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The archives are full of discussions about perfect-bound manuals vs. 3-ring
binders. I strongly suggest you go look through them. Among the things you'll
find are some financial analyses about the costs to assemble and distribute,
and a lot of anecdotal evidence about people's experiences with both kinds.
I'll repeat something I learned some 15 years ago, when I was writing books for
major publishers: after beau coup focus groups and other studies the
publishers discovered that ordinary readers REALLY DON'T LIKE 3-ring binders,
and they REALLY DON'T LIKE books that are bigger than the 7" x 9" size. Heyy -
these folks paid for their form of usability studies, and they've updated the
research periodically, so who am I to disagree, even if my personal preference
were to be the binders (which it isn't)? These folks learned, and Apple and
Microsoft borrowed their results and corroborated them, that garden variety
users prefer books that take up a small amount of desk real estate when open,
take up a small amount of real estate on the bookshelf, and can be thrown away
when a replacement is issued. These folks also learned, and Apple and
Microsoft corroborated their results, that most desktop users HATE update pages
for binders, that most update pages never make it into the binder, and if they
do, rarely get integrated as the writers and other pubs people intended.
The ones who do like binders are people taking classes, where one page equals
one learning activity, especially if there's room to annotate what's already
written. The problem is that, once used in class, the binders rarely get
opened, according to usability studies done at Sun. The binders wind up on the
Shelf of Good Intentions.
One of the major arguments against perfect-bound books is that they won't lay
flat on the desk. Guess what! There is a binding (suitably called "Lay-Flat")
that separates the actual spine of the book (the place where the page sigs are
literally bound together) from the printed part of the cover that wraps around
the spine. Thus when a Lay-Flat-bound book is dropped onto a desk, it will
open to a miscellaneous page and stay open and flat. And it turns out that
most book printers know how to do a Lay-Flat binding and that its cost is only
slightly more than a regular perfect binding.
And because this issue has been debated to death, if you're going to disagree
with me, please cite controlled studies, not just personal preferences.
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