How Hardback Book Binding Works

Have you ever wondered how hardback book binding works? David Granoff explains how book printers and binderies put a hardcover book together.

Most of us own a few "hardcover" or hardback books. If we examine them we can see that there are quite a few parts that go into the making of each book on our shelves. Some may seem a bit less sturdy than others, and this may be due to the method in which they are produced.

Generally there is a single traditional approach to putting a hardback book together. Most modern printers and binders use the "case" method which must always begin with the printing of the pages in the book. This is done on a commercial press according to the needs of the book. Some books use large pages of glossy expensive paper, others may use lightweight and bright white paper that is far less expensive. The choice in paper depends upon the type of book being made. A "coffee table" book full of fine art prints and images will use an extremely high quality and thicker paper. A simple "how to" manual will probably use the least expensive paper possible.

Once the pages have been created by the publishing house they are sent off to a printer who must print them in sections called "signatures". Signatures in a hardback book will be divided equally by the total page count, and their number depends on the weight of the paper and the binding style to be used.

When creating a case bound book the printer or binder will either sew or glue the signatures together with a flexible glue and spine tape. The determination to sew or glue comes from the thickness of the book. For example, most modern hardback children's books are constructed without the use of sewing because the glue and case are strong enough to meet the needs of many readings.

Larger or thicker hardback books will always demand sewing of the signatures since the sheer weight of the pages would break or crack a simple glue and cloth tape combination. Once each group of signatures has been pressed and sewn, the bindery then flattens the spine and applies what are known as "end sheets". End sheets will serve as the inside lining on the case of the book and also as the first (and always blank) page. The spine is then taped and glued again at which time the hardback or case is applied. While the glue is still pliable the book is inserted into a special finishing press which squeezes the spine and creates the distinctive grooves that line each side of every book's spine. These are not simply decorative features, but allow the cover to be opened and closed without causing stress to the spine and signatures.

Today there are a number of styles for hardback covers, or cases. Many printers allow a customer to choose a glossy cover that has full color art printed on a special wrapping. There are also options for the printing of dust jackets as well. Hardback books are one of the most popular options in "self-publishing" and many printers make "short runs" or jobs of less than one thousand copies available to the public.

David Granoff

David Granoff is a 25 year veteran printing business owner. His company specializes in self publishing for authors as well as other services such as digital printing, color copies, book printing, and book binding in Dallas & Addison. For more information on book binding in the Dallas/Addison, Texas area, check out

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