Turning a Crafty Ebook into a Cool Gift, part 4: Perfect Binding

16 Dec 2010


Our series on giving ebooks as gifts continues today, with a really beautiful binding method known as "perfect binding." It's a great way to bind ebooks that print out to 1/4" thick or thicker, and it takes surprisingly few materials. Today, I'm binding a copy of Handwork for the Holidays, by Katie Startzman and Laura Poulette.

Here's what you'll need:

  • One ebook, printed out (more on that below)
  • Paper cutter
  • 2-3 Letter clips or binder clips
  • E6000 or Gorilla Glue
  • Scrap of paper
  • Glue Stick
  • Scrap of fabric
  • Scrap of fusible webbing
  • Scissors
  • Iron and ironing board


I printed this ebook the same way I printed Monday's ebook - I reduced the size so I'd get two pages on each sheet of paper. (You can also perfect bind an 8 1/2" x 11" print-out.)

I also printed the front and back covers out on matte photo paper, which gave them better clarity and color than regular printer paper allows.


First, I cut the pages in half, so I had 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" pages.


…But then, looking at the cut pages, I noticed that this ebook has a layout with very specific parameters. See how the cute bead graphic lines up with the bottom of some pages, but is 1/2" above the bottom of others?

Ebooks are like snowflakes – each one will print in a unique way. In the case of Handwork for the Holidays, I love the layout so much, I wanted to give it the nicest presentation possible. So I trimmed another 1/2" off each page – some pages, I trimmed from the bottom, and the others, from the top.


…And then, I decided to trim 1" from the right margin of each page as well. (I left some extra margin on the left side to accommodate the binding.)

Depending on the ebook you're printing and binding, you may or may not need to do this much trimming. Take a look at the layout and see what it needs.


Anyway. With all the pages printed, stack them up in order, with the covers in place. Then, tap the binding edge of the book against your work surface to straighten it out.


Pop a couple of letter clips or binder clips onto the stack at the top and bottom to keep it in place while you're binding. Place those clips about 1" away from the binding edge, like you see here.


Now, cut yourself a strip of binding paper. The size will depend on the book you're binding, but it should be the same height as your book. Its width should be enough to cover about 1" of the front and back covers, plus the spine.

Wrap this strip around your book's spine and press it in place to crease the paper, like you see here.


The key to this binding is a very strong, flexible glue. I love E6000 (yeah, I know - surprise!), but Gorilla Glue works well, too. I've also used silicone sealer.

Put a nice, thick line of glue along the spine of your book.


Here's another angle. See the left side? There's enough glue there. See the right side? that's not enough glue. You need enough glue to cover the entire spine pretty thickly.


Anyway. Once you have optimal glue levels, go ahead and press that strip of binding paper over the spine. If some glue oozes out the ends, wipe it away with your fingers.


Then, move those clips so they're covering the spine. Leave them in place for several hours while the glue sets. Overnight is even better.


Once that glue is dry, if you need to, you can glue down the rest of the binding strip with some glue stick. (Some of the E6000 will have oozed around and anchored down at least part or the strip, though.)


Now, we need to cover up that binding paper! Here, I've taken a strip of linen fabric and ironed fusible webbing to the back. (If you're unfamiliar with this stuff, you might take a look at this tutorial I did a while back.)


The webbing is slightly tacky once it's ironed to the fabric, so you can easily position it on the book and press it in place with your fingers. First, I positioned it over the front cover, and then wrapped it around to the back. I trimmed off some excess at the back.


Then, I used scissors to trim the fabric to the edges of the book.


…And with a quick press of my iron on both sides, the fabric is now fused to the cover. Nice, eh?

About the Ebook:

Handwork for the Holidays is a beautiful collection of gift and decor projects, with some knitting, some sewing, and some paper craft. You can read my review here, and score your own copy here.

This binding would also be great for:

Stitch Village, by Joan Gorman, is a lovely collection of sewing and embroidery projects, complete with patterns and stitching templates. Joan's designs are so whimsical and charming. My review is here, and you can get a copy here.


Errrm, isn't making and distributing copies of an ebook super illegal? Even if it's free? (Unless it's your own, of course). I'm surprised you'd encourage this.

Well, Jen, what I think you're referring to is the idea of taking ebooks you've already bought for yourself and then making copies of it for all your friends.

Is that "super illegal?" You need to check the copyright notice of the ebook itself. Some ebooks will specify that you can make copies. Others have a clear statement asking you not to distribute them. (Like mine do, and all of the ebooks I've featured this week do.)

Definitely, if an ebook's copyright statement has asked you not to distribute copies to your friends, then you shouldn't. Indie ebook publishers work very hard on their titles, and they deserve fair compensation just like any other publisher.

I had no idea that type of binding was just strong glue. So cool.

I am really enjoying this series of book making :D very helpful stuff

Diane thanks so much for the kind mention here. I've been away so missed this.
In regards to the copyright issues, I've had a person offer to buy two copies of my ebook, one to keep and the other to gift to her mother. To tell you the truth, I was so impressed by the honesty I insisted the buyer share her copy with her mother.
Thanks for showing people your fantastic ebook gifting ideas! You've given brilliant instruction for making your own perfect bindings.

Oh I like this. I think I'm gonna have to give it a go! :-)