To us production folks this expression refers to a binding (almost always a hardback binding) which doesn’t want to stay open. It snaps back shut unless you keep a firm hold of it. This is usually a consequence of printing the book cross grain, and will be worse the heavier and thicker the paper. (See also Grain direction.)
Apparently choir boys in Salisbury Cathedral used to trap mice by luring them into an open book and then smashing it shut. The photo above, shared by Peter Hoare on the SHARP listserv, shows the surviving evidence in a copy of Suetonius.