Soft Bound

Many new books and nearly all scores thicker than a single signature pamphlet arrive soft bound, which is to say with a thin card stock cover. There are a number of considerations to take into account when making decisions regarding binding these volumes:

  • Will the book or score support itself on a loosely packed shelf without slumping or curling? Materials that will slump or curl must receive some sort of support or their paper will take on a permanent curl.
  • Will the book or score receive heavy use? Esoteric materials may be used only once or twice in a decade, while common repertory scores or books required for class or reference use will be carried in backpacks, photocopied and/or be opened repeatedly at particular pages. The heavy use materials will require very sturdy bindings, which would not be cost-effective for volumes that receive light use. Some libraries shelve soft-cover books (but generally not scores) unbound until they have circulated twice, then have them bound in hard covers. Others routinely stiffen all soft cover volumes, which may lengthen or shorten their lives, depending on how the process is done and what kind of use the volume receives.
  • Books and scores that are sewn through the fold (most new books are not, while many but not all new scores are) can be rebound multiple times without loss of margin or openability, but texts that are bound by other means (adhesive bound, burst bound, oversewn, side sewn) will lose inner margin, and therefore openability, each time they are rebound. See the hard cover page for more on binding styles.
  • Books and scores printed on acidic paper will not accept adhesive binding well once the paper has been damaged by the acid. Meanwhile, the current best option for deacidification of thick books and scores requires a sturdy hard cover binding. This means that new materials that are acidic and are bound by any means other than sewing through the fold should be considered a priority for rebinding.
  • Older soft cover acidic materials that are not sewn through the fold may already be unbindable, even if they are not yet brittle. Even with flexible and penetrating glue, the damaged paper fibers will tear loose from the glue with moderate use.


Library Binding Terms

For binding terminology definitions, see Library Binding Terms.



Alice Carli, formats
Last updated: March 16, 2008, at 04:29 PM EDT

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