The Difference Between Saddle Stitch and Perfect Bound Books
Both options are great for very specific types of projects and knowing what you ultimately intend the final use to be will heavily influence the type of binding you choose.
When it comes to having your print project finished, there are several different options, with the primary two terms you’ll likely hear being “saddle stitch” and “perfect bound” as these are by far the two most popular types of bindings. But what do these terms mean? And how do you choose which one is best for your application?
What Is Saddle Stitch?
The first option, saddle stitch, is essentially stapling sheets together down the center of the page, and then folding the sheet in half along that staple line to create the final book. No glue is used, and it is one of the fastest binding methods. It is also one of the most cost effective.
What is Perfect Bound?
Using the perfect binding method, on the other hand, does use glue to hold the pages together, rather than staples, with the spine of the pages affixed to becoming a permanent part of the final product. This method has no seam, creating a smoother, more finished looking edge and allows for a better all-around cover. Because it is more labor and material intensive than a saddle stitch method, it is also going to be a more expensive binding option comparatively.
Which One is Best?
The reality is that both options are great for very specific types of projects and knowing what you want to create — and what you ultimately intend the final use to be — will heavily influence the type of binding you choose.
Saddle stitch is best utilized in projects that don’t have a lot of pages — under 100 total pages, or 50 sheets folded in half — is a good rule of thumb. If you have a project such as a pamphlet or small magazine, saddle stitch could be a great binding to use. One thing to keep in mind is that because the cover is the same stock as the pages inside, projects using this method might not stand up to as much rough handling as a perfect bound option.
Perfect binding, on the other hand, is commonly seen on everything from books, to catalogues, to larger magazines and journals. Because it is more durable and allows for printing on the spine, it allows for more creative choices along with being able to withstand more handling in the mail stream, for example, without pulling apart or tearing.
In the end, it comes down to a few factors:
- What is your budget for the project? If cost is a concern, saddle stitch might be the right choice.
- How long do you intend this application to last? If it’s a project you want to stand the test of time on someone’s shelf, you’ll want to go with perfect binding. But, if it’s meant to be viewed only a handful of times before being recycled, saddle stitch might be enough.
- How durable do you want the application to be? If you plan to mail it, or it is the kind of project that will be shared around, perfect binding offers greater durability overall. However, if it’s not a project you intend to last for more than a season — such as a catalog, for example — a saddle stitch could hold up perfectly well.
- How important are aesthetics? A perfect bound book is a more traditional binding method, that you are used to seeing in books and larger magazines. If it is important that your project have that same look and feel, then perfect binding is for you. But if you’re looking for more of a pamphlet or small catalog design, saddle stitch is going to give you the look and feel you’re trying to achieve.
- How many pages does your project have? For smaller projects — meaning fewer pages — saddle stitch is a great option. The fewer the pages in a project, the more effective this method will be at holding everything together with a strong bond. On the other hand, if you have a large project such as a book, journal, or catalog that has 100 pages or more, saddle stitch might not manage to punch through all the sheets, making it impractical. In that case, you’ll want perfect bound to ensure all the pages stay where you put them.
Both saddle stitch and perfect binding are finishing methods that have been around for nearly as long as print itself. They are both very well suited to specific types of projects, and understanding how they differ, and where to use them, will ensure your next project is ultimately exactly what you were looking for.
Written by: Denise Gustavson