Exercise 2

Paper and binding choices

This task required me to think about the paper and binding choices made by book designers, focusing on my collection of books analysed in Exercise 1. I have also started to collect some paper samples in anticipation of the next research task, as discussed in this brief.

Do all the books keep the same paper choices throughout?

The majority of the books I chose do keep the same paper choices on the inside, with the exception of Robert Webb’s autobiography. In this book, the text pages are uncoated, rough, and a beige colour, whereas the photograph pages in the middle of the book are glossy. The glossy paper feels a little thinner than the rough paper (probably due to this textural difference). I imagine the photographs were printed on glossy paper so that the colours would show up well and sit on the paper, rather than being absorbed. Text is generally printed on this rougher, uncoated paper because it is more absorbent and bulkier.

What’s the relationship between the covers and the paper inside?

I found that I could often tell how the paper would feel inside the book after assessing the appearance and feel of the covers. For example, the engraved or embossed covers that were heavyweight and sturdy often surrounded pages of a higher quality. Similarly, the glossy cover of ‘The very hungry caterpillar’ contained glossy, colourful pages. I would say the flipbooks were surprising, because the covers were very sturdy, but the pages were relatively thin and smooth. This is because the pages need to glide past each other (the smooth movement of the pages is critical to a flipbook).

Which books do you like the feel of, and why?

My favourite book to hold, feel, and flick through in my selection is ‘A Disney sketchbook’. It is bulky, heavy, and the pages have a delightful texture – slightly bumpy, exactly like browsing through a quality sketchbook. I also enjoy any covers that have texture – like ‘Circe’ with parts that are raised and sunken, or ‘the sun and her flowers’ that has a bumpy texture. I think I enjoy these because it adds to the tactile experience of reading; it feels unexpected to hold something that is not perfectly smooth. I think it creates a sense that the item has been created by someone, rather than a machine (even though this is not the case).

Analyse the binding style of the books you have collected. How does the book block adhere to the cover? How does it adhere to the spine? Is it stitched or glued?

A Disney sketchbook

This book has been designed so the covers can both lay open. There are two cover boards, and then a board down the spine, joined with some fabric. The gap between the front cover and spine and back cover and spine is flexible (as it is attached with the fabric) so it can be opened fully (this is useful as the book is intended to display artwork, sometimes filling an entire doubles page spread). The signatures are glued to this fabric spine and attached via the pasted down end paper inside both covers.

How not to be a boy

These pages are not attached to the spine at all. They are glued together and are attached to the covers via the pasted down end paper. The spine is made from a flexible paper (thicker than the page paper, but not as thick as the cover boards). This seems a little lower in quality, probably because this book needed to be produced in larger quantities, so needed to be cheaper to make.

The very hungry caterpillar

I had never looked very closely at the binding of this picture book before, but it is clear looking from above that there are two signatures glued into the cardboard cover. The spine sort of encloses the signatures (there is a defined fold down the front and back cover) to keep everything in place and help with looking through the book.

Circe

Similar to ‘How not to be a boy’, I do not think the pages are attached to the spine of the book; they are attached to the covers via the pasted down end paper. However, with this book, there is a fabric strip between the paper outer spine and the pages. The pages are glued to this fabric strip, presumably to give more flexibility and strength. The addition of this fabric indicates a slightly higher cost and quality.

Nine old men

This was a book where I had noticed the unique binding prior to this task. You can clearly see that cover boards are stuck over the fabric spine. There is then another layer of fabric stuck to the pages and these are attached to the cover boards (the spine fabric is sandwiched between) by the pasted down end paper. This binding gives lots of flexibility for flipping through the pages.

The sun and her flowers

Here, the pages are glued together and blued to the spine. You can see the spine bend when you open the pages – everything is attached. As it is a paperback book, there is no paper pasted to the inside of the cover. I wonder if this paperback publication intended to be soft, flexible, and textured – all to add to the experience of engaging with the very personal and emotive poetry. It is not intimidating, sturdy, heavy – it seems friendly.

Meal in a mug

This book has chunky cover boards and a board as the spine, all covered with a coated paper. These gaps between the boards are more flexible, allowing the book to open up on a flat surface (probably so it can be left open while someone tries completing a recipe). The signatures are glued together, but do not stick to the spine. The pasted down end paper attaches the pages to the covers.

How the body works

Like ‘the sun and her flowers’, the pages are glued to the spine, and there are no pages pasted to the covers. The pages inside this book are so luxurious in colour and vibrancy, I wonder if the paperback choice was more cost effective in contrast?

The little book of mindfulness

The cover of this book is not as sturdy as other hardback books, but it has been bound like the other hardback books. The signatures have been glued together and attach to the covers via pasted down end paper. The pages do not stick directly to the spine. The parts of the cover that fold in (like a dust jacket) could be there as convenient bookmarks to save a favourite exercise or piece of advice.

Reflections

I have never looked carefully at the way books are bound together, but I found this rather fascinating! I personally enjoy the way a paperback book’s spine bends and creases as I read it so looking at why this happens was interesting. I also found it made me look more closely at the materials used for the covers, which definitely indicates the overall quality of the book.

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