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Student Workbook Printing: Choosing the Best Binding Style

Young female student writes in a workbook

Workbooks are a popular method for enhancing a student's learning experience. Whether used to supplement a textbook, online course, or verbal instruction, a workbook helps improve a student's understanding of the subject being taught.

Workbooks promote active learning through skill reinforcement and problem solving exercises. This provides a chance for students to apply the concepts they have learned in a convenient multi-page format.

Though the majority of student workbooks are printed to augment traditional K-12 classroom lessons and homeschool curriculums, they are also frequently used for adult education and training purposes.

Adult student using a printed workbook

Which Binding Style is Best for your Workbook?

When preparing to print student workbooks, an important decision that needs to be made is which type of binding to use. The binding style will affect the appearance, durability, and functionality of the workbook.

Below is an overview of the binding styles most commonly used for student workbooks. Comparing their features and benefits will help you decide which one is best for your particular workbook project.

Spiral Binding -

Example of  Spiral Binding

Spiral Binding, also known as Coil Binding, uses a spring-like coil to bind the workbook together. A series of holes is punched along one edge of the book's pages and cover (usually along the left edge but sometimes across the top edge). The plastic coil is fed through the holes and then crimped on both ends to keep it in place.

The primary benefit of spiral binding is that it allows a book to lie perfectly flat on a desk or table. The book can then be referenced and written in without needing to be continually held open. A spiral bound book can also open a full 360 degrees, which allows it to fold back upon itself so that it takes up minimal room on the work surface. These features make spiral binding ideal for printed workbooks.

Another benefit of spiral binding is durability. The coils are made from resilient PVC plastic that maintains its shape and color. The plastic coils are also available in different diameters to accommodate workbooks of varying thicknesses. Spiral binding is an especially good choice for workbooks that contain index tabs as the tension-free spine allows for rapid indexing.

Comb Binding -

Example of Comb Binding

Comb Binding has a function somewhat similar to spiral binding but instead of having a plastic coil for its spine, comb binding uses a plastic "comb-like" spine. The spine contains a series of tines like a hair comb, but the tines are flat and pre-formed into a circular shape. Comb binding spines are made of durable PVC plastic and are available in various sizes and colors.

To bind a book, the tines are spread open and inserted through a series of slots that have been punched along one edge of the book's cover and pages. After the tines are inserted, the tension is released and the tines return to their original circular shape. This secures the cover and pages together but still allows them to turn freely.

A main benefit of comb binding is that it can lie flat on a surface for hands-free use. However, unlike a spiral bound book, a comb bound book cannot open a full 360 degrees. Though still a good binding choice for workbooks, comb binding does not allow a book to fold completely back upon itself the way a spiral bound book can.

Saddle Stitch Binding -

Example of Saddle Stitching

The Saddle Stitch binding method is used primarily for workbooks with lower page counts. Page counts of 60 or less work best with this method. Even though saddle stitching is a relatively simple binding method, it produces workbooks that function well and have a good appearance.

Saddle stitching makes use of wire staples to bind a book's cover and pages. After the page sheets and cover sheet have been printed, they are partially folded in half. The page sheets are then nested together, one inside the other, and then the folded cover is placed over the page set.

Once the pages and cover have been gathered tightly together, wire staples are driven through the fold line of the sheets to secure them all together. In most cases, two staples are used but an oversized book might require an additional staple or two.

The main benefit of saddle stitch binding is its low cost. In fact, it is the absolute cheapest binding method for creating books. Another benefit is that the pages will stay relatively flat when using the workbook. However, unlike spiral or comb binding, saddle-stitched books retain some tension in the spine area. As such, saddle-stitched workbooks will generally need to be held open during use.

Perfect Binding -

Example of Perfect Binding

Perfect Binding is suited for workbooks that have a moderate to high page count. This method uses a strong and flexible glue to secure the printed pages within a wraparound cover. Once the glue cures, the three open sides of the workbook are trimmed to create edges that are clean and straight.

The key benefit of perfect binding is its crisp and professional appearance. Also, perfect binding is the only softcover binding method that produces books with a flat spine. This allows the spine to have the workbook's title and other identifying information printed on it.

It should be noted that perfect bound books often have a lot of tension in the spine. This requires the workbook to be held open in order to use it as the pages will not lie perfectly flat on their own when the book is in the open position.

Some Additional Suggestions for Workbooks

To add a layer of protection against wear and tear, it is recommended that the cover of a workbook receive a durable clear coat or have a plastic laminate applied. However, the interior pages of the workbook should remain uncoated so as not to interfere with them being written on with a pen, pencil, or other marking instrument.

Also, if any pages of the workbook will need to be removed, such as when submitting individual pages for review or grading, a perforation can be added to the pages. These perforations are placed close to the book's spine and will allow any page to be easily separated from the workbook as needed.

Let's not forget about Ringed Binders -

Ringed Binder example

Though not commonly used to create workbooks, Ringed Binders are a binding option worth considering. Since pages can be added or removed easily just by opening and closing the rings, this binding type would be a good fit for workbooks that require the content to be swapped out periodically. Another benefit offered by a ring binder is its protective cover, which is rigid and slightly larger than the pages stored inside.

One of the most economical ways to create custom-printed binders is to use Clearview binders. These have a clear vinyl pocket on the front cover and spine section (and sometimes on the back cover). The artwork for the cover and spine is then printed on light cardstock and slipped into the pockets, resulting in a professional-looking but very affordable binder.

Binders are available in a variety of ring capacities. Of course, the binders can be ordered completely pre-assembled with all the printed pages, index tabs, and any other contents inserted into the rings of the binder.

Printed workbooks being used in the classroom

Are you looking to have some Student Workbooks printed?

Color Vision has been a printer of affordable books and booklets since 1984. We offer all of the binding types mentioned above in short, medium, and long production runs.

If you are looking to print some Student Workbooks and would like to discuss your project by phone, we can be reached at 800-543-6299.

Or, if you already know your project's specifications, please complete our Quote Request form and we will be happy to email a quote to you.

We look forward to assisting with your next book project!

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