PHOTOBOOKS
Bindings

 
 
STOCK AND BINDING

Momento, and other photobook providers, bind their books with a simple page glueing. This is called perfect binding, not because it is the best way to do it, but because it gives a ‘perfect', square edge. (The comparison is with stitched binding of regular hardcover books which has a slight curve). In days gone by, the glue would eventually collapse with time and book use, and the book would fall apart. Modern glues are so strong that it is very difficult to pull the book apart; in fact one photobook supplier advises the type of ‘exceptional strength’ glue that they use with the hope that it will entice a customer, whereas I would suggest that all photobook suppliers use the same or similar high strength glues.

The disadvantage of perfect binding of heavy stock as used in most photobooks is that you need to glue a strip about 5mm of the page edge. This means that the book can never open out flat. With lighter stock and fewer pages, the ‘flatness’ is increased. For standard A4 photobooks in landscape format, I don’t believe that perfect binding is a problem, and I certainly have no complaint. But I have some problem with portrait format in heavy stock - the degree of opening of the book is more prevalent as the width of each page in portrait is less than landscape. Best to see examples for yourself. My advice is to limit a portrait format photobook to less than a hundred pages of heavy stock, or find a photobook supplier who offers a range of stock options, including lighter stock.

By heavy stock I mean 170gsm paper (be it satin or gloss). Momento offers 170gsm; Snapfish use 200gsm. The number designates the weight of the paper (grams per square metre) and for all intents and purposes, is a comparison of thickness (always a comparison of thickness for the same stock).  The 170gsm stock is ideal for photobooks. Lighter weight papers, such as 140gsm, or 120gsm, are better for text-dominated books that are to be read, rather than photobooks that are ‘looked at’. The photobook supplier Blurb offers light and heavy stock for their photobooks. By the way, normal A4 computer or typing paper is 80gsm. 

An alternative to perfect binding by glue is stitched binding. This is done in regular books that are printed on huge sheets and folded into ‘sections’. Each section is sewn and then assembled into the book, by further stitching and sometime also glueing. This would be an expensive process for a one-off photobook but also impractical as the photobook pages are produced individually rather than on large sheets. Individual sheets can be stitched but some glueing is also required for anything like a permanent bind. I don’t know of any photobook supplier that provides stitched binding. Some photobook suppliers offer spiral wire binding. These are fine for small diaries, calendars, brag books and the like. Most large printing companies provide a wire binding service for your own printed pages. 

Note: Momento (and perhaps others) advertise 'hand crafted and stich bound' photobooks. They use a combination of the perfect bound glueing, and stitching, whereby the pages are glued and fixed to the board covers by stitching (which is covered neatly by the endpapers, but its presence can be seen). 

Workaround: Not so much a workaround but advice to be careful in what you select for stock, number of pages, and format. Most photobook pages are standard A4 landscape format, 170gsm satin stock, glue binding, laminated board covers. If deviating from that, consider what options are available from your photobook supplier. 

I recently created an A4 portrait 200 pages photobook by Momento, on satin 170gsm stock (the only stock available except for more expensive art stock). This was a journal of a holiday and was predominantly text. I was not totally happy with the end result. Momento did an excellent job as usual, but with the number of pages of heavy stock, the journal did not open as well as I would have preferred and was somewhat uncomfortable to read. I should have restricted it to 100pages - but then I wanted 180 pages (I filled the rest with photographs), so I had no choice. I am now considering an alternative photobook supplier for future journals where a lighter stock is offered. 

I have found that sometimes it is difficult to find out from the photobook suppliers’ website just what is on offer until you have downloaded the photobook software and have taken time and effort to prepare the required photobook layout file, and are about to order a book. It took me two emails to Snapbook to determine what stock they used; I couldn’t see it mentioned on their website. Being advised that it was ‘quality paper’ did not answer the question. (It is 200gsm so I am told). 


Above: The glued spine of a photobook. Note no separation between pages 
and cover of spine - compare with image below of a curved spine. 


A stitched traditional hardcover book with dustjacket.


A traditionally stitched hardcover book opened out to a degree of 'flatness'. 
Note: This stiched example has 498 pages of 80 gsm stock art paper. 
It's spine width is just slightly more than the 200 page, 170 gsm
photobook above. No photobooks (that I have seen) are stiched this way. 


A typical 'clamped-spine' hardcover binding. (Not Momento).

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Last update 17 July 2014.