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What is the Best Page Count for Saddle Stitch Binding?

examples of Saddle Stitch Binding

What's the best page count for Saddle Stitch?

The short answer is: 60 pages or less.

The long answer, which explains the reasoning behind the short answer, is as follows:

When deciding on the best page count for a saddle-stitched booklet, it is important to aim for a page count that allows the booklet to maintain a professional appearance. By a professional appearance, we mean a booklet that can lie relatively flat, stack well, and function properly.

So when determining the best page count, it is important to understand the difference between the Theoretical maximum number of pages and the Practical maximum number of pages.

The Theoretical Maximum number of pages that can be Saddle Stitched...

Saddle-stitched booklets are made from folded sheets bound together with wire staples. Each folded sheet creates four (4) pages of the booklet. Since staples can only secure a finite number of sheets, there is an upper limit regarding how many pages can be bound.

Binding staples can physically penetrate and secure up to about 30 sheets of paper. Since every sheet bound within a saddle-stitched booklet forms four pages, 30 sheets would translate to a 120 page booklet. So, theoretically, the maximum page count should be around 120 pages.

However, a saddle-stitched booklet with such a high page count will not lie very flat. Why? Because the more folded sheets that are stapled together, the more dense and bulkier the pages become near the spine. Since paper doesn't stretch, the added rigidity that results from this increased bulk causes the folded pages to resist being pressed down flat.

In turn, this adds a "springiness" to the pages and can lead to a wide gap forming between the pages to the left of the book's center and the pages to the right of the book's center. The "springiness" effect is magnified even more on smaller books, sometimes making it difficult for small saddle-stitched books to stay closed.

A high page count also compounds a phenomenon known as "page creep." As more and more folded sheets are nested inside each other, each subsequent sheet will extend a little bit further out than the sheet before it. Though a final trimming will even up the outer edge, this results in the pages closer to the center of the book being narrower than the pages closer to the cover of the book. The difference in page widths due to creep isn't very noticeable on saddle-stitched books with lower page counts, but it can be quite noticeable on books with higher page counts.

So, in theory, saddle-stitched books can be created with 120 pages or so. But that does not mean your chosen printer will feel confident doing it or that you will be happy with the end result.

The Practical Maximum number of pages that can be Saddle Stitched...

The best page count for a given saddle stitch book project is the one that allows the book to have the proper function and appearance. In our experience, saddle-stitched books that use a typical text weight of 50# to 70# for the pages and a typical cover weight of 80# or 100#, will bind together well, lie flat, and function properly up to a maximum page count of 60 pages.

So, as we mentioned at the very beginning of this article, our recommendation is to not exceed 60 pages for a saddle-stitched book. This translates to 15 sheets of paper being bound with staples (15 sheets x 4 pages per sheet = 60 pages).

Once a saddle stitched book exceeds 60 pages, it is time to have a discussion with your printer. Depending on your paper choices and the book's dimensions, choosing another binding method - such as perfect binding, spiral coil binding, wire-o binding, or comb binding - might yield a better result.

Again, anything 60 pages or under produces a nice, flat saddle-stitched book. That said, if you can live with some "springiness", then additional pages might not be an issue for your particular project.

The Minimum number of pages that can be Saddle Stitched

Since we're discussing page count, we thought it best to also address the minimum page count for a saddle stitched book.

a stack of catlogs

As logic dictates, the minimum number of folded sheets that can be joined with staples is two (2). This translates to an 8-page self-cover book (where the entire book is constructed from the exact type and thickness of paper) or a 4-page plus cover book.

So for most booklet projects, it is safe to say that the best page count for saddle stitch binding is between a maximum of 60 pages and a minimum of 4 or 8 pages (with the actual minimum page count depending on whether the project is a "self cover" booklet or a "plus cover" booklet).

The total page count for any Saddle Stitched book must always be a multiple of four

As mentioned a few times already, saddle-stitched books are made from folded sheets and each folded sheet creates four pages of the book. Thus, the page count of any saddle stitch book must be a multiple of 4.

For example, saddle stitch books can be created with 16 pages, 28 pages, or 52 pages. However, saddle stitched books cannot be created with 13 pages, 27 pages, or 50 pages (because these page counts aren't multiples of 4).

Do you need help with a Saddle Stitched book project?

If you have an upcoming saddle-stitched book project and need some help, call Color Vision Printing at 800-543-6299. Or, if you already know your specifications and would like an emailed quote, simply click here to submit a quote request.

Color Vision manufactures all types of softcover books. In addition to saddle-stitching, we offer perfect binding, spiral coil binding, wire-o, plastic comb, and more. As always, we look forward to working with you on your next book project!

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