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I'm finishing up a 350 page book that I will self publish. I plan on printing my book at a local printing store but they charge $6 to bind each book. I'm paying my tuition with the profit of this book and would like keep my expenses to a minimum. What is cheapest way to bind a large book?

  • Do you require binding like most hardbacks or paperbacks, or would spiral- or comb-binding be acceptable to you? – Monica Cellio Sep 3 '14 at 1:16
  • The way the book is binded does not matter to me. I simply need a cheap solution that allows me to bind the book myself and keeps my expenses to a minimum. – Amuna Sep 3 '14 at 1:31
  • I'll just comment: Duct Tape can bind a lot, look professional and is basically free -- the cost of a roll is ridiculously low compared to how much it takes to bind a book: we're talking one strip about two inches longer than the length of the page. – Mac Cooper Sep 3 '14 at 14:17
  • Ive looked into duct tape binding but binding 350 pages separately using duct tape would require a tremendous amount of time. Considering I have an order of 300+ books. – Amuna Sep 3 '14 at 14:32
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    @Amuna, ah, I see. I'm thinking of just one strip for the spine. Like so: instructables.com/id/Duck-Tape-Book-Binding-Cheepo-Delux/… It will take longer to read than actually do: he likes to waffle :) (Don't be discouraged by the equipment list - knife etc is for making a fancy cover page with cut out squares. The actual binding is 1) riffle pages. 2) put glue on tape. 3) fold tape to paper. :) The way you said, with one piece for every two pages, sounds ridiculously long! :-) – Mac Cooper Sep 3 '14 at 15:43
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When I self-published a book some years ago I had the copy shop apply comb bindings for me. At the time this cost about $1/book, but it appears that Stapes and Office Depot now charge closer to $3 for this.

If your print run is small, or if you are truly willing to trade time for expense, you can buy a binding machine and the plastic combs and do it yourself. This binding machine is about $120 at Amazon and binds up to 300 sheets; a 10-pack of combs costs $6. You might be able to improve on these prices, particularly by looking for a second-hand binding machine.

Books with comb bindings, like spiral-bound books, can be opened flat and even folded over (though not quite as cleanly as spiral-bound books). Occasionally some of the plastic "teeth" will try to pop out of the casing, but in my experience this is only after heavy use. A plastic binding may not look as professional as a glued-in binding or even a metal spiral binding, but it's more affordable.

  • This seems like the best option for me. Thank you. – Amuna Sep 3 '14 at 5:36
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You could look into Thermal Binding.

The price should be quite similar, the result looks far more professional than comb binding, although the durability is worse - if that's a book you read just one time or a few times, that's quite sufficient, but if you use it frequently, like a handbook, it will come apart.

Nevertheless, the thermal binder machine is often cheaper than comb binder, the covers cost peanuts and the work is easier too, in case you choose to do it yourself. The cost shouldn't be much different from comb binding, and scale better with size; comb binding of 300 pages takes much more work than that of 30 pages, while for thermal it's only a matter of cover with larger spine.

  • If it wasn't for the durability factor, I'd use thermal binding for the professional look. Thank you for the suggestion. – Amuna Sep 5 '14 at 6:53
  • Do you have personal experience using the thermal binder? I'm reading mixed reviews about the durability – Amuna Sep 5 '14 at 7:09
  • @Amuna: I never operated it personally but I used the service a couple times. My graduation thesis copy sits on my bookshelf proudly without a notch, but a Warhammer Fantasy Role Play handbook copy began coming apart after half a year of use in weekly RPG sessions (and another year later it was mostly a collection of loose sheets). If your book is to be, say, a fiction novel, it's sufficient. The durability is comparable to some of the cheapest paperbacks. – SF. Sep 5 '14 at 10:07
  • My book is solution manual for a class so students would be using the book several times a week for four months. I guess this is not an option for me. – Amuna Sep 5 '14 at 15:41
  • @Amuna: Yes. In such case comb binding is definitely preferable. – SF. Sep 5 '14 at 15:54
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Making this into an answer to better benefit others looking for a variety of answers:

Duct Tape

It costs peanuts (like £1.50 for a thick roll) and each book will only use a tiny bit: the height of the page plus about an inch. It is also a very quick and simple method. Simply stack up your pages, rifle the "spine" edge (the edge you want to bind) and lay it upon a sticky-side up length of Duct Tape. The amount the paper should overlap the tape is basically:

(Width of tape - thickness of paper sheaf) / 2

But it only has to be rough: you want roughly the same amount of tape visible on the front and back of the bound book but rulers et al really aren't necessary.

For a thicker pad of paper, a line of basic PVA glue along the duct tape will give it extra strength.

Then simply fold the Duct Tape up, pushing it against the spine, and over to the front of the paper. A lot of words but this is what you'll achieve:

Credit to Instructables

The tape is your spine.

Altogether this takes about 25 seconds.

Finally, dump something heavy on top (or better yet, use bulldog clamps) (only necessary if one used glue), set it aside and get to work on the next copy.

Glue drying time should be given about 3 hours just to be absolutely sure but I've not had a problem over an hour and a half. Depends how generous you are with the glue.

Costs maybe £3.00 to get everything you need and takes less than thirty seconds a copy.

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If you have time, a Japanese side-stab hand binding is relatively easy to do by hand, and more durable than glue.

http://www.designsponge.com/2013/03/bookbinding-101-japanese-four-hold-binding.html

May not be suitable for 350pp unless you have a fine drill to pierce the block of pages, though.

  • Welcome to Writers, and thanks for sharing this with us. I don't know how well that would work on a thicker book, but it looks interesting! – Monica Cellio Sep 5 '14 at 22:53
  • Yes, and while it may not answer the specific problem OP presented, it sure gives a good answer to future visitors about bookbinding options. – SF. Sep 6 '14 at 10:29
  • Ello! Also - you may find it worth looking in to a print-on-demand service like LuLu lulu.com/create/books The cost is relatively low per book, and you can then use them to sell your book through Amazon too. I used them for Boardgame Remix Kit and was really pleased with the results - although getting an ISBN was a bit of a faff, and I think involved a cost, too. – mildlydiverting Oct 8 '14 at 10:59
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I've found this to be pretty cheap and DIY: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdeKG4xz0uQ

  1. Drilling machine
  2. Needle
  3. thread
  4. Tape (any type - required only for hiding the stitching)

You may also follow this YouTube channel, which has a lot many different methods of binding. The videos are made beautifully.

https://www.youtube.com/user/SeaLemonDIY

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Okay, the question says cheapest way. So any answer involving hiring someone to bind the book or buying a machine must not be acceptable.

mildlydiverting's answer is fantastic, and it works well for books as thick as you want.

I bound a fat slab of several hundred sheets of paper in the following way:

  1. Perfectly align the sheets of paper. If you want, put some cover and backcover on the top and bottom of the stack.
  2. Put one narrow piece of wood below the stack and another narrow piece above it. The wood needs to be as long as the side you want to bind, and about two to three fingers broad.
  3. Put another two pieces of wood beside the narrow piece. These can be as broad as the rest of the paper.
  4. Use a bar clamps to press the papers and woods together. Use one set of bar clamps on the narrow woods, another set on the second woods.
  5. Using a drill and the thinnest (but long enough) drill bit you own or can lend from a friend, drill a row of holes along the side of the block that you want to bind. Drill through the narrow woods. The more holes and the closer together they are, the more stable the binding.
  6. Remove the clamps that hold the narrow (but not the second) woods and remove these narrow woods. The other woods should continue to keep the paper in position.
  7. Use wire or a needle and thick yarn to sew the papers together. Make sure your sewing is tight. If you use wire, use flat nose pliers to wind the ends of the wire together
  8. If you want, get some pretty duct tape and stick it over the "back" of the "book" and a bit over the front and back to cover your sewing.
  9. Remove the second set of clamps and woods.
  10. You got yourself a book.

With the help of some clamps or a vise you can realize any bookbinding technique, even saddle stitched, without much cost, all by yourself. The net is full of instructional blog posts and videos.

This is certainly the cheapest way, because all you have to buy is wire or a needle and yarn. Everything else you have or lend from friends or (the wood) find in the trash.

Have fun.

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for books i print for myself, i like using letter size file folders and binder clips. usually ~17c each.

in highschool i would use binders, which were usually ~1$ each and hole punch is easy. i really dont like this that much anymore because they take up so much space and i found the pages and bindings broke easily.

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Why don't you use a self publish site? There are many sites that are print on demand, which means that when someone buys your book, the company prints it and ships it. Which means that you don't have a bunch of books just sitting ther,e plus it looks more professional then handmade books. Most of them also come with/have epub options so that you can have electronic versions which can reach a wider audiance. The nice thing is, is that the print on demand books are usually paid for by the purchase price (the printing press takes a percentage of the sale but you decide how much the book costs in total), and just epub is potentially free.

Smashwords (epubs) and lulu (Print on demand) are two off the top of my head. I think that amazon also does it.

  • That's one of most expensive methods. – SF. Apr 13 '17 at 14:02
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Have you considered checking out Kickstarter? It is a crowd sourcing website that could get you the money you need. They like for you to offer a gift in return for people who donate more than $1 - $5. For smaller amounts you send them a postcard with your heartfelt thanks, larger amounts get a book. For the biggest donations, you could autograph each copy.

This is not a loan. You have to give 5% for Kickstarter and another 5% to Amazon (I think). It is worth looking into. The site seem especially committed to supporting the arts. Within about 30 days you could have the money you need to get published. Check it out. www.kickstarter.com

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