During the COVID-19 pandemic we're still open and committed to serving you.

How to Arrange Pages for Booklet Printing

Formatting a book or booklet and arranging the pages so they appear in the correct order can be a source of anxiety for any writer.  Most authors write their books in Microsoft Word or Google Docs.  Therefore, the default page size is usually set to 8.5 x 11 inches (about 21.6 x 28 cm) – the most common size for home and office printing.  Most printers don’t print books in this size, though.  Most books are 5.5 x 8.5 inches or 6 x 9 inches (about 14 x 21.6 cm and 15.25 x 22.9 cm, respectively) and booklet sizes can vary.

So what’s a writer to do?  First and foremost: check the printer’s website or call their customer support to see how they bind booklets and whether they have specific formatting requirements for printing.  Most companies print booklets using the saddle stitch method, but some also offer a glued-spine option, perfect binding, for booklets and longer books.  It’s important to understand these options because how your booklet pages need to be arranged may differ depending on which option is chosen.  Paying close attention to the guidelines from the printer now ensures the pages appear as expected when the book comes off the press.

Which Binding Style Is Best?

The best binding style for a booklet depends on the type of project being printed, the booklet page count,  and type of paper used for text stock – or the inside of the booklet.  While there are some common industry standards, requirements and availability vary between printers.  Page counts matter most, though.  In general, if a finished booklet is 48 pages or less, saddle stitching is generally the best option.  If it’s closer to a short book length with 96 pages or more, perfect binding is usually preferred.

Saddle Stitch Binding

Saddle stitching is the publisher’s way of saying a booklet is stapled in the middle.  With this technique, sheets are printed and folded – including both sides of the cover. Then the printer staples them along the folded crease in the middle.  Saddle stitching is the most basic, least expensive printing option for most short publications.  Note that this binding method requires page numbers in multiples of four.  So a booklet could have an 8 page layout, 12, 16, 20 pages, etc… but not six or seven.  If an author has a 7-page booklet, they’ll have to print eight pages, with one at the end being blank.

Also, when discussing saddle stitched binding with a printer, you may hear the phrase “page creep.”  Page creep occurs when all the sheets are folded in half, creating the pages of the booklet.  The pages in the center stick out farther that those on the outside. For a hands-on visual, take 10 or 12 sheets of paper and fold them in half.  Creep happens because the thickness of all the pages behind them, pushes out the edge of the center pages.  Paper thickness and a higher page count amplifies this effect.  

After printing, printers trim the edge so that it’s flush with the cover.  The inside pages end up being narrower than the outside pages because more has been trimmed.  A good printer can assist writers with tools to calculate the adjustments needed when creating the files so the text won’t be trimmed off or end up with uneven margins that might distract a reader.

Perfect Binding

How does perfect binding differ from saddle stitching?  When printer uses perfect binding for a booklet, double-sided pages are collated in page number order and then trimmed down to the specified size.  Glue is applied and the cover is wrapped around the pages.  The squared bend in the cover then becomes the book’s spine.  This printing style does not use any staples.

Publishers use perfect binding when a booklet exceeds a certain number of pages or requires heavier paper or thicker cover stock.  Many would argue that the finished booklet is more aesthetically pleasing for the reader, but keep in mind that this technique is usually more expensive than the alternative.

What’s Page Spread?

Page spread refers to the two pages a reader sees side by side when they open a book.  So why do so many authors find print spreads a source of anxiety and frustration?  Because depending on how a document is being printed, the format and layout of each sheet changes: reader spreads and printer spreads.

Reader Spreads

Reader spreads are the consecutive pages of a document in page order as they’ll be read.  This is generally how authors think about their books.  However, this is not necessarily what happens when a booklet is printed.

Printer Spreads

When printing a booklet, the publisher requires a different arrangement of pages based on the total number of pages in the document.  To have the correct pages on each sheet and thus the correct page order in the finished booklet, the file must use the printers spread.  To visualize, let’s imagine a simple 4-page booklet.  Page 1 is the front cover and page 4 is the back cover.  Pages 2 and 3 are the inside contents.  The printer spread prints pages 1 and 4 on one side of the sheet and page 2 and 3 on the other.  When creased on the fold line, the booklet reads in the correct order.

Arranging Pages For Saddle Stitch Booklets

Now that we understand how printing techniques affect page spreads during the printing process, an informed decision can be made about how to arrange pages for booklet printing.  Generally speaking, as stated above, booklet printing with the saddle stitched method requires using printer spread arrangement to ensure the correct pages appear on the corresponding sheets.  Since technology has advanced, some printers accept the file in page number order as well. Check with your printer about their file format policies!  Ask to see a mock-up before all your booklets are printed.  Establishing good communication with your printer is essential!

Let A & A Printing walk you through your next booklet printing project!  They’re happy to help with questions to make the formatting process as stress-free for you as possible.

We make book printing as easy as 1, 2, 3. Let us help you get started today.

Request a Quote