Library Binding vs Hardcover – Which Is the Best?

BookSummaryClub Blog Library Binding vs Hardcover – Which Is the Best?

One of the first issues you will need to deal with when buying or selling books is selecting the type of binding or cover. All sorts of binding methods are used to keep the content of a book protected and bound together. You can choose from hardback books, paperback books, trade bindings, library bindings, sewn books, stitched books, stapled books, glued books, binder books, and so much more. 

Out of all these different formats, library binding and hardcover are probably the toughest and most durable forms of binding. What exactly is the difference between these two methods? 

In this library binding vs hardcover guide, we compare the two methods so you can buy the type of book you need. 

Library Binding vs Hardcover

The binding of a book is very important because it can make a huge difference in your level of comfort while reading the book, the durability of the book, and the overall look of the book. Library and hardcover binding are some of the best binding methods that you can choose from when you are shopping for books or if you want to get a book you wrote printed.

Let’s take a closer look at the main differences between these book binding methods so you can decide which you should choose. 

What is Library Binding?

Library binding is a durable form of binding that is used for books that were intended to be used in a library setting. This form of binding is strong and durable so it can withstand many years of frequent use by different readers and offers a more organized look on large bookshelves.

Library bound is the most durable form of binding currently used. With this form of binding, the books receive an extremely hard exterior that has a slightly rough texture, and the bookend is firmly secured which forms an indentation line along the edge. Library binding can have a solid cover with book labeling on the bookend, or it can be decorative with full-color pictures all over the cover. 

Books can be created with library binding but in some cases, old books that are donated to libraries undergo rebinding and are then fitted with a library-bound cover. Rebinding is a great solution for strengthening paperback books or for repairing old and damaged books. 

This form of binding might be intended for library settings but is often used for other types of applications such as children’s books. 

Types of Library Binding

books in library

There are two main forms of library binding which include original library binding and after-market library binding.

Original Library Binding

This form of binding is used when books are originally printed for library usage. Oftentimes when books are printed, a certain number of copies are created with library bindings. These books will look a bit different from copies that are intended for commercial purposes. This is because original library binding is much more rigid and more suitable for more frequent use compared to books that are only used by a single individual or a single-family.

After-Market Library Binding

After-market library binding is when books that used to be created in paperback print or hardcover design are rebound for library use. Libraries often send donated books to get this form of binding to enhance the strength and durability of the book so many readers can use the book without damaging it. 

Library Binding Materials

The covering materials for library binding can differ, but in most cases, buckram is used for this form of binding. Buckram is made from 100% cotton and is often coated with acrylic – a type of coating that is UV resistant, water resistant, mold resistant, and insect resistant. 

Buckram is usually fixed to binderโ€™s board. This type of board is high in density although some library-bound books can also be made with laminated boarding or four-drinier boarding.

Library Binding Methods

Different methods can be used to bind library books together so they won’t fall out over time. Here is a quick look at the different methods used for creating library binding.

Sewing Through the Fold

Sewing Through the Fold Binding

With this type of binding, a series of pages are printed and folded in half. The folds of the signature (the group of paper sheets) are then sewn together – often by hand. All the signatures of the book are then put together and sewn again by machine to combine these folds into a firm book. Sewn-bound books are desirable because the book can easily lay flat on your desk when opened.


This method is often used when old books are restored and can be completed by hand or machine. The loose book pages are sewn together at the far left side of the page. This binding is strong but won’t allow the book to lay flat on a table.

Side Sewing

With side sewing, all pages are piled up together and a machine is used to create holes through the entire book side along the edge or margin. The machine also sews all of these pages together. The binding is firm, but books won’t lay flat on a desk. 

What is Hardcover Binding?

hardcover binding

Hardcover is the type of binding you see on commercially sold books you find in bookstores. The hardcover is a thick covering that protects the interior pages. Hardcover books are usually created by sewing pages together and gluing the folds to the spine of the book. The strong covers can be made from fabric-covered cardboard or leather-covered cardboard. The interior pages of hardcover books are also usually a bit thicker compared to the pages used in paperback books. This offers more strength and durability and is usually a characteristic of a higher-quality book.

Hardcover books are often produced with a dust jacket. This dust jacket is removable and usually includes the book cover design. Dust covers also often include writer biographies on the inside of the cover as well as a teaser of the book on the back. This dust cover is designed to protect the hardcover so it will stay in good shape for longer. 

Hardcover Binding Materials

Hardcover books are usually created with a high-density binder board. This binder board is then layered with a gloss board, leather, buckram, heavy paper, or other types of fabric. These materials offer a very durable finish and a very pleasing look. 

Hardcover Binding Methods

As with library binding, there are quite a few different methods that can be used to hold the pages of these books together. Here is a quick look at the main methods;

Case Binding

This is the most common form of hardcover binding. It involves printing pages in a specific order to form signatures that can be folded in the middle and stitched along this line. All individual signatures are then glued together to form a single book. With this form of binding, the book will lay flat on a surface when opened.

Double-Fan Adhesive Binding

Polyvinyl acetate glue (PVA) is used instead of yarn or thread for this form of binding. The pages are all lined up and small amounts of glue are placed along the page edge to keep the pages together. In this form of binding, the pages can start to fall out over time but the book will also lay nice and flat when open.

Over Sewing

As with library binding, the sides of pages are sewn together to keep all pages together. This method forms a solid bind but the book won’t stay open when laid on a desk.

Smyth Sewing

This method is also referred to as sewing through the fold and is more common in library binding. A machine is used to sew all the pages together at one edge. Unlike library books, the margins of these pages are wider so the book can, in fact, lay flat when it is opened. 

Library Binding vs Hardcover: Final Thoughts

We hope that this library binding vs hardcover guide helps you choose the right binding option so your books will look great and stay in great shape for decades to come.

Ultimately we feel that library binding can be the most durable binding method and is ideal for books that endure frequent wear and tear, but this form of binding doesn’t offer the same luxury feel as hardcover books. Hardcover books can be a lot more beautiful since the hardcover can be made from a wide range of materials, but they won’t hold up quite as long. 

If you need more advice on books, or if you are shopping for some great books, then you should check out some of the other guides we have on Book Summary Club. With our handy guides, you can find all the latest and best reads, and you can get the best tips to enhance your reading experience. 

Hey, I’m Erik… a Swedish university student, marketing professional, and life-long learner. Here at BookSummaryClub I summarize my favorite non-fiction books into easily digested posts. Hope you like what you’re reading!

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