Types of book bindings

Most quick order print-shops can provide some or all of the following types of bindings. Here is a description of each type of binding, and some of the pros and cons for comparison.

BindingPros / Cons / Commentary
Thermal Pros:
  • Make a nice compact book when closed.
  • Stacks easily.
  • Shelves easily.
  • No punching required.
  • Binding process is simple, heat the binding glue strip (special heater required), jam in the pages, let cool.
  • Supplies are relatively cheap. Binding strips range from 35¢ to 70¢ for various sizes. Clear, heat resistant covers are about 20¢ each (one or two per book, or can use cardstock).
Cons:
  • Won't lay flat (180°) when open, or breaks if forced to open flat.
  • Just glue holds it together, which can age and lose its grip, allowing pages to fall out.
  • Cannot fold pages 360° (except by curling the pages).
  • Cannot add pages.
Comments:
  • Similar to process used for "paperback books", but they use a wrap-around cover, and the process is then called "perfect binding". The listed cons still apply, and they are far from perfect.
Plastic comb Pros:
  • Inexpensive punches available, which include comb insertion facility.
  • Readily available materials (most office supply stores).
  • Supplies are relatively cheap. Binding combs range from 17¢ to 35¢ for various sizes.
  • Choice of cover material, as long as your punch can punch it.
  • Book can lay flat (open 180°)
  • Stacks easily.
  • Shelves easily when supported.
Cons:
  • Cannot fold pages 360° (except by curling the pages).
  • Combs tend to harden with age, and crack when flexed, especially in hot climates. They are cheap to replace, but tedious to replace manually.
  • Doesn't have much strength when holding book for use (best for table use).
  • Adding pages requires unbinding and rebinding, perhaps with a larger comb, and is tedious to do manually.
Comments:
  • Often incorrectly called "spiral" binding.
  • Shown at left in this picture.
Metal comb Pros:
  • Same inexpensive punches as plastic comb.
  • Materials generally must be ordered.
  • Book can lay flat (open 180°).
  • Pages can be folded 360°.
  • Choice of cover material.
  • Stacks easily.
  • Shelves easily when supported.
  • Stronger than plastic for maintaining shape, within limits.
Cons:
  • Combs are fairly sturdy, but if abused will bend. Once bent, it is hard to return the combs to exact alignment, and unaligned combs make pages harder to turn, and easier to tear. Replacement is nearly impossible to do manually.
  • Adding pages requires unbinding and rebinding, perhaps with a larger comb, and is nearly impossible to do manually.
  • Combs are more expensive than plastic, ranging from 50¢ to $1.00 for various sizes.
  • The insertion device is an added cost for this process.
Comments:
Plastic coil Pros:
  • Durable. Coil returns to original shape when flexed.
  • Cheapest supplies. Coil ranges from 16¢ to $1.11 for 36" coils, which can do 3 11" bindings, or 4 8.5" bindings.
  • Manual coil insertion is reasonably possible, although not fast.
  • Books can lay flat (open 180°)
  • Pages can be folded 360°.
  • Choice of cover material.
  • Stacks easily.
  • Shelves easily when supported.
Cons:
  • Requires a more expensive, precision punch.
  • Doesn't have much strength when holding book for use (best for table use).
Comments:
  • This can correctly be called "spiral" binding. Using the term "coil" binding helps avoid ambiguity with other, incorrect, uses of "spiral" binding.
  • Shown at right in this picture.