13 Tips for Choosing the Best Cover and Binding Materials
Top production managers share their insights for choosing the most appropriate materials for each project's audience and budget.
There it is sitting in the queue. Files for the heavily illustrated 245-page marine biology book titled "The World Under the Sea: Mysterious Life Forms Revealed." Its budget: fairly restricted; distribution: students, local libraries and some bookstores; author's vision of the final product: a scholarly yet user-friendly piece that will withstand the test of time.
What binding and cover materials do you choose?
The decision isn't easy. If only there was a simple guideline to follow. While there is no clear set of rules, there are reasons to choose certain materials over others. Here, a few production experts offer insight on how to make binding and cover decisions less arduous:
Sylvia Hecimovich Mendoza, Design and Production Director, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
Publishes: Reference materials and science books.
"Many of our binding and cover decisions are based on the publisher's plan for new books. For instance, we have an idea about what the market is for each title and what kinds of materials are available at the printer.
We also consider things like the type of paper used and pages per inch, which influences whether we use Smyth or adhesive binding.
If I had to offer a few tips, I would say:
1 Know what the expectations are for the book.
If you are dealing with a reference book, for example, you will want a Smyth-sewn binding to hold up to the wear and tear of constant use. Also, reference books are generally large and heavy so you would want the durability and longevity Smyth offers. Cloth covers are best suited for scholarly and reference books for the same reasons.
2 Know the run-size.
For higher quantities, notch adhesive saves time and money. There usually is not a huge gap in binding costs between Smyth and notch adhesive, but the difference can be significant on [larger print runs].
3 Know what materials are available at the printer.
For example, if we're doing a book for a trade discount, we want to make sure we use materials that the printer has on hand to avoid added costs.
4 Know what's offered overseas.
Are you printing in color for the first time? If so, you probably didn't know that you are better off going overseas for binding and cover materials. That can save about 40 percent.
5 Consult your colleagues.
If you're really unsure about what direction to take, talk to production managers in the university press market. They are typically more forthright. Also, query sales reps, printers and vendors. Some of them are incredibly knowledgeable and can offer excellent advice."
Maria Aneiro, Director of Manufacturing, Scholastic Inc., New York City
Publishes: Children's books in all formats for all ages. Standard cover stock used is 10 pt c/1/s. For hardcovers, Scholastic uses .88 pt binders and breeze board. For board books, 24 pt SBS is standard.
"If I had to narrow down the criteria for choosing binding and cover materials:
6 I would suggest knowing the distribution channel and the price point of your product.
That is our main criteria. For example, when we manufacture products for our
At Home division, which are mailed directly to the home, we try to minimize the weight of the product—choosing lighter cover and binding materials—in order to control mailing costs.
7 I would also suggest knowing your customers well and what they consider valuable.
Then, manufacture a product that meets the value requirements of the customer. For instance, for the library market, purchasing books that can endure repeated use is critical, and reinforced binding is a welcomed feature. A parent, on the other hand, may not find value in the same feature.
It also helps to:
8 Know the end-user.
For example, [for] teachers' editions … we often spiral bind them so they will lay flat. Also, teachers can fold the book in a way that allows them to easily carry the book around the classroom.
For our book clubs, however, we saddlewire bind the paperback editions. Parents need to be able to afford to purchase a book collection for their children, so we manufacture a product that can be sold at low price points for this market.
9 Think about safety.
We never film-laminate board books because very young children have a tendency to chew on the books, and the lamination comes off. This is obviously a safety concern.
10 Know library preferences.
If you are selling products to libraries, be sure to meet the market needs. We sell many of our trade products to libraries and often manufacture separate Reinforced Library Binding editions."
Jennifer Jerome, Production Manager, Columbia University Press, New York City
Publishes: Trade, academic and monograph books with core disciplines in areas such as Asian studies and social work.
"In terms of binding materials:
11 We almost always choose between adhesive and Smyth.
And, between the two, we almost always choose adhesive over Smyth, simply because it involves a faster, smoother and oftentimes less expensive process. And it used to be that everyone went with cloth covers for all their books, but now everyone is predominantly using paper.
I would also advise other production managers to:
12 Research printer prices.
It comes down to how much money you are willing to spend. Then, find out from various printers what it would cost to publish a book with all the bells and whistles, with a few bells and whistles, and with almost no frills. Once you have this information, you can better choose which materials are right for your book and your budget.
13 Remember the general rule.
Reference and scholarly books are typically Smyth-sewn and bear cloth covers. Most other books, at least at our university press, are paper cover with adhesive binding."
—Sharon R. Cole