Back to Blog

Header Image

That's a wrap! The best book binding and finishing options

Commercial printing Book printing


by Dimitri Van Gaever

First impressions matter. Not everyone likes to admit it, but we all judge books by their covers – literally, that is. That’s why publishers always pay careful attention to finishing options. The way a book’s cover (and dust jacket, in some cases) is printed and how a book is bound reveals a lot about its genre and the quality of its content. This article gives an overview of the binding and finishing options most commonly used today, and discusses their pros and cons.

4 main types of book binding

Have a browse around any large or medium-sized bookstore today and you’ll surely find some great examples of the following book binding methods: 

1. Saddle stitching (stapling)

Saddle stitching, also called saddle stapling, is probably your cheapest book binding option. Pages are folded in half and then stapled together, the staples becoming the spine. Needless to say, saddle stitching is not very durable and hence mostly used for booklets and comic books.

2. Perfect binding

Grab a random paperback off the shelf. Chances are you’re now looking at a typical example of perfect binding. The preferred binding method for paperbacks, perfect binding involves folding and sewing together paper sections which are then glued to the cover using a strong adhesive. In some cases, the edges of a stack of paper are simply roughened, after which a plastic strip is melted to attach the pages to each other and the soft cover to the pages.

Although not always the sturdiest of options (much depends on the quality of the adhesive), perfect binding offers a very neat finish and is a particularly cost-effective binding method considering the price of most paperbacks.

3. Case binding

Case binding or hardcover binding is the most commonly used method for, you’ve guessed correctly, hardcovers. Sections of pages are folded and sewn together, after which they are glued into the cover.

4. Section sewn

When a book is section sewn, each folded page section is sewn into the following section along the spine. A book bound in this way is able to lay flat regardless of its page count. Although expensive, section sewn is one of the most secure binding methods available.

Exquisite book finishing methods

Binding method aside, it’s the finishing of the cover and the pages that can really make or break a book’s design. Determined to exceed your reader’s expectations? Have a gander at the finishing options below, each more exquisite than the last.


Varnish gives the pages a smooth texture and ‘seals’ the ink or toner. It can be glossy or matte and is mostly used for high-quality reading material like coffee table books and for magazine covers. Definitely worth mentioning are spot UV varnishes which are applied only to (a) limited part(s) of the page or cover and then cured by UV light during the printing process, resulting in a glossy coating that adds texture and focal interest to specific areas of the printing surface.


Laminating a cover means adding a glossy or matte protective layer, making the surface (relatively) water resistant and sturdier. Hence, this method is mostly chosen for softcover books. High gloss lamination is known to make colors more vivid and images sharper. Matte lamination is more subdued, yet exudes luxury.

Foil stamping

Using heat and pressure, foil stamping is the process of applying a malleable metallic foil to specific areas of the print surface.

Embossing or debossing

Raising parts of the page or cover, e.g. a book’s title, to give it more texture is referred to as embossing. Debossing, by contrast, indents parts of the page.

Printing books the Xeikon way

As print on demand and short runs in general are trending, digital book printing is on the rise. This mostly concerns black and white pages without images, yet short run digital color printing is catching up thanks to printing solutions like Xeikon’s Book Production Suite. Matching offset quality, Xeikon’s technology is ideal for digitally printing luxury books and their covers, especially extra-long (landscape) formats. The Xeikon web varnishing module makes the printed surface scratch-proof, while Xeikon’s Total Solutions Department makes sure the press is seamlessly linked to any existing book finishing or binding suite.