What is Perfect Binding? Process, Pros, and Cons

perfect bound books

(3-min read)

So, what makes a book’s binding “perfect” according to industry lingo? Oddly enough, not necessarily the binding. In this piece, we’re going to look at what constitutes a perfect-bound book as well as the pros and cons of perfect binding for readers and publishers alike.  

“Perfect” — No, Not the Binding

If you’ve ever picked up a trade paperback with a flexible cover, you’ve used what is known as a “perfect” paperback. Oddly enough, the main adjective used to describe perfect binding has nothing to do with the binding at all. Perfect binding is a flat binding of various folds of a page using an incredibly durable yet flexible thermal glue. The pages are first glued together to create the binding. After the pages have been bound together, the pages are all uniformly trimmed to size. This uniform cut on three sides creates an extremely orderly, “perfect” series of edges not always found in traditional hardcover books. Perfect binding makes for a clean look that stacks well and looks great on a shelf. 

Some Advantages of Perfect Binding

Perfect binding books are a favorite among readers for their strength and clean edge appearance. Perfect-bound books appeal to publishers because they are relatively inexpensive and can be created in limited supply. Even a one-off book can be printed with a perfect-bound cover. This smaller quantity print option makes perfect-bound books a favorite among businesses for training manuals, independent novels, and other documents.

Some Disadvantages of Perfect Binding

For all of the perks of perfect binding, there are a handful of drawbacks. Firstly, most perfect-bound books have a more flimsy, bendable cover. This “paperback” style cover may allow the book to lose its shape over time. Another downside to perfect bound books is the stiff nature of the glued spine. Unlike a saddle-stitched book, there’s not much give to the spine when someone attempts to lay a page flat. With frequent reads and attempts to flatted out the book, the spine’s glue may snap—sometimes even audibly. 

Conclusion

Perfect binding is an excellent solution for print publications intended for easy consumption. They’re light, easily held in one hand, and reasonably sturdy. From a producer’s perspective, they’re one of the more affordable binding options for page-dense materials. While they may not last as long as saddle-stitched hardcover bindings or lay as flat as spiral-bound works, they’re nonetheless a great binding option.

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