Perfect binding is one of the most common binding options available to you when you’re designing your print piece (saddle stitching is another extremely common option for commercial printing). If you’re not familiar with the term, perfect binding is the squared-off, flat spine you most often see on soft-cover books and larger magazines.
Where a saddle stitch binds the piece together using staples, perfect binding uses glue to adhere the cover to the spine. The spine of the book is first purposely cut to a rough edge to better accept the glue. The cover is then applied flat and folded around the edges of the book or magazine. In the video below, the sound you hear is the knife grinding the spine and the foreground is the cover feeder pressing the cover onto the interior of the book.
Perfect binding gives a nice high-end look to your finished piece but it does have its limitations. There are varying grades of quality in perfect binding. A higher quality perfect bind, like those used in book publishing, will be more expensive but will last longer and hold up against a significant amount of use. The lower quality the perfect bind, the more likely the bind will fail and pages will begin to fall out as the book is opened and closed continually.
There are good applications for both ends of the quality spectrum in perfect binding. For items like soft-cover books, a high-quality perfect bind is needed because the book is generally thick, expensive for the consumer, and expected to hold up to a significant amount of use. Lower quality perfect binding is a great option for printed pieces that have a short shelf-life. Weekly or monthly magazines, monthly or quarterly catalogs, trade show materials, and quarterly and yearly reports are all prime candidates for a binding solution that won’t break the bank and doesn’t need to hold up to a tremendous amount of use.