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Archive for the ‘Book Binding’ Category

Book Printing: Smyth Sewing Books for Strength

Friday, April 14th, 2017

For our rest and relaxation, my fiancee and I spend long hours in thrift stores. She likes the clothes; I like the books. One benefit for my work as a commercial printing broker is that I see how print books age. I see the yellowed paper in the books from the ‘70s and ‘80s and the pristine paper and binding work in books close to 100 years old (i.e., due to their superior materials).

I also see how various bindings hold up: which books are still in good condition twenty years after their publishing date and which books are losing pages.

Three Current Print Brokering Jobs

Three of my current print brokering clients are producing books at the moment. One is entirely case bound (all copies). One is a short-run job: 500 copies of a 488-page paperback book. The final product is a split binding of a 550-page book (2,000 to 10,000 copies paper bound and 1,000 copies case bound). For the most part, all are close to 8.5” x 11” in format. What they all have in common is that their page counts are high. They are all long books.

How does this affect the binding?

Two ways to approach the binding of either a perfect-bound (paperback) or case-bound (hard-cover) book are notch binding (or a similar option that is called burst perfect binding) and Smyth Sewing. With notch and burst binding, you first gather and stack the press signatures (lets say thirty-two 16-page press signatures for a 512-page print book, or sixteen 32-page signatures for the same page count).

Then, if you’re perfect-binding the book you grind off the bind edge, add hot-melt glue to the ground-off spine, and wrap a paper cover around the text block. For a burst-bound job you puncture the signature folds, and for a notch-bound job, you cut notches in the bind edge, apply the glue, and add the paper cover.

In these cases (which are best used for paper-bound books but can also be used for hard-bound books), grinding, piercing, or notching the bind edge before applying the glue just gives the glue more surface area of the paper to grab onto. More surface area allows for better glue adhesion and less likelihood that the pages will fall out.

Unfortunately, all of these print books are very long, as noted before, so the text blocks are heavy, and neither burst binding nor notch binding is as durable as one of the more traditional methods for case binding books: that is, Smyth Sewing.

Enter Smyth Sewing

If you open a case-bound children’s book, you will see a little thread running down the gutter of the book, in and out. You will also see the thread running down the center of a large-format art book at a museum, or a library book, or any other book that costs a lot and is intended to last for decades. Smyth Sewing is a durable way to make sure the pages don’t fall out.

The way Smyth Sewing works is that the stitches run the length of the fold (the folded side of the press signature), and then additional stitches sew together the separate signatures that comprise the entire book. Then the text block bind edge is covered with glue, attached to a liner (called a “crash”) and either set into the case side (i.e., suspended from binder’s boards wrapped with binding cloth and paper) for case binding or wrapped with a paper cover (for perfect binding).

What makes this stronger than notch binding or burst binding is that in addition to the glue seeping into the ground-off or notched bind edge of the gathered press signatures, you have the added holding power of the binding thread.

When the books have been opened and closed hundreds or multiple hundreds of times and they wind up in the thrift stores my fiancee and I frequent, the print books may be banged up a bit, but the pages are still attached firmly into the binding.

Things to Remember

Here are some things to keep in mind when you consider whether to pay extra for Smyth Sewing:

    1. Two of the three books I’m brokering have close to 500 pages of text. That’s a big, heavy text block. I’m encouraging my clients to choose Smyth Sewing because these books are prime candidates for lost pages. When designing your print books, consider how many pages they will be, how long they must last, and whether they will receive a lot of heavy use. For instance, art books, cookbooks, children’s books, and yearbooks would be prime candidates for Smyth Sewing.

 

    1. Remember that Smyth Sewing can be done with both paperbound and hard-cover books. This is especially useful for split bindings. You can save money by preparing all text blocks the same (for the most part) and then adding paper covers or hard covers as needed.

 

    1. Not all commercial printing suppliers, or even all book printers, have Smyth Sewing capabilities. In fact, many printers need to subcontract out all perfect binding and case binding. If you find a dedicated book printer, he will often have in-house perfect binding. If he has in-house case binding that’s even better. If he has in-house Smyth Sewing, that’s best of all. If you think you might need these services, ask if your vendor has the equipment in-house. (One vendor I’m seriously considering for the three jobs mentioned above has all of these capabilities. Therefore, Smyth Sewing the entire job will only cost about $300 extra. I can’t imagine the additional cost–and extra time–for Smyth Sewing if I chose a printer who had to subcontract the work.)

 

  1. Remember to ask your book printer for samples of printed, bound books (including Smyth Sewn books). You can see how well your printer does this kind of work, and you can show him exactly what you need.

Book Printing: Short-Run Perfect Binding Equipment

Friday, April 10th, 2015

I just saw a video of the new Muller Martini Mitabook, a short-run digital perfect binding machine. I personally think it’s the wave of the future. I think it also says a lot about what we want in our print books at this juncture of publishing.

First the Specs of the Muller Martini Mitabook

To reference Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the Mitabook is not for ultra-short, hand-bound binding runs or semi-automatic short binding runs. Nor is it for long runs in the thousands or multiple thousands of case-bound books. Rather it is squarely aimed at the “in-between runs.” That makes the Mitabook ideal for yearbooks, photobooks, books for young readers, and for some adult books as well. The Mitabook provides the perfect solution for this particular niche market.

Muller Martini will showcase this technology at Dscoop, which the Muller Martini promotional literature describes as “an influential cooperative of HP graphic arts professionals.” The event will be held from March 5 through March 7 in Washington, DC.

Here are some specifics:

  1. The Mitabook can process seven books a minute. That works out to 350 to 400 books per hour,
  2. The Muller Martini Mitabook uses hot-melt, PUR glue, which hardens instantly. The glue transport system does not need cleaning and does not clog if the machine must sit idle.
  3. The Mitabook does not require hanging the book block and cover on a wing (a little like a saddle for a saddle-stitcher). Therefore, the Mitabook avoids the scratch marks on interior images that can occur during case binding.
  4. The Mitabook system will match barcodes on the print book text blocks with barcodes on the covers. If these do not match, the machine will not bind the book. This significantly reduces waste.
  5. The Mitabook does all the traditional casing-in tasks, including making the crimped joint between the cover boards and the spine.
  6. The Mitabook has a very small footprint. Not only does this help in placing the machine on the pressroom floor, but it also means that only one operator is needed to feed the covers and text blocks into the machine and remove and check the completed print books.
  7. A touch screen console makes set-up quick and easy. It also makes size changes for multiple book formats a quick operation.
  8. Muller Martini has also developed a companion product called the Mitacase, which is good for short-run case-making.

How The Mitabook Looks When Up and Running

Here’s the URL for a video on the Muller Martini Mitabook: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6peAslrF8zQ. I would encourage you to copy the URL into your browser and watch the short video, which shows how small the Mitabook really is, how quickly it operates for such a short-run case binder, and how flawlessly it runs with only minimal operator attention. It’s quite revolutionary.

When I saw the video on the Muller Martini Mitabook, its operation seemed smooth, easy, and accurate, with little or no waste. All of the books produced during the video (i.e., after set-up) looked perfect, with the case boards and spines aligned precisely with the text blocks. And changeovers for alternate sized case-bound products appeared to occur in seconds, with the operator using minimal touch screen commands.

What This Development Says About Print Book Publishing

  1. First of all, throughout my years in commercial printing, I have always seen OEMs quickly develop equipment to meet consumer demand. Clearly, there are a lot of people out there who need more than a few hand-case-bound books (or semi-automatic case-bound books), but who don’t need thousands of copies.
  2. Self-published authors who opt for physical print books rather than e-books fit this category, as do children’s book publishers.
  3. Paired with digital printing technology that can individually personalize each text block, this kind of short-run case-binding is ideal. It is a big step above a perfect-bound book, and the product will last for multiple decades. Short-run case-binding also reflects the growing desire for mass customization. People want books that are personal, unique, and durable.
  4. The existence of the Mitabook points to the value placed on photobooks: for weddings, bar mitzvahs, and the like. People are not satisfied with digital-only photos viewed on their smartphones and tablets. They want a personal way to record life-changing events and rites of passage for future generations to see, but they also want an attractive, physical product to showcase these images.

Commercial Printing: Seven Mechanical Binding Options

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

There are a plethora of binding methods ranging from saddle-stitching (short print books, no spine) to perfect binding (paperbacks with a spine) to case binding (hard cover books). Beyond these are some of the less common options that are flexible and durable but that often involve handwork (i.e., they can be expensive).

Plastic Comb Binding

Also known as GBC binding (the name of the table-top device you use to insert these plastic combs), plastic comb binding is used for short run, multi-page print books. First you punch a series of holes parallel to the bind edge of the book, and then you insert a coiled plastic comb (a spine and curved tines) through these holes. The tightly coiled tines of the plastic comb then tighten through these holes in a manner reminiscent of a spiral notebook, leaving a plastic spine running the length of the book.

Benefits:

  1. You can take the comb out again to add or replace pages.
  2. You can print a title on the plastic spine with custom screen printing equipment.
  3. The open print book will lie flat on a table.
  4. You can find these plastic combs in up to 2” diameter, which will hold more than 400 pages (depending on the paper weight).

Liabilities:

  1. You can only punch a limited number of sheets at a time using a GBC machine.
  2. Therefore, it’s a slow process and an expensive one. You would use this option to prepare documents for a small group meeting rather than cartons and cartons of print books.

Velo Binding

Here’s another option for binding a limited run of booklets, perhaps for a convention. Velo binding a booklet involves first punching holes parallel to the bind edge (as with the plastic comb process). Then a flat plastic bar with tines is added, with the tines protruding through the holes. Another bar is added on the opposite side of the binding (picture two thin strips of plastic running from the top to the bottom of the 8.5” x 11” sheet at the bind edge). The tines go through the second plastic bar, and then they are cut off and melted to form a permanent bond. Therefore, the two flat plastic bars running the length of the book hold all the pages together and also give you a spine (of sorts) to hold while reading.

Benefits:

  1. Good for short runs
  2. Durable

Liabilities:

  1. You can’t really remove them, add pages, and attach them again, as you can do with plastic comb binding.
  2. The open books don’t lie flat.

Tape Binding

Picture a strip of tape covering the spine of a short booklet and then extending onto the front and back covers, just enough to hold the cover and text pages together.

Benefits:

  1. Good for short runs of a short book
  2. Cheap

Liabilities:

  1. You can’t remove the tape, add pages, and assemble the book again, as you can do with plastic comb binding.
  2. You can’t print on the spine; after all, it’s just tape.

Screw and Post Binding

First you drill two or more holes along the bind edge of the book. Then you assemble the screws and posts, which include two pieces each. You insert one piece from one side of the print book (let’s say the front cover side) and one post from the other side of the book. Then you screw them together (they are threaded to attach to one another). It’s like screwing the book together from opposite sides (front and back cover) as though it were a collection of thin wood pages.

Benefits:

  1. You can unscrew the binding to add or replace pages (up to the width of the screw and post set).
  2. Durable

Liabilities:

  1. This is handwork. It gets expensive if you are producing a lot of books.
  2. There’s no spine on which to print the book title.

String Binding

You’ve seen the books before. They look exotic. You basically thread some flexible substance, like string or twine, through holes along the bind edge of the book, and then you tie the book together. It will then look a little like a photo album. Depending on the material you choose, you can make it look very environmentally conscious.

Benefits:

  1. You can untie the binding to add or replace pages. It also looks cool and exotic.

Liabilities:

  1. This is handwork. It gets expensive if you are producing a lot of books.
  2. There’s no spine. Then again, if you’re creating a limited edition of an exotic book, you may not care that you have no spine on which to print the book title.

Coil Binding

I’m sure you’ve used these in school at one time or another. They come in two varieties. Metal or plastic coil notebooks are bound with wire that spirals from the top of the bind edge to the bottom. When laid flat, you’ll notice that the left and right pages don’t align precisely. That’s because of the nature of a spiral.

If you want the facing print book pages to align, you can choose “Wire-O” binding instead. This binding consists of parallel metal “O”s attached to a vertical wire post.

The coil for coil binding comes in plastic (of various colors) or metal. In contrast, the “Wire-O” binding material comes in only one variety: metal wire.

Benefits:

  1. You can fold the covers and the pages back to create a “tablet” (half the size of an open, double-page-spread book).

Liabilities:

  1. You don’t have a spine to print on.

Ring Binders and Post Binders

You can write a book on all the options for ring binders, but essentially they still fit into the category of “mechanical binding.” They would include everything from vinyl that has been heat welded over chipboard to expensive fabric glued over chipboard.

They would also include “poly” binders (plastic thick enough not to need binder boards under the material—as with vinyl binders–but also more flexible than vinyl-covered binder boards). And they would also include thicker, rigid plastic binders.

Post Binders have posts running the length of the spine (in a metal apparatus affixed to the spine). You can remove the posts, insert them into the center spreads of a series of magazines, and then put the posts back into the “metal,” essentially creating a bound year’s worth of magazines.

Benefits:

  1. Binders come in a multitude of thicknesses, from about 1/2” to about 3”.
  2. You can easily add or remove pages.
  3. Binders have a spine. On some binders with transparent plastic exterior sleeves, you can slip printed paper sheets into the transparent spine pocket as well as the front and back cover pockets. On other binders, you can screen print your artwork directly onto the covers and spine.

Liabilities:

  1. Useful, but a little clunky compared to other options.

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