What Type of Book Should I Print?

Many self-published authors have a hard time deciding what type of book they want to print, whether it’s hardcover, softcover, or boardbook. What they don’t know is that there are certain “requirements” within those categories with custom book printing that may determine the type of book you should print. 

That’s why we have outlined the different types of books with their respective requirements to help you out. 

First let’s take a look at some key terminology to understand when self-publishing a book: 

Page – A page is one side of one sheet of paper within the book. The front and back of a sheet of paper in a book is equal to two pages (think about page count when you are writing on a word document). 

Spread – What you see when you open the book. A spread is two side-by-side pages connected by the gutter.  A spread may be a contiguous image, may have a contiguous background, or may be two completely distinct images. When sending files, if the spread connects, it is best to format the book files in spreads using images of 2 continuous pages instead of individual pages.  If pages are distinct and do not connect as spreads, individual image files for each page are ok. 

Gutter – The inside space between 2 pages in a spread. It is important to leave space in the gutter when formatting your files so that the images and text are not cut off when the book is bound. 

Signature – A piece of paper that is folded within the binding to create pages, one signature equals 4 pages (or 2 spreads). 

Register – A grouping of signatures creating a book block.

Book Block – The final block of pages as a book without the cover assembled. 

Now let’s get into the details of each type of book: 


Our hardcover books are Smyth sewn and case bound. Case-bound books have durable covers made from strong cardboard wrapped in paper or cloth, with spines that hold the pages inside and encase the sewn binding. 

Books that are Smyth sewn are library quality and made to last. First, sheets are folded into signatures and stacked together to make a block of pages. Each signature is then sewn together on the center line. The result is a stitched book block that is either stitched or glued into the hardcover bindings. 

Hardcover books need to be at least 16 pages, any fewer and the book block would be thinner in comparison to the covers. Multiples of 4 are best for hardcover bookbinding because they are Smyth sewn. If you end up with a page count that is not a multiple of 4, say 26, we would glue the last page onto the register. This is a common industry practice and likely something you have encountered many times in children’s books without noticing, though you will definitely notice when it is your own book. 


Most softcover books use perfect binding. Perfect bound books use a cover that is usually a slightly heavier stock than the inside pages. SIgnatures are glued to the inside spine and the cover is then folded around and glued onto the edges of the inside pages. This results in a softcover book that is flexible and durable, perfect for printing children’s books, guidebooks, and magazines. 

We use perfect binding when the spine is at least 2mm. This usually works out to be 24 pages at a 157gsm paperweight or 28 pages at 128 gsm. If the page count ends up lower, we recommend what is called a saddle-stitched binding. 

Saddle-stitch binding is not Smyth sewn. Instead, the pages are put into registers and stapled at the center line, creating a spine. For this type of binding, we recommend a minimum of 12 interior pages as saddle-stitch binding results in a much thinner book. 

Board book: 

Boardbooks are the ideal format for short children’s books because the paperboard makes the book very durable and compatible with lots of use from children. The thick pages also make it easier for smaller children to turn the pages. Most boardbooks use rounded pages to make them safer. 

Board books are unique in that they aren’t technically “bound.” The pages are each made with thick paper board instead of stock. Sets of 2 pages are glued together by hand and a cover page is wrapped around and glued. 

Because they are assembled 2 pages at a time, they require a page count of multiples of two, versus multiples of 4 with hardcover and softcover.  PufferPrint can produce boardbooks from our standard 1mm thick pages all the way up to 4mm thick pages if desired. 

As a self-published author, you’ve spent the time writing, designing, and perfecting your book. Now you have the tools to take the final steps and print your book!

If you have any questions about the printing process or our book printing services, feel free to contact us, or if you think you are ready for the next steps request a free quote. We also have an array of self-publishing tips blog posts to help you throughout your book printing journey.

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