Seeking Your Input on MSCD’s Binding

The second edition of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting has been out for less than two months, and we’ve already sold almost all of the first printing. So the response has been positive, to say the least.

But I’d appreciate your input on MSCD‘s binding.

The first printing used “Wire-O” binding, like that used for the Bluebook and Bryan Garner’s Redbook. To be more exact, it used “semi-concealed” Wire-O binding, which incorporates a one-piece cover that includes a printable spine, a must for most book distributors.

The publishing people at the American Bar Association think that we can improve MSCD‘s binding. They want to use “perfect” binding, which is high-quality paperback binding, using glue. That’s what they’ll be using for the second printing, given that we need to reprint immediately. But they’ve told me that if I do some research on the issue and convince them that semi-concealed Wire-O binding is the better solution, that’s what we’ll revert to for the third and subsequent printings.

Here’s my current thinking on this: MSCD is suited to Wire-O binding, as Wire-O binding allows the pages to lie flat. That’s particularly useful for reference works that you consult while working on something else, as you can turn the pages with one hand. That’s why the Bluebook uses Wire-O. The many hours I spent on Sunday grading my Penn Law students’ drafting assignments showed me how useful that feature is.

But there are tradeoffs. For one thing, the cover is only attached to the wire binding at the back. That makes for a floppy cover. I can already see that carrying my book around in my laptop bag for a few weeks will leave it looking decidedly the worse for wear. But one could significantly improve durability by using a thicker cover. The cover would still be subject to more wear-and-tear than standard paperback covers, but given the ease-of-use afforded by Wire-O binding, a cover that gets dog-eared more quickly might be a price worth paying.

I’ve heard it suggested that with Wire-O binding, you run the risk of ripping out pages. But bear in mind that in this regard, perfect binding is hardly, uh, perfect. My copy of the first edition of MSCD, which used perfect binding, started shedding pages after a couple of years. I know from other readers that mine wasn’t an isolated case.

I’ll be looking into this over the coming weeks, primarily by checking with other publishers to see what their experience is with semi-concealed Wire-O binding. But just as important is what readers of the second edition think. In a first for this blog, below is a poll: I’d be pleased if you’d indicate your preference. (I can see having fun with polls in future posts.) And by all means post a comment.

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.

14 thoughts on “Seeking Your Input on MSCD’s Binding”

  1. I’m in favor of Wire-O or some solution that allows for lying flat. As for why, Ken’s already said what I would say in his post above. The Blue Book is hardly bad company to keep in that regard.

  2. Ken:

    I have a number of perfect-bound reference books sitting on the credenza behind my desk. When I pull them off the credenza and onto the desk, they tend to stay there, sometimes for months and sometimes with a lot of other stuff stacked on top. This tends to ruin the perfect bound books, because it damages the spine. Eventually, they tear along that line.

    If I carried your book around a lot, I might want the perfect-bound version. I think it would travel better. But it never leaves my office.

    I often type while looking at it, so the perfect binding would be a pain. I’d have to thoroughly break the binding before I could use it the way that I usually do. I think that defeats the purpose.


  3. I would definitely prefer the Wire-O binding. As you said, it is the correct binding for this type of reference book.

    I can’t think of a single reason that a “perfect” binding would be proper.

  4. I would suggest you look into RepKover or Otabind. I have multiple reference works that use this type of binding. It has all the qualities of perfect binding and still lies perfectly flat. The Wire-O is a bit annoying – it gets bent out of shape when carried in a bag, tears the pages easily, doesn’t fit well on a shelve and in general doesn’t match the quality of the contents of the book.

  5. Yes,Wire-O even though my copy arrived damaged.I expect that the boys in ABA shipping prefer the perfect binding because they can slip it into an inexpensive envelope. They should use better packaging for the Wire-O.

  6. Ken:

    I vote for the Wire-O binding as I often leave the 2nd Ed open to the most recently used section.

    Another type of binding similar to the Wire-O but perhaps better is a Wire-O with-flap. The flap is a fold-out extension of the back cover which can be folded over the internal pages and slipped behind the front cover so as to protect the pages themselves.

    To my knowledge, the closest item to the Wire-O-with-flap is The 8th Ed. of The Gregg Reference Manual (William A. Sabin author) which is a spiral-with-flap but with an exposed spine.

    By the way, my 2nd Ed of the MSCD (which was pre-ordered) also arrived partially damaged.

    Kind regards,

  7. I purchased two copies of the 2nd Ed. I think the large Wire-O rings work well, but the cover should be more durable. I prefer rings (or something similar) to the glued “perfect” paperback binding.

  8. Definitely the Wire-O. This is not a book to be perused while reclining in the Barcalounger with a snifter of brandy. This is a book to be used while working. This requires that the book lie open flat on the desk, so you can read it while both your hands are on the keyboard.

  9. Why not forgo the binding all together and publish in Amazon Kindle format? Everybody can save on all the printing, shipping and handling costs; the potential for shipping damage is eliminated; the cost to the buyer is usually less; and most important, the manual can be donloaded to any kindle nearly anywhere in the world in under a minute. If you’re in the office you can buy it now and start using it when you get back from your coffee break. If you’re on the road, you can buy it while standing in the security line at the airport and read it after you pass through the metal detectors.

    Just a thought…

  10. I just bought a copy of the book, which came with the perfect binding. It appears to be a better binding than one typically sees on paper back books, so I expect good life from it. Time will tell.

    My preference is the Wire-O binding for reference books.



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