What Is the Difference Between Prebound & Library Binding?

By Goody Clairenstein

Prebound books are paperbacks that were originally manufactured for sale on the mass market, then bought or otherwise acquired by a library for use in circulation. Library binding is the name of the process by which prebound books are reinforced and preserved for circulation within a library system. Both are terms specific to libraries and book circulation in general.

Prebound Books

Prebound books are paperback books that require reinforcement for use in a library. Contemporary paperback books are bound with a cardboard or paper cover, and their pages are bound with glue instead of staples or stitches. Paperback books are cheaper to manufacture than hardcovers, but they are not as durable. Hardcover books require less reinforcement for use in libraries. Usually, a new dust cover can be added to the hardcover book to preserve it for frequent use by library patrons.

Library Binding

Library binding is the process by which prebound books are reinforced for use by patrons of a library or book-lending system. The pages of paperback prebound volumes are sewn in place where only glue held them together before. The spines of paperback books are also strengthened to prevent breakage and splitting. The primary purpose of library binding is to prolong the life of the paperback book as an intact volume. It also makes the book easy to open for reading and photocopying purposes.

Binding Process

Library binding is a process outsourced by libraries to binding companies. The most common method used to library-bind books is called oversewing. In oversewing, the cover of the paperback's spine is removed, leaving a bundle of loose pages. The pages are then separated into smaller bundles that can be sewn together easily, after which all of the bundled pages are sewn together using an overlock stitch. A durable cloth coated with acrylic is used as the book's new cover.

Library Binding Alternatives

A cheaper way to preserve paperback books for library use in-house is known as stiffening. To stiffen a paperback book, a strip of cloth or durable material such as Tyvek is glued to the book's inside joints to reinforce the cover's attachment to the pages. Then, a thin strip or board is adhered to the front and back cover of the book, enabling it to stand upright on library shelves and preventing bending and cracking.

About the Author

Goody Clairenstein has been a writer since 2004. She has sat on the editorial board of several non-academic journals and writes about creative writing, editing and languages. She has worked in professional publishing and news reporting in print and broadcast journalism. Her poems have appeared in "Small Craft Warnings." Clairenstein earned her Bachelor of Arts in European languages from Skidmore College.