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Saddle or Perfect? Choosing the Right Magazine Binding

booksThe thickness of a publication determines whether or not the publisher has an option between saddle stitching the spine of their publication (typically three staples) or perfect binding (where the pages are trimmed and glued to the cover).

Typically the spine of a publication needs to be at least 1/8” thick in order to be perfect bound (different papers have different thicknesses, but every paper comes with a pages per inch (PPI) specification, which you can use to determine how many pages you need to reach 1/8”). We generally recommend that magazines with page counts over 100 (although there is flexibility with lighter basis weights) be perfect bound. Advantages? (1) The ability to print on the spine of the magazine makes it readily identifiable when standing on a shelf. (2) Durability, particularly with a large page count. (3) Appearance, as magazines with larger page counts can lie flat and not “gap”.

How does the cost compare to saddle stitching? Printers generally apply two costs to the binding process, the make-ready charge (setting up the equipment) and the cost per 1,000 to run the equipment. For comparison purposes, the prices below reflect common charges if you were to ask us to perfect bind or saddle stitch a 64-page + cover magazine. (Increasing the number of pages will, at some point, increase both the make-ready and the per thousand running cost.)

perfect vs saddle

Assuming 5,000 copies, the cost to perfect bind in this example would be $285.75, and the cost to saddle stitch would be $117.00. Although the cost of perfect binding is greater than the cost to saddle stitch, in the overall picture, the binding cost is not one of the larger costs in producing a publication.

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