Since there are so many options in hardcover book printing, here’s an illustrated post to show visually what the parts of the hardcover book are.
The book block consists of all the pages of the book attached together prior to “casing in,” or assembling the book. Book blocks printed digitally are usually individual pages that have been bound together with EVA or PUR glues prior to casing in. Book pages printed on offset presses usually consist of large sheets with 8, 16, or 32 pages printed on them which have been folded up into signatures. The multiple signatures that make up the complete book are then gathered together and attached by sewing or gluing into book blocks.
The boards are the two stiff pieces of cardboard that form the underlying structure of the front and back covers. Squareback hardcovers have a third piece of board in the spine. The cardboard used for this purpose is called binder’s board. It is specially manufactured to resist warping and is available in various thicknesses.
The case cloth is the material wrapped around and glued to the boards. The flexible case cloth ties the cover together and forms the hinges of the book. Though the case cloth is typically one piece, a piece of case cloth with a different color or pattern may be wrapped just around the spine to form a “three-piece case.”
Case cloth is frequently not cloth at all, but heavyweight paper manufactured specifically for bookbinding. Synthetic case cover materials such as Kivar are also available. They are used when the book is expected to have extra heavy usage, such as with textbooks.
Both real cloth and paper case cover materials are available in many different colors and patterns. Case covers can also be printed prior to wrapping around the boards, in which case they are typically laminated for durability.
Endsheets are glued to the spine edge of the book block and also glued across the whole inside of the case cover in front and back to tie the cover and book block together.
The liner is a piece of strong paper or muslin which helps reinforce the spine of the book block. Sometimes two layers of linings are used, and sometimes none.
The headbands are ornamental strips of cloth glued to the top and bottom of the spine.
Square vs. Round Backs
In the U.S., the spines of offset printed books are often rounded and backed, meaning the spine is forced into a convex shape and a ridge shaped on either side of the spine prior to casing in. Digitally printed books usually have square backs, as do large heavy art books and many books printed in Europe.
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Our gallery has many examples of custom options for both hardcovers and paperbacks.
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Don Leeper is founder and CEO of Bookmobile, which has provided design, printing, eBook and distribution services for book publishers since 1982.