Bind Your Own Book (BYOB): From eBook-to-Print-Book for Researchers

Although outside the normal range of this blog, I have found that printed books have particular value in learning new technologies. While eBooks are cheap, immediately available and don’t create storage problems, they can be clumsy to use.  Print books can be expensive, however, take time to ship, and are not easily recyclable (people flinch at chucking books). There is a remedy: Bind-Your-Own Books (BYOB)!

I’ve been experimenting with perfect binding for books recently. Enormous numbers of eBooks are available for very low cost and the entire Project Gutenberg (https://www.gutenberg.org/) library is free!  After much experimentation, I came up with a repeatable process for making a print book from an eBook. This process is quick, easy, and remarkably inexpensive (practically free!).

Here it is:

 Create the Binding Spine

Create hot melt binding strips: On a baking sheet, lay down a sheet of aluminum foil, and a wax paper baking sheet above that. On this sheet, place a piece of cheesecloth, 2 ply. Put rows of hot melt glue gun sticks to the length of the book height on the cheesecloth, about 1/4″ between them. Turn on the oven to 120 C. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the glue sticks are completely melted. Use a wooden stick to remove any gaps. Cool down, then remove the glue sheet from the wax paper. Cut into strips according to the book width.

Print the eBook

  1. Remove the cover in the PDF if needed to align chapters to start on odd pages. Crop to reduce margins, if needed (several programs can do this). Add 4 blank pages to the end to improve pagination.
  2. Print odd pages then even pages to separate PDFs, using fit to margins mode
  3. Print odd odd (B) and odd even (D) in fit to margins mode, to individual PDFs (named B.pdf, D.pdf, etc.)
  4. Print even odd (C) and even even (A) at fit to margins, individual PDFs
  5. Intersperse with PDFSam. (Free program from web at https://pdfsam.org/.) Use ABCD as sequence (A.pdf, B.pdf…). This creates a final page sequence of 41238567…
  6. Print the assembled pdf to a two page per sheet pdf
  7. Create the book by printing the assembled pdf on the printer, using duplex, short edge flip (to keep top and bottom aligned).
  8. Print the cover separately. It should include front cover, back cover, and spine between. Can be assembled.

Create a Cover

Several ways to do this:

  1. Create a whole sheet cover using legal paper or A3, trimmed to cover height. Run through printer (depends upon single sheet capability) to print the cover and spine. Fold it around the paper edge (folded, binding side) at the printed spine. The back cover side will over-extend.
  2. Use two sheets of letter (a4) card. Cut one in half for the back cover. Print the cover on the other A4 card, situated to far right; create a spine label to the left of the cover area. The two cover sheets are joined after binding with cloth mending tape.

Use the cover for binding by bending it around the pages. The glue strip can be placed at bottom (at the printed spine), and pages pressed into place before heating. If using a single page cover, bind first and then cut the bottom of the sheet to size.

Binding

The pages are folded individually and the book is bound across the stacked folds. The pages need to be pressed together. The binding strip is placed along the spine (a strip of card can be added behind the strip to reduce unsightly leak-through). Place the printed cover over the assembly, pressing the cover spine against the glue strip (or protection card strip). Press the assembly together and bind.

Using a Thermal Binding Machine

I use a binding machine which heats the strip and presses pages together. (Inexpensive machines available from AliExpress.) Lots of ways to do this, though. The cover needs to be created with a spine and set up to cover the whole book (front and back). I use MS Publisher to do this.

Using an Oven (No Thermal Binder)

Instead of using a Thermal Binder, use the oven. Instructions are the same, but the oven should be heated to 120 degrees C. Place a plate on top of the book to press the pages together, if needed, and make sure the cover’s spine is pressed against the glue strip and pages. The binder machine only heats the spine; it would be possible to make a press (such as two wood pieces of wood with a tightening bolt on each side) and heat the whole thing in the oven. Cook the book for 5-10 minutes, remove from the oven and cool for at least 10 minutes.

Finishing the Book

Check the book for any errors. Make sure the spine is legible. One or two strips of cloth mending tape (two sided) across the spine can be used to add a printed spine or to secure a two-page cover.

Larger Books

You can get 400 pages from 100 paper sheets pages folded to 200 sheet pages. For some projects, 200 sheets (max of thermal binder) isn’t enough. If using just the oven, of course, not a problem.

  1. If using a thermal binder, divide the printed and folded pages into two equal parts, and prepare a glue strip for each.
  2. Create a cover, remembering to allow for a wider binding (measure your total page height).
  3. For each page set, wrap the pages with wax paper (baking paper) as though it were the cover.
  4. Bind both sets with oven or thermal binder, wrapped in wax paper..
  5. Wait 10 minutes for cooling and remove the wax paper. It should come off effortlessly.
  6. Stack the two page sets and wrap the book in the cover, making sure there is good contact with the cover spine area.
  7. Heat the oven to 120 degrees C. Place the book on an oven sheet, and put a plate (or other item) on top of it, pressing down on the spine. Place the book in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes.
  8. Remove the finished book with oven mitts or a towel. You can press the book spine together to compress the pages and press the pages toward the spine to seal the binding, as needed.
  9. Trim the cover.

Book Collection So Far

(Current count is 17, in languages, history, programming, artificial intelligence, philosophy, and software manuals.)


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