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Why are some books produced with softcovers and others with hardcovers?

Why would you choose a hardcover rather than a softcover, which is more economical and easier to produce?

Many criteria influence the choice of bookbinding : content, graphic design, target audience, sale price…

If you decide to go with a hardcover book, you choose to invest more in the end product, and it’s not a bad choice. In the digital age, the real, physical 3D presence of something that takes up space can make all the difference. With a hardback book you get visible high quality, real volume and weight thanks to the thickness of the binding, and the feel and smell of good quality material. Hardback is always a safe option for making an impression. It’s durable, prestigious and timeless.

Soft covers are used for paper bound books (glued or stitched) where the book’s inside block is glued to the back of the cover.

Hard covers are used for bound on books where the body of the book and the cover are joined by the endpapers. If you opt for a softcover book, your choice is simple: an interior and a card cover with a density usually somewhere between 170 GSM and 350 GSM sometimes with flaps.

For a hardcover various elements are added, such as the endpapers, the endbands, the covering material, the card, the back, the bookmark…

The endpapers

– Their main function is to join the inside to the cover, and to do so efficiently.

– The first of the front endpapers and the last of the back endpapers are always clear, because they are laminated onto the second and third of the hardcover.

– Their number is fixed and invariable: 4 pages at the beginning and 4 pages at the end.

– The first of the front endpapers and the last of the back endpapers are always clear, because they are laminated onto the second and third of the hardcover.

– To have the necessary strength, the density of the endpapers must be at least 150 GSM in offset paper and a minimum of 150 GSM, ideally 170 GSM, for coated paper. It must also always be greater than the density of the paper for the interior. It is possible for it to be equal to the density of the interior if that is 150 GSM. For example: Interior of 115 GSM, endpapers of 150 GSM, preferably 170 GSM if coated paper, inside of 130 GSM, endpapers always 150/170 GSM and so on.

– The paper of the endpapers can either be the same type as that of the interior or not, for example coated interior pages and offset endpapers.

– The endpapers can be separate or included.

  • In the case of included endpapers, these are an integral part of the book. We use them most often for works like low-page-count children’s storybooks. We then have the same paper and same density for the interior and for the endpapers. It takes a bit of charm out of the bound book, but simplifies production and allows a saving on cost.
  • Separate endpapers consist of two leaflets added at the beginning and at the end of the book, between the cover and the interior. These can use papers of different types and weights. The contrast between an interior of coated paper and endpapers of offset paper contributes to the feeling of holding and leafing through a precious object. Choosing offset paper dyed in the mass instead of color printing on white will also add value to the book.

Printed endpapers

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The cover card:

– The thickness may be 1.5mm – 2mm – 2.2mm – 2.5mm – 3mm, also 15/10 – 20/10 etc. This thickness often depends on the thickness of the interior. The principle is that the greater the interior volume the more card weight is needed. The most common thicknesses are 2, 2.5 and 3mm.

Cover material, recovering and turning-in.

– The card is most often dressed with 130 GSM coated paper, with printing and filming.

– Other offset-type papers are equally used. In this case the cover manufacture is more complex and the offset paper chosen must be sufficiently flexible so as not to crack in the corners, folds or joints. When you want something other than coated paper, we recommend using Olin Smooth, Olin Rough, Popset, Cotton Laid, Buckram, Via Felt, Via Linen…

– Instead of paper, you can use cloth fabric, real leather or fake leather. There’s a wide choice available, and you can consult our fabric catalogue in the online viewer, or you can check out the website of our manufacturers, Winter and Company, who offer such fabrics as Winter and Company avec des toiles tels que : Skivertex, Novalite, Wibalin, Peltouch, Geltex, Napura, Toile du Marais, Pellaq, ou encore Synth3 et Leos Nachfolger. Fabric doesn’t allow classic offset printing, you will need to apply embossing, relief printing, hot stamping or screen printing to put content on the cover.

Cloth

Fake leather

– A hybrid option is available, cloth back and paper dressing, a good compromise between the two ways to dress the card. The choice of colour for the cloth back is a key element of the book’s design.

Blue cloth back and printed coated paper

– It is also possible to not dress the card at all and leave it in its raw and natural state. It’s a trend that has many followers in the world of art and of alternative graphic novels.

Cloth back and embossed raw card

– Between the card and the cloth you can add foam which gives volume and creates a nice sensation when you take the book in your hands. It’s often used in books for younger readers and diaries.

Foam

Foam

The spine of a hardcover book can be straight or round. There needs to be a minimum thickness of 15mm for a round back. It is most often chosen when the number of pages is high, to mitigate the effect of the thickness of the book.

Straight spine

Round spine

The gutter: this is simply a matter of the shape of the section that is no longer straight, but lightly curved, like a gutter, when you have a round back.

The endband: this is a small piece of fabric glued to the top and bottom of the back of the bound block, which is usually white or black but can be a different colour, adding to the style and the aesthetics of the product. It is an integral part of the cover card as soon as the back exceeds 10 mm. With smaller backs and books with low page counts its removal can allow a slight cost reduction.

Copper yellow endband

Black endband

The bookmark: a more elegant version of a page marker. This little cloth ribbon is glued under the endband at the top of the inner block and makes it easier to find a specific page in the book. For greater sophistication, it’s possible to have two bookmarks instead of one, in different colours. The bookmark has a rightful place in a beautiful publication, with many possible nuances of colour, blending usefulness with elegance.

Bookmarks of different colours

Making the interior block: The interior of a card-bound book is most usually attached by stitched glue. It can also be spiral bound, which encircles the interior and the cover. In this case you will have both the solidity of the rigid card and the 360⁰ opening of the spiral. This is a binding choice often found in diaries and cookbooks.

Spiral binding

Possible choices for each element of your bound book according to its page count:

Choosing between a soft cover and a hard cover is not always self-evident.

Product: A4 trim size, 96 pages + (8 non-printed endpapers), matte lamination, four-sided recto verso printing on coated paper 130 GSM, 1,000 copies, delivery included.

Soft cover, glued without seam: £1,632

Soft cover, stitched with seam: £1,804

Hard cover, bound, 2mm (20/10): £2,832

Budget: it is true that a hard cover represents a more expensive solution. In the case of low page-counts the cost of manufacturing the cover may be greater than the cost of production of the whole inner block.

Content: There are books that deserve a hard cover. When we find ourselves in the realm of beautiful books, a hard cover is a must.

Target market: depending on the intended use for the work, its solidity can be an important factor. For example, for a children’s book destined for curious little hands who want to test its resistance, a hardcover solution seems more appropriate, lengthening the life of the book and allowing its survival.

Commercial strategy: everything you need to embellish a printed product is available with a hard cover. The visual impact of a product remains crucial today. A book in hard cover can make all the difference.

Pulsio Print advisors are available to answer any questions you may have and to give you all the support you need.

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