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.