Category Archives: P.O.D. Books

Information on formatting files to generate print-ready PDFs.

DIY Writer-Bookbinder

Real do-it-yourselfers have a craving for knowledge about how things work. We aren’t satisfied accepting things “off the shelf”. We have to take them apart to see what makes them tick, and in many cases we wind up modifying or even building a better version using the knowledge gained. Once the basic principles have been learned, the true DIYer will look for ways to make it faster, cheaper, more appealing or whatever. The satisfaction gained from these journeys nourishes the creative fires and feeds the soul of these DIY creatures.

Photo of Michael Faris sitting in chair

Why not do it yourself?

A printer for more than forty years and a writer for the past twenty-five, I have always looked for ways to print and bind some of my work… in small quantities.

The digital press opened the door, at least to the printing part. Finally –an affordable way to print books. I could even print a single book if I wanted. Digital printing is the writer’s dream come true. The work comes off the press already collated and in order, just like a real book! Zowie! The only thing missing to make it actually be a book is the binding part, something I felt could do for myself.

After all, what could be so difficult about gluing a stack of paper, right?

My first perfectbinding effort using Goop silicone adhesive.

So I tried it, using some scrap paper and some silicone rubber. I placed the stack between two boards, put the sandwich in a vise and smeared some Goop on the bind edge and it worked! I was able to wrap a pretty respectable cover around it in a separate operation.

I was elated! My home-grown process worked so well that I bound my first run of my first novel that way. The process took me the most part of a day to bind five books, but they came out perfect! I had perfected perfectbinding in my garage!

Later, I learned to score the edges and scrub the glue down into the book block to penetrate and form a better bond. Later still, I bought a table top hot-glue binder that bound the cover to the edges in a single operation. However, I have to say that the hot glue holds no better than the silicone rubber did.

So now I could make my own paperbacks. Big deal!

Perfect results!


Once I got over how cool it was, I decided to try a hard cover version as it seemed to be just an extension of skills I already had developed with my paperbacks. I was sure I could do it.

And so began an adventure!

My first few efforts were laughable. They were uneven. Some of them wouldn’t stay closed, and most of them wouldn’t lie open without suffering damage to the binding. But I didn’t lose heart. I was determined to find a way to use modern materials and adhesives to produce a nice looking and durable book. I tried this and that idea, trying to emulate the common hardcover book with the tools and knowledge I had at my disposal.

You see I was tired of the look of production books, the mass-produced paperbacks and bookstore hardbacks. But by trying to ignore the old ways, I missed all the important things that traditional bookbinding could teach me! Duh!

So I started taking old books apart to see how they were constructed. I bought a few manuals on book binding and book repair and I read all the articles and watched all the video tutorials on traditional bookbinding. Then I began to see the process in a different light.

There are two major categories or methods to bind pages: flat sheets or folded signatures.

Perfectbinding flat sheets by the application of various adhesives is the most common (and cheapest) way to bind books. This binding method lends itself very well to digital printing, as there is virtually no complicated bindery tasks like folding and stitching required. Hot glue does a respectable job on uncoated paper. Additionally, holes can be punched or drilled near the bind edge for the purpose of stitching coated or glossy papers. The result of gluing and stitching is a very sturdy binding. However, stitching from the side robs a lot of margin from the gutter or bind side. Allowances in the book layout must be made for this. Also, the paper grain should run parallel to the spine to favor the book construction.

Punching Cradle

Folded signatures are stitched in any number of ways before attaching the pages to a flexible cloth backing. This is a much more durable way to bind books, but it is more time-consuming and uses more materials, because this method generally involves a hard cover or casebinding.

But the most important lessons were in the hands-on experience I got while attempting to follow the traditional methods to bind my work. I was surprised at how much easier it was to use tried and true materials… especially adhesives.

Beforehand I was convinced that modern non-water based materials were stronger and easier to use. I thought it would be more efficient to use transfer adhesives and hot glue to produce my books. But I was dumbfounded to learn how wrong I was! Those materials are more expensive and far less forgiving than using water-based liquid glues.

Home made stitching loom for Coptic stitching.

With practice, I learned how to judge how thick and wet the glue should be, how to apply it and how long I can work it before it sets up.  I learned which surface to apply it to and how to rub out all the bubbles and burnish paper to board. I have to say I am sold on PVA, a relatively modern water based glue that lends itself to traditional (and modern) bookbinding methods.

One thing I was able to do was to make many of my own tools and equipment, a truly satisfying thing that fed my inner desires to create. The more conscious I became of exactly what I was trying to create, the more comfortable and capable I felt about making it happen. I began to look at the world differently. I saw bookbinding tools in everyday items — spatulas, putty knives, tweezers, carving knives, knitting needles. I saw bookcloth in fabric prints, batiks, old blue jeans, vinyls for sign making , placemats, old maps.

I have now lost count of how many books I have bound for myself and others. But I feel like my work has improved considerably over the years. Though I built myself a couple of book looms to aid in stitching signatures, I am just as comfortable stitching a book in my lap… and stitching is a trip!

So many ways to do it! I experimented with several stitching patterns until I found a couple that suit my style and I have worked to refine my stitches so they are now looking uniform and just tight enough to hold things together.


Closeup of Coptic stitches

I will often experiment with new ideas using scrap or discarded materials. Once I get the method down, I progress to quality materials. In servicing my customers, my philosophy is to use the best  I can afford, as cheap materials are not worthy of my time.

Traditionally bound 160 page embossed casebound journal

I will be posting some more information on how writers can bind  their own books in a variety of unique and interesting ways, including some of my experiments in hot foil tooling and blind embossing.

Another journal - 320 pages. These covers are bonded leather bookcloth.

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Book Authors Drop Old Paradigms and Pick Up New Tools

No question about it, computer technology has radically changed the way authors develop their books.Photo of Michael Faris

The old publishing paradigm presented some formidable hurdles for an author. Aside from writing the book, the remaining task of formatting and otherwise readying a manuscript for printing and subsequent publishing used to be a daunting and expensive process..

In the past authors inspected galley proofs from the typesetter for errors and typos. Once they were satisfied their copy was correct, they waited (sometimes for weeks) for the book printer to generate proofs in the form of a blueline. Photographs and pictures needed to be rendered by a completely different process that involved color separations and halftoning. Proofs were made from the same films intended for platemaking.

All in all, the process was painstakingly slow and unforgiving. Visualizing the final outcome took some experience and imagination. All the parts had to be wrestled into place with careful considerations about the way everything fit. Resizing or reworking any of the elements involved more time and expense, making the process tedious and pushing actual publication dates out further.

Authors had to rely on the services of graphic arts specialists in order to get professional results. Typesetters, color separators, strippers and proofers all contributed to the process. All these methods and procedures jacked up the cost of production, not to mention the cost of additional materials consumed in the prep stages.

Not only was the author forced to pay for these services (in advance), but to make matters worse he usually had to compromise design considerations in order to conform to the process. As if that wasn’t enough, the actual production was slow. By the time he held an actual printed book, there were months of time and thousands of dollars already invested. The icing on the cake was when additional errors were discovered on the five thousand (or more) copies, all printed and bound.

Today most of the middle operations associated with publishing have been eliminated and replaced with a new workflow designed for digital production of printed books. Now the creative and motivated author is able to visualize the final product on his desktop computer. Most WYSIWYG programs are fairly accurate in their page renditions, within the limits of what can be seen on a monitor as compared to printed page.

Now you have ultimate control over content and design. Electronic tools are available that allow you to work with pictures and graphics to format your work any way you want. Changes can be accommodated with the click of a mouse. Different versions can be set up using modifiable styles that change the appearance of the document instantly. Image quality is better than it has ever been, owing to the recent advancements in color control and imaging technology.

Perhaps best of all is that with today’s tools an author can produce a finished document, one that he has generated completely on his own, all formatted and press ready without any outside assistance whatsoever. In some instances, he can submit a file for printing and get it back in his hands —the same day! Not only that, but this first proof is exactly what the finished product will look like —the paper, the image quality, the page order and positioning —in short it is just like the finished product will be in production, because the proofing process is the same as the production process.

This opens up vast opportunities for authors. Now there is an economical way to produce material that can be marketed in small quantities and then revised and re-issued. These test cycles make it easy to improve the effectiveness of a document and help to tailor it for a specific purpose. Without this ability, many good ideas are abandoned because of the expense of adequate testing.

The new tools are rapidly evolving, offering better ways to communicate. Small quantities of quality printed books can now be created on demand by just about anyone.

So what’s next? The writing’s on the wall… er monitor. The industry has taken great steps to streamline, economize and otherwise develop systems to produce books with less impact on the environment. All of this research and investment in machines and technology to print on paper will continue to evolve as the old school dies out. In its place will be the children of the future. These people will not remember paper-based books because all of their interests and needs will be delivered electronically. The information is too timely, too fleeting to be recorded in print media. Storing printed books will not be practical. Traditional books will become dinosaurs of the past.

But complete control over content and appearance will likely remain in the hands of the creator. Imaginative authors will be able to add additional media (videos and sound clips) to the electronic versions of their work. They will be able to deliver content targeted at specific profile characteristics in small focused quantities. Building, modifying and enhancing archived data will continue to get easier as more software tools become available.

On-demand printing on paper is clearly a temporary niche in publishing. Its features pale compared to those offered by completely electronic media. It will certainly fade into the background as people gradually change the way they acquire and absorb information. It is only a short run to the next level. The real challenge, more than ever will be to be heard in this growing mass of confusion. Where will you fit in?

Michael Faris

About Time Publishing

Do It Yourself Hardcover Bookbinding

photo of Michael Faris

Michael Faris - About Time Publishing

The first time I tried to bind my own hardcover book was after I had written three novels. I wanted a very special edition to give to my friends and family. So I started looking at hardcovers to try to decipher their anatomy. I started dissecting garage sale books. Any old books. They all held secrets as to their construction.

I went online and even purchased a few handbooks on the subject. It didn’t seem too difficult. There was loads of information out there, YouTube tutorials and so forth. Supplies could be purchased at the UO Duckstore. It seemed easy, and it was! All it really takes is careful planning, patience and imagination to make very unique custom hardcovers that will rival the production line models.

Understanding the mechanics of the hardcover is important. Besides the book block, (which is basically perfectbound using a short ‘saddle’ instead of a wrapped cover), you will need Daveyboard, some heavy weight paper, transfer adhesive or permanent spray-mount, and a substrate to act as the wrapper. The wrapper can be almost anything from cotton prints to wallpaper, to grandma’s apron… in short, anything that is thin and flexible.  I chose Navy-colored muslin from the fabric store for my first project.

Hardcover books have several components, the most obvious being the front and back and the spine. These elements overhang the book block by a small amount. I determined that the faces should be cut to the same width as the book block and approximately 3/8″ taller. The spine width is determined by the thickness of the book block plus two thicknesses of Daveyboard. The boards are placed with a 3/8″ space between the spine and each face.

Diagram of hardcover wrapper for DIY bookbinding

Make a drawing on paper to determine sizes and position of everything. Coat the backside of the cover wrapper with adhesive and place the boards using the drawing on a light table to determine exact position. Wrap the long side first and stick it to the daveyboard. Crimp the corners before wrapping the short sides.

Diagram showing how to crimp corners for DIY hardcover bookbinding

It is important to crimp the corners after wrapping the long sides. The short sides will now fold neatly.

Diagram of finished corner for DIY bookbinding

A little practice at cutting and wrapping will yield nice, neat corners like this.

The bookblock is prepared in a similar way to making a paperback (see yesterday’s post), the exception being that there are two endsheets and a saddle of muslin or some other material instead of a paper cover. Endsheets are made by folding larger sheets of either a similar or complimentary substance paper in half. Endsheets go in front and back of the book to assist in attaching the cover. Clamp the entire sandwich between boards as before, and apply glue. Work the adhesive well into the spine, being sure that it sticks to both end sheets.

Diagram showing how to make endsheets for DIY hardcover bookbinding

Diagram showing the relationship of the endsheets to the text pages.

Before the glue sets, apply a ‘saddle’ cut to about 4″ + spine width and about the same height as the pages. Work the saddle down into the glue and let it cure. Ask your printer to trim the three sides for you, leaving the spine intact.

Diagram showing a saddle used to attach the hardcover - DIY Bookbinding.

Photo of finished bookblock with endsheets and saddle before attaching to the hardcover blank.

Finished bookblock with endsheets and saddle before attaching to the hardcover blank.

Apply adhesive to the outsides of the two endsheets and both sides of the saddle so that it will stick to the cover blank and the endsheet. Lay the cover blank out flat and carefully locate the spine of the bookblock onto the inside spine of the cover, being careful to center it.  Then, holding the bookblock upright carefully with one hand, swing the front cover up and into position. Squeeze it against the bookblock and do the same with the back. Place the entire book under pressure and allow everything to cure.

Photo of attaching bookblock to the hardcover DIY bookbinding

Attaching the bookblock to the hardcover. In this case I used transfer adhesive. After aligning the pages, the waxed backing is peeled from the endsheets. This method is simpler and requires no masking the way spray adhesives do.

Don’t be disappointed if this first effort isn’t perfect. Mine wasn’t. My next few were much better… not bad, in fact. But only after building dozens of books did I produce what I would call a professional product. It isn’t hard. Just takes practice.As you attempt to improve your craft, don’t be afraid to experiment. There are all kinds of adhesives and materials available that were either designed for or can be adapted to bookbinding. Use your imagination! Upcycling packing materials or scraps from another project is a great way to make unique books. Try your hand at rebinding old books or just scrap paper.

Next time I will talk about the different materials I have tried, together with some suggestions about other ways to improve your bookbinding craft.

Michael Faris

About Time Publishing

http://www.judeco.net

POD Books on a Digital Press

Freedom of the press has taken on a whole new perspective. Control is finally in the hands of the author. Gone are the expensive and time-consuming middle steps that used to limit the production of printed material. In its place are user-friendly tools to communicate with state-of-the-art technology designed to print on demand.

Digital presses evolved from electrostatic copiers. The technology does not require plates in the traditional sense. Instead, the image is transmitted to the imaging cylinder electronically. Each revolution builds a new image. This makes it possible to print consecutive pages in order as they come off the press. Not only do they print consecutively, but the run can also be configured to print both sides of the sheet. This is how digital books are printed.

Electronic printing is not in its infancy. It has evolved from the smeared and often dirty-looking black and white copies to the sophisticated full color quality printing we see today. Mainstream software to communicate with these new printing machines is available universally. The interface is intuitive, making the preparation of materials easy and quite flexible.

In most cases, an author can submit a complete book, consisting of consecutive pages formatted to the desired page size. The digital press operator can drop the file into standard templates that will arrange the pages on the press sheet according to the chosen binding method. Documents can be created in most word-processing programs such as MS Word, or any program that will yield a PDF, a standard of the industry. After uploading your file, many online facilities provide simple tools to help you finalize the look of your project. You can even request a single proof copy before committing to any quantity.

Many printers who use Print-on-Demand technology have finishing services, such as binding, laminating and stamping. Printers who specialize in books have auto-binders that run inline with the press. The cost of digital printing is very competitive, so it is wise to shop around and compare services. Don’t forget to figure in the cost of shipping.

I purchase the printed sheets off the digital press and bind my own books. Over the years I have written and produced several books made in this way and have found the process to be efficient and economical. I can make as few or as many as I need at a time, even produce different versions in the same press run. I can add color pages at any position, photos, charts, diagrams and anything that I can get to work in my page layouts.

I will post some information about binding your own work in the near future. It is fun and very rewarding.

Soon,

Michael Faris

About Time Publishing

From MSWord to PDF

Most authors initially create their work in a word-processing program. Word processors are specifically designed to handle large quantities of text. MSWord has a number of features that also allow writers to control the final appearance of their work. These formatting tools can be used to generate print-ready PDFs that can be sent directly to a digital press. Using these tools is not difficult, but it can be tricky. Much depends on the way you set up your document and your work habits.

The best way to become familiar with formatting tools is to try and use them. Learn to develop work habits that help you to streamline your efforts and reduce the chore of formatting to a simple click of the mouse.

Master pages are used to store information about margins and placement of headers, footers and page numbers. Separate masters for the title page,table of contents, front matter, text pages and any special layouts (dedications, certificates, photos) are set up as needed. You can store many page masters in a single document. Separate documents are needed for different page sizes. I recommend saving each new set-up to be used as a template for future projects. Give each template a descriptive name for easy reference. Copy and rename the file as you begin each new project. I always copy my master templates to CD so they cannot be altered.

Stylesheets are probably the most helpful formatting tools.Taking the time to learn how to use them will give you a big boost when it comes to laying out book pages. Attributes can be assigned to control font appearance, size, tracking, leading, space between paragraphs and more. Once a style has been created, it can be applied to select words and paragraphs up to and including the entire document in a split second. You can build different versions of styles using alternate fonts, etc. and save them to a master collection for instant formatting of new work. Stylesheets can be copied from one document to another.

Building a good library of master templates and stylesheets is a good way to reduce the effort required to begin a new project. Don’t forget to test your template by printing a few pages. The results can be immediately judged and corrective measures taken to improve the outcome. Once you have the right answers, toss all the experimental files and save the good one to your master library. This practice will help you to become more consistent and organized. Your presentations can take on a more sophisticated look with less effort.

I will be covering more specifics about preparing files for digital printing in future posts.

Michael Faris

About Time Publishing.com