What is the Best Format and Binding for My Book?


When choosing a format for any new book design we are generally guided by how best to present the subject matter to prospective readers and the utility of the finished product.

If you are producing a novel or memoir, some of the most important considerations are that the title be portable as well as being easily handled and stored. Generally these titles will be black and white type with little need to carry illustrations or pictures. Some of the most common formats utilised in the ‘read for pleasure’ market are as follows:

A Format – 81mm x 111mm Portrait

A5 Format – 210mm x 148mm Portrait

B Format – 198mm x 128mm Portrait

B+ Format – 210mm x 135mm Portrait

B5 Format – 250mm x 175mm Portrait

C Format – 234mm x 153mm Portrait

Reference books requiring large amounts of text and illustrations tend to use a slightly larger format, though still with some emphasis on meeting earlier criteria – ie. that the book be portable, storable and easily handled. Common formats for this market include:

A4 Formats – 297 x 210mm/215mm/220mm Portrait

B5 Formats – 250mm x 175mm/195mm 210mm/215mm Portrait

Quarto Formats – 275mm x 205mm/210mm/215mm/220mmm Portrait

In the case of cook-books and children’s books where the emphasis is on presenting large areas of illustrations or photos, page sizes are generally larger and often square or landscape in dimension. Formats used for these products are similar to reference books, though with additional area give to overall width:

A4 Formats – 297 x 225mm/235mm/240mm Portrait or

235mm x 297mm Landscape

B5 Formats – 255mm x 255 Square / 240mm x 240mm Square or

205mm x 250mm Landscape

Quarto Formats – 275mm x 235mm/240mm Portrait

The largest production formats are usually utilised in the printing of art books or coffee-table books where the emphasis is in showcasing reproduced art or landscape photography. For these productions there is still some adherence to the A4 and B5 formats as a size, though generally speaking it is in the width of the book that we see this sizing.

A4 Formats – 297mm x 297mm / 350mm x 290mm

B5 Formats – 350mm x 255mm

Regardless of whether you’re printing a novel, a textbook or an art book each of the formats outlined above is premised on the most cost-effective use of the sheets of paper. Since the implementation of the metric system, all paper stock manufactured or imported into Australia is based on either the ‘A’ series format (630mm x 910mm) which allows the printed production of 16 pages of A4, or the ‘B’ series format (720mm x 1020mm) which allows for 32 pages of B5 to be printed. Slightly larger variants of these two sheet sizes are also available in certain circumstances. As will be outlined below, the decision here will in turn influence the binding process employed.


Each single-leaf book equates to 2 pages, and with the exception of some instances of digital printing, all books are produced in multiples of 4 page sections. As outlined above the most economical approach being either 16pp A4 or 32pp of B5

Why 4 page sections? Well, simply put each of the binding process outlined below will require the sheets of paper to be folded in half, with each fold of the sheet producing four pages. So, the first fold will produce 4 pages, the second 8 pages, the third fold 16 pages and so on.

Beyond this basic tenet of book-binding, your choice of binding process will be influenced largely by the same considerations as the choice of format – presentation of the subject matter to prospective reader and the utility of the finished product.

Generally speaking, the most widely used binding methods are:

Saddle Stapled – by far the most cost effective means of presenting your publication. This process requires 4 pages to be folded in half to create a spine for the staple. This approach is suited to all forms of paper stock, but is limited to text pagination of up to 112 pages. As noted above, must be a multiple of 4 page sections

Perfect binding – the preferred method for the ‘read for pleasure’ market. Each leaf is glued together to form a square spine with the cover then ‘drawn on’. Suited mainly to uncoated stocks to assist adherence of the glue. There is no real limit to the pagination, and in the case of digital printing products are not limited to 4/16pp sections.

PUR binding – much the same process as perfect binding, though with the added strength of polyurethane glue. This has the benefit of being suited to gloss and matte coated stocks.

Notch binding – printed sheets are folded in 16 or 32pp signatures and collated into the finished product. Glue is pushed through notches cut into each spine o that individual pages support one another. The cover is drawn on a resultant square back. This approach is particularly suited for textbooks or reference books that require continuing usage.

Section Sewing – As with notch binding, the folded sections are collated together then sewn using cotton thread. Although the most expensive process, it allows the finished product to sit completely flat and is by far the most robust form of binding. From this point the cover can be drawn on.

Case binding – sometimes called ‘hard cover binding,’ this method can accompany all forms of binding described above, except of saddle stapling. This approach involves making hard-board based covers of 3mm grey-board that can be coated in leather, vellum or printed stock. Additional embellishments include foil stamping or debossing.

For more information on formatting and binding your publication, or any other inquiry please visit us at caidex.com.au