcover bindings can’t offer. Finally, the book is trimmed down to size on all sides except for the spine. Because of the simplicity of this process, saddle stitch books can be produced very quickly.
How are Perfect Bound Books Made?
Rather than using staples, perfect bound books are held together with a thermal glue. After printing, a block of loose pages is arranged in order, and the side of the block that will become the book’s spine is roughed up in order to loosen fibers of paper that the thermal glue will be able to bind to. Glue is applied, and the pages bind to each other and to the cover of the book, which is usually made out of card stock or thicker paper than the inner pages.
Softcover books can be bound using different types of glue, with the most popular options being EVA and PUR glue. When referring to perfect binding, we’re usually talking about EVA glue, which is slightly cheaper but less durable than PUR glue. That said, the process for applying PUR glue is nearly the same as for EVA glue, and if you’re concerned with the lifespan and durability of your books, you should opt for PUR glue whenever possible.
Advantages and Disadvantages
The most significant difference between perfect binding and saddle stitching is that perfect binding is a widely applicable softcover binding technique that can be used for a variety of project types, whereas saddle stitching is specialized for books of around ninety pages which need to be produced quickly and in large numbers.
Another significant difference between the two methods lies in their cultural context. Saddle stitching is usually used for magazines and pamphlets, so when somebody sees a saddle-stitched booklet, they might assume it’s a less significant piece of writing than if it were perfect bound. Because perfect binding is often used for novels and nonfiction works like biographies, it has a bit more prestige than saddle stitching, though not as much as a hardcover binding.
There are also a handful of miscellaneous differences between the two that it’s worth knowing about. We’ve collected them in the lists below.
Saddle stitch books
- Lay flat when opened
- Often have covers made of the same material as their pages
- Don’t degrade much over time, but are susceptible to tearing
- Are inexpensive to produce and can be made quickly.
Perfect bound books
- Have flat spines which titles can be printed on
- Stack well and pack without much-unused space
- Have covers made of sturdier material than their pages
- Can have more pages than saddle-stitched books
How to Choose Between the Two
The method that will serve you best depends on the kind of project you have planned. If you’re planning on producing a large run of disposable booklets, like manuals to accompany a product, then saddle stitching is the best option. It will save money, and saddle-stitch books are easier to recycle than perfect bound books, only needing to have their staples removed.
The primary reasons to choose perfect binding for your project are to give it more durability and a sense of significance. An employee handbook that people are expected to keep and use for years on end would benefit from a perfect binding or PUR glue binding. Otherwise, they’re likely to break down with the wear and tear of extended use.
Of course, there will be use cases beyond the norm that might call for an unusual binding method. In cases where it isn’t immediately obvious which binding method to use, there are a few key questions that you can ask yourself to figure out the proper course of action.
First, imagine the lifespan of the book after it’s been printed. After it reaches the hands of its intended audience, where does it go? How long do they keep it? Is it long enough for the book to start to break down? Perfect bound books can last for years, even with fairly frequent use, but saddle stitch books could easily be completely destroyed by an overturned glass of water.
Ask yourself how you want the reader to think about the book. Should they give it the respect they would give to a novel or a magazine? Do you want them to think of it as more traditional, or as something fresh and new? Readers might not consider these things consciously, but the binding of a book will always have an effect on how they read it.
Finally, think about your budget. Any respectable wholesale book printers should be able to give you an estimate on cost based on the size of your run and the binding method you intend to use. Even if there’s room in the budget to use a more expensive binding, ask yourself how much each book is worth to you or your business, and act on the answer.