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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Custom Book Printers Offer “Mechanical Binding” Options

If your next project involves custom book printing, particularly short-run on demand book printing, here are some custom book printing companies you may not have considered. When producing multiple-page printed documents, you have many more choices than just saddle stitching, side stitching, perfect binding, or traditional case (or hardcover) binding. A number of these fall under the category of “mechanical binding” and may be offered by the book printing services with which you now work.

GBC (or Plastic Comb) Binding

You will recognize this binding because of the flat, plastic tines that curl around each other and loop through holes in the bind-edge of the printed document. Plastic comb binding comes in multiple colors and provides a curved spine onto which you can imprint text. One benefit of this particular mechanical binding is that it can be used for books up to 2.5” thick. The book pages will lie flat when open, so GBC binding would be appropriate for a cookbook, for instance. GBC binding is done by hand on a small metal apparatus that allows you to uncoil the GBC tines and hook the book pages onto the plastic comb before rolling it up again. Since this is considered hand work, it can be expensive.

Wire-O Binding

Think of this as a line of parallel, wire “O’s,” one above the other, attached on one side to a vertical wire. As with GBC binding, Wire-O loops hook through a series of holes drilled along the bind edge of the book pages. Since the loops are parallel, this mechanical binding technique is good for pages with crossovers (the crossovers will line up from the left-hand to the right-hand pages). Unlike GBC bound books, Wire-O books can open almost 360 degrees (pages can be folded back over each other). This binding is metal, unlike GBC, but the wire can still be purchased in multiple colors. Like GBC, this is an expensive binding method. You may have seen Wire-O notebooks in the school supply section of discount stores, or you may have seen Wire-O cookbooks (with the wire loops somewhat hidden by the hard-cover binding).

PlastiCoil Binding

Spiral wire binding is similar to Wire-O binding, but instead of being a stack of parallel metal loops (or “O’s”), this binding is made of a single metal coil winding its way (spiraling) through all of the holes drilled in the bind edge of the book. You can open a spiral wire book to lie flat on a table, but the wire can be easily crushed, making it hard to ever again turn the pages. To remedy this, PlastiCoil (a plastic version of spiral wire binding) is ideal. Plastic has memory. If you crush the coiled plastic wire (within reason), it will snap back to its original shape. PlastiCoil also comes in multiple colors. This bindng allows 360 degree opening (like Wire-O). However, it can only be used to bind books up to 1.25” thick.

Velo Binding

Also known as “strip binding,” this process is an attractive option for thicker books (up to 3”). Velo binding comes in multiple colors and is composed of a plastic strip running vertically along the bind edge of both the front and back covers of the book. The parallel plastic strips are attached to perpendicular plastic tines that extend through holes along the bind edge of all book pages. When attached, the strip on the front cover, the strip on the back cover, and all the tines running through the text hold all the pages firmly together. These books will not lie flat.

Screw and Post Binding

Similar to Velo binding, this option involves two or three large (often metal) screws extending through all pages of the book at the bind edge. The screws (on the front of the book) attach to posts that have flat heads (at the back of the book). When assembled, the screw heads and post heads pull all book pages together (like the Velo binding does). Similar to Velo bound books, screw and post bound books cannot lie flat. Unlike most of the other mechanical binding methods, however, screw and post binding allows for easy updating of the book pages (you just unscrew and disassemble the book, then replace the pages and reassemble the book).

Short-run Case Binding and Perfect Binding

Case binding (or hardcover binding) and perfect binding (softcover binding) used to be available only for long press runs of books. The start-up costs were simply too high for short press runs. But, increasingly, small binding systems are being manufactured for on demand book printing, allowing vendors to produce individual hard-cover (both paper and cloth-bound) and soft-cover books. “One-off,” custom photo books are an example of this trend, as are individual children’s books into which your son’s or daughter’s name can be digitally inserted as a character in the story. Making one hard-cover book used to be impossible, or astronomically expensive. But not anymore.

If your next project involves custom book printing, ask your business printing services about mechanical binding options. Custom book binding services will also be of help with mechanical binding.

4 Responses to “Custom Book Printers Offer “Mechanical Binding” Options”

  1. Nice post. I’ve truly loved browsing your blog posts. I’ll be subscribing to your RSS feed, and I am hoping you write again soon!

  2. Wow, great article, I really appreciate your thought process and having it explained properly, thank you


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