Good openability – key factors

Good openability – key factors

Reading the earlier post, you had the opportunity to find out what openability of a book is and why it is so important. Today, we will discuss the issue of what really affects it. There are numerous factors that are at play here, and it is impossible to identify any one of them as the crucial one. Good openability of a book is the resultant of several components. If you entrust your publication to competent printers, you can relax and not have to worry about the final product.

1. The type of paper used for the book block

Let us start with the most obvious aspect, namely the substrate on which we will print our book. Which is where we are faced with a whole range of different paper parameters. What should we pay attention to? Paper grammage, bulk, and fibre orientation are of importance here. To put it simply: the lower the paper’s grammage, the better the openability of the publication. This does not mean that only low grammage paper will give us the assurance of openability. If you want to use high grammage paper, make sure you select a substrate that also has a higher bulk.

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2. The make-up of the cover

It is a fact that hardcover books open better than softcover ones. Softcovers are made of one single sheet of paper, which is why it pays to give more attention to the type of substrate to be used. As is the case with the book block, the lower the paper’s grammage, the better the openability of the book. However, the cover’s main task is to protect the block against damage. Thus, if you go for paper with too low a grammage, the cover will not do its intended job. A happy medium here may be to choose paper with slightly lower grammage and then laminate the finished cover. This way, the cover’s resistance to damage is significantly increased, while at the same time the book’s openability does not suffer

3. The way the book block is bound to the cover

The more rigid the binding, the lower the book’s openability. What is classed as rigid then? What would be seen as unconstrained? Rigid binding methods involve, for instance, binding rivets and screws. There is no give whatsoever where the sheets come together. And at the other end of the scale we have unconstrained bindings, such as spiral bound publications. In this case, there is room for the sheets within the book block to work freely, which means that the book can be opened completely flat on any page.

Nonetheless, there is middle ground to be found here in the shape of flexible binding. It is much more commonly used than the methods discussed above. We are talking here, needless to say, about binding the book block to the cover with glue. On the one hand, the glue permanently binds both elements, but on the other hand, it leaves room for them to work.

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4. The way the sheets within the book block are bound together

As far as traditional binding methods are concerned, thread sewn and saddle stitched book blocks have the best openability. Thread sewn and saddle stitched binding means the sheets have room for movement where they come together, i.e., along the spine.

otwarta książka płasko5. The spine

This is about the shape: flat or rounded. And a rounded spine wins this particular fight.

6. Good openability – vs. the way the spine of the book block is strengthened

On the one hand, we want the spine to be sturdy. But on the other hand, the more rigid it is, the lower the openability of the publication. Therefore, flexible materials are used to strengthen the spine. It is also worth raising the question of the glue to be used. In the past, water-based dispersion adhesives were commonly used, where they would remain highly flexible once solidified. Currently, to increase production efficiency, hot-melt adhesives, i.e., the so-called hot melts, are commonly used. They are slightly more rigid than dispersion adhesives.

7. The width

It is not so much the format as the width that is the decisive factor here. The wider our book is, the greater its openability. We will use the A4 format as an example. If its spine runs along the shorter side, the book’s openability is greater than if the spine were to run along the longer side.

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8. The thickness

Thicker books have better openability. You just have to be aware of a few things. First of all, irrespective of the thickness of the spine, the openability of the first pages will never be particularly impressive. The closer to the centre of the book block, the better it will get. Secondly, it is difficult to achieve great openability with thin books. If the spine is, for instance, 15 mm thick, it is extremely difficult to achieve full openability. And lastly, we still have to take into account the factors mentioned above. An A4 hardcover album with a 10 mm spine running along the shorter side will still open better than a B5 softcover perfect bound book with a 20 mm spine.

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If you are worried that you will have to analyse each of the above aspects individually when the time comes to print your book, rest assured: this is what we are here for. Our many years of experience in the book printing industry mean that we will be able to propose a solution most befitting your needs. As we reasoned in the earlier post: openability (and good openability) does not always have to take centre stage when the choice of materials is concerned.

lidia piasecka

Lidia Piasecka

Graphic designer at She writes because she enjoys it, but only when she isn’t busy drawing. Enthusiast of vintage furniture, she restores them to their original glory. Lover of cats, moths and the Moomins.

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