Wire bindings: smart or cheap?

blank's picture

I’m designing a short publication of one of the work done in one of my classes this semester and thinking about having it wire bound. It probably won’t exceed 40 pages so I’m thinking that a perfect binding will just fall apart, and I want it to lay flat so I can talk about it in interviews without having to hold it down. So I want to have it spiral bound.

My book-arts friends think I’m just some sort of lazy monster, and are trying to convince me to do some wacky stitched binding or some other crazy thing, and say spiral bindings look cheap. Do designers really look down on spiral bindings, or are my friends just being snotty because they want to see everything hand bound from five kinds of paper with printed vellum tip-ins?

dezcom's picture

I like spiral bindings when you need pages to lay flat--also when there are partial updates that can be insertewd. I don't think of it as cheap. some of the black plastic stuff even looks good!
40 pages is no problem either way for saddle stitch or spiral but would be too thin for perfect binding.

ChrisL

Ehague's picture

I know some librarians who aren't very fond of spiral-bound, soft-cover publications, because they don't sit well and tend to slouch when placed vertically on shelves. That doesn't sound like a consideration with this, though.

William Berkson's picture

Here's a link on different types of wire binding.

KenBessie's picture

Every binding system has its advantages and disadvantages.

1) Perfect-binding requires a minimum thickness to be effective. I doubt your 40 pages, even if printed on cardstock, will be thick enough. (And if printed on cardstock will probably tear the binding apart.)

2) Coil or Spiral bindings look nice and come in many colors and sizes. But, because of the nature of the spiral, opposing pages of spreads do not align. One side of the spread will always be lower than the other side. Only a problem if you've got crossovers.

3) Wire-O bindings are slightly more complex than Spiral (looks somewhat like a wire version of Cerlox), but allow opposing pages of spreads to align. Also comes in many sizes and colors. As Chris mentioned, Coil and Wire-O bindings do not add structural strength to a book, so they tend to be floppy. Using a heavy card back cover to add strength is common.

4) Saddle-stitching could work, depending on your page size. If doing the stitching yourself, you'll need a stapler that can accommodate the width of your printed page.

5) Rivets & grommets also come in a variety of colors and sizes. Two options available: a single rivet will make a fanbook (think Pantone swatchbook); a couple rivets in line will seal one side of the book but this uses a lot of space. Anywhere from a half-inch to an inch of each page of your book will become inaccessible to the reader (this is easy enough to design around by adding additional space to each inside margin).

Rafe Copeland's picture

With only 40 pages, you could easily hand stitch it yourself using a two needle coptic binding which looks good, and most importantly lies flat because the two covers aren't joined together. Google 'coptic binding' - there are various ways of doing it, and it can be done with easily available materials.

KenBessie's picture

Do designers really look down on spiral bindings

James, I don't think I properly addressed your question in my long-winded previous post.

Speaking only for myself, I do tend to view Spiral and Wire-O bindings as aesthetically inferior. So I guess I'm like your art-friends. I've also recommended and used both Spiral and Wire-O systems in different projects. I see them as gimmicky. I also see "novelty" typefaces as gimmicky. But I'll still use them, if they are right for the project.

Thomas Phinney's picture

There are other lay-flat bindings, such as Otabind and RepKover. Otabind would not be viable for such a short run, but RepKover would be.

Cheers,

T

Jongseong's picture

Speaking from a user's point of view rather than a designer's point of view, why oppose a far more practical solution because of aesthetical preferences?

Spiral bindings are probably underappreciated because the coil binding spines are made of plastic instead of traditional materials like leather or paper. The association with cheap spiral-bound notebooks doesn't help either. The difficulty of utilizing the spines for displaying the title of the publication, making identification difficult when shelved, must be another reason it is not used for more expensive projects--they would be harder to display in bookstores and the like.

I think that's a shame because there are lots of situations where one needs a lie-flat binding, and spiral bindings are hard to beat there. Not only do they lie flat, you get 360-degree rotation at any position in the book. From my own experiences, dense mathematical texts can often benefit from being spiral-bound as one often has to have them open at a single page and take several minutes studying the material on that page, all the while taking notes or solving problems using the page as a reference.

Using hard covers takes care of the slouching when placed on bookshelves should it become a problem. If the book is really thick, the pages will follow the curve of the coils when closed rather than line up neatly, but that won't be a problem with 40 pages.

William Berkson's picture

James. Here's another link on types of bindings, which includes those mentioned by Thomas, which I hadn't known about. It also has 'loop saddle stitching'. One of the brochures at Typecon had this, and I thought it looked more classy than normal staples. Your publication might be too thick for that, but you could look into it.

David Sudweeks's picture

James,
I saw your exhibit last night at the Corcoran Gallery. Nice work!

William Berkson's picture

James, sorry I missed your exhibit opening last night, but congratulations! See you at TypeCon.

begsini's picture

there are certainly people with more expertise here than i, but i've perfect bound a book for myself that's only about 20 pages - pretty substantial paper, ~3/16" thick. it doesn't experience a tremendous amount of handling, but it's holding together quite well, i think.
(i've actually done this at least twice, it's pretty easy.)

one other thing you could investigate to mitigate the aesthetic unpleasantness of a wire binding is some kind of slip cover. you still get nice lay-flat functionality, but it looks better closed, and more "professional" to boot. (imho)

jarrod

Thomas Phinney's picture

For perfect-bound, the shorter the book the more easily it lays flat.

With regards to wire binding, I find that Otabind / RepKover have most of the advantages (though not the full 360-degree page rotation.

What do people think of the durability of wire binding compared to, say, RepKover? I feel like I've often seen pages tearing out of wire binding, but I don't feel like I have a very big sample size.

Cheers,

T

charles ellertson's picture

If your book art friends think you're a lazy monster, probably some others will too. It's human nature to look down on everyone who uses things not to their liking, and designers, as a generality, are all too human.

Here's a thought: In a town the size of Washington D.C., there has to be a number of people who teach classes in hand binding. Even in Durham, North Carolina, there are a couple. My wife took a couple of these courses, and most of the projects involved binding books of less than 40 pages. Anyway, for a fee, one of the teachers would probably bind your project for you, with nice covers.

On a more general note, if you don't mind the art-book people looking down on you for a bit, your schoolwork gets you your first job. You get your second job based on what you achieved in your first job -- You won't be showing your schoolwork during your interviews for the second job. For the second & subsequent jobs, even the school itself is less important than what you've achieved at work. I'd hire a good, productive person who had gone to the local community college over a RISD grad whose professional work wasn't quite as good.

Linda Cunningham's picture

Here’s a thought: In a town the size of Washington D.C., there has to be a number of people who teach classes in hand binding.

Starting with Pyramid Atlantic Art Center (http://www.pyramidatlanticartcenter.org/)....

Linda

blank's picture

Here’s a thought: In a town the size of Washington D.C., there has to be a number of people who teach classes in hand binding.

There are plenty, but there are also a lot of other things I’d rather do with my time. I’d really rather not work with people who’re hiring me because in 2008 I’m burning up afternoons binding books like its 1465.

nora g's picture

It's like using Helvetica ... can be smart .... or cheap. Depends on how you use it. IMO there are are a lot of spiral bindings looking ugly. I hate the plastic bindings but I like the metal spiral binding. A very simple method to make it look less ugly in the eyes of your "book-arts-friends" is to make a hidden spiral binding. You add as last "sheet" to bind no "sheet of paper" but a simple cardboard with the width of approx. 4 times the width of your papersize plus the width of the spine (??correct term??). The cardboard is four times ??channeled/scored??. After binding you can fold the cover.


blank's picture

Thanks for suggesting the hidden binding, I didn’t even think about it! I’ll definitely use that for the cover on the final portfolio piece.

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

I am coming in quite late, James, but if I could only choose wire binding, I would go with wire-o. It's probably just personal taste, as Ken suggests, but I feel that wire-o is a bit classier-looking than coil binding... Coil binding tends to be thick and colorful, while wire-o is usually thin and black. And as others have already said, with wire-o your pages will align. And coil binding tends to come undone more easily, in my experience.

[EDIT] Oh, and I agree with Nora... It depends on how you use it. What I said about coil binding applies to the plastic variety, not the metal kind shown in Nora's photos!

blank's picture

I ended up doing Wire-O and it came out really well (spending eight hours printing feeding in matte photo paper helped). I’m going to try putting dust jacket over the whole thing if I can manage to stand over my drawing board that long—right now my neck and shoulders are killing me from being hunched over that thing.

dezcom's picture

"if I can manage to stand over my drawing board that long—right now my neck and shoulders are killing me"

Good thing you were not in design school 30 years ago :-)

ChrisL

blank's picture

Good thing you were not in design school 30 years ago :-)

Yeah, but did you guys get assigned entire magazines back in the Rubylith age?

dan_reynolds's picture

>Yeah, but did you guys get assigned entire magazines back in the Rubylith age?

No, but they made them anyway to showcase their awesomeness.

blank's picture

No, but they made them anyway to showcase their awesomeness.

Never a bad idea…I’m sitting here printing an extra magazine to showcase my awesomeness right now…

Of course, I guess that people doing magazine layout spent much of their lives hunched over a board, so I should probably shut up.

dezcom's picture

"Yeah, but did you guys get assigned entire magazines back in the Rubylith age?"
James,
I won't go into how tough it was in the Rubilith days. You have to remember that there were still 24 hours in a day then as there are now. We worked about 16 hours a day as students then, slept about 5 hours and ate, drank, and partied the rest. I don't imagine things have changed that much for you young guys today. The difference was we were bent over a drawing table instead of working at a computer.

ChrisL

KenBessie's picture

Oh, you "Rubylith days" guys had it so good. We had to walk for miles in the snow (uphill, both ways) just to get to the Rubylith mines. Then we had to dig in the mines 24 hours a day just to get enough Rubylith to carry back so we could sit, hunched over, at a drawing table for 24 hours a day.

But, seriously, James, I'm glad you're happy with your solution. Can you post a photo?

Linda Cunningham's picture

The difference was we were bent over a drawing table instead of working at a computer.

You had a drawing table? Hah! We had to make our own drawing tables by finding slate slabs and splitting them to get a flat surface, and then getting two real horses to stand still with one end of the slab on each back to get a surface to draw on. ;-)

While I was apprenticing a couple of weeks ago, I learned a very simple sewn binding that would have taken you an hour or so -- easier and considerably cheaper than wire-o.... (Can't find instructions or a tutorial for it on the web, though!)

dezcom's picture

Actually, we had a class on binding in design school. As a final project, we had to hand bind a book of our calligraphy work. It was fun as I recall. I was not so good at threading the needle though and luckily there were only a few stiches per signature.

ChrisL

blank's picture

Here it is:

It came out well given that I had to tighten the wires by hand. Apparently hardcovers don’t work in the machine the Corcoran keeps around, but no surprise there…

KenBessie's picture

Classic!

innovati's picture

the problem I have with spiral bound is where it's small and the pages don't copmletely turn and they get all bunched up on each other and folded and then you can't close them and you can't open them and it just makes you want to tear your hair out.

But I have seen elegant spiralbound solutions too.

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