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As far as I can see, people always recommend to set inner margins smaller than outer margins, so that when a document is opened, the space between the two blocks of text basically looks like the left and right margin. This is done for instance in the famous method "Canon des ateliers".

However, usually the binding will likely hide a part of the page, making the inner margin look even smaller, potentially making the text close to the binding hard to read. This is true not only because a part of the paper will be glued, but also because of the natural curve that the paper will take close to the binding. It seems that the geometry package specifies a bindingoffset parameter, useful to take that setting into account (I'm not sure what is the official term for this notion outside of the LaTeX world). However, I don't see any reference to this notion in the "Canon des ateliers"'s method, and therefore I've no idea how to choose it properly.

Informally, I'd say that the binding offset would counter balance the smaller inner margin, making inner margin + binding offset roughly equal to outer margins. Actually, I checked in some books, and sometimes (but not always) the inner margin is even larger than the outer margin, and I find it much easier to read. On the other hand, books with smaller inner margin are quite hard to read...

So here are my questions:

  • Why aren't typographic methods like "Canon des ateliers" are taking into account the binding offset?
  • Is there any rule of thumb to determine the binding offset? In particular, I'm interesting in small documents (~20 pages) and bigger documents (~250 pages), when the binding is made by simply gluing the paper to the spine.
  • Is it a bad practice to consider that inner margin + binding offset = outer margins, making the text centered on the page?

PS: I've read this and more, but I don't really have the answer to all my questions.

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I have no ideas about "Canon des ateliers".

The basic typographic tradition is that when a book is opened the three vertical white spaces (the left and right margins and that in the center) should appear to be equal.

Traditionally bound books where sections are sewn together basically open flat. But modern glued paperback kind of books do not open flat, thus some of the inner margin space is shaded/hidden from view.

When laying out the pages of a book the type of the binding needs to be considered when deciding on the inner margin. For a traditionally bound book an inner margin of half an outer margin is good. For a glued book some consideration should be applied (the binding offset). This will depend on the thickness of the paper and the number of pages plus also the book cover (how tightly is it bound the rest of the book?).

So, basically, inner margin plus binding offset = half the outer margin where for a traditionally bound book binding offset = 0.

In the question/answer you said that you read one of the commenters said that there was a German recommendation that the Maximum Binding Offset should be no more than half the thickness of the typeblock.

Going back to the "Canon ..." I think that they were probably not concerned about non-traditionally bound books.

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  • Thanks a lot for your answer and explaining the difference between traditional and modern books, I understand now better this rule. I'm not sure about your formula tough: following your first paragraph, we basically always want inner margin = outer margin/2, no matter the value of binding offset right? My formula inner margin + binding offset = outer margins was basically a proposition to set binding offset = outer margins/2. Concerning the German recommendation, I read it, but it was only providing a maximum value. Do you think it makes sense to use this value directly?
    – tobiasBora
    Jan 17 at 18:51
  • @tobiasBora I have corrected my answer to"inner margin plus binding offset = half the outer margin". What is best in your situation depends on your aesthetic sense. Formulas can give you a starting point but that is all. Jan 18 at 19:31
  • Ok thanks a lot! But I think you still need to remove the binding from the formula since this part is hidden. Concerning the aestetic, thanks (it's rare to see this notion in typographic articles :-P), it's just sometimes hard to judge without seeing the document printed ^^ (and since it costs money, usually you don't want to try too many times ^^) But guess it's the best answer, thanks !
    – tobiasBora
    Jan 18 at 20:18
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    I have what a new (2021) what appears to be a traditional hardbound book but which is actually glued, although they disguised it well. The outer margins are 22mm, the actual inner margins are 14mm making a total of 28mm when placed together but opening the book the inner white space appears to be 22mm (matching an outer margin). In this case they have used an inner margin (of 11mm) plus binding offset of 3mm when typesetting the pages. Jan 20 at 19:55
  • Nice, thanks for these cool details!
    – tobiasBora
    Jan 20 at 20:42

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