Daily Illuminator

November 14, 2010: In A Bind

One of my (many) hobbies is self-binding books. I don't do anything terribly fancy mostly what can be done at the local copy shop, with a few extras but I can do them at home, in short runs if I want to. This has come in handy as the e23 Manager, since I have lots of electronic gaming files from e23 that I love having paper copies of.

So what equipment is most useful for the home bookmaker? This isn't an exhaustive list, but more of a "starter set." Here, then, is my list of must-haves.

  • A laser printer. I bought my first laser printer 10 years ago, and I loved the thing to death. I don't think I could ever go back to inkjet (or worse!). But even better than a regular laser printer is . . .
  • A duplex laser printer. This is near-essential if you're making your own books with any regularity. (A duplex printer prints on both sides of the paper without needing to swap sheets around to print on the back.) You can get by without this functionality by turning sheets over and doing careful calculations (or having software that tells you what to do). However, if you go this route, I strongly suggest you do small batches of pages for example, printing a 128-page book 16 pages at a time. This prevents the heartbreak when you learn that a paper jam or misfeed in the middle of the book means that all your pages are one page off . . . resulting in a big waste of paper and toner/ink.
  • A color laser printer. Yeah, they're still expensive, but they're getting less so all the time. Again, this is another necessity if you have lots of color printing to do.
  • A comb binder. This is how I bind most of my books. Comb binding works very well, for the most part, and then every book is "lay flat."
  • A saddle stitcher. This is a funny stapler with a long arm that lets you staple in the middle of a book which is exactly how most adventures and smaller supplements are bound in the real world!

I have a bunch of other tricks, but these'll get you started for a lot of projects.

As far as getting all this stuff, the biggest tip I can offer is to shop garage sales and (especially) office or library sales. I bought my duplex laser printer for $5 at a garage sale three years ago. At a library sale last year, I picked up the color laser printer for $10 (talked down from $20) and an industrial comb binder for $20. All these items are durable and high-quality, and might outlive me. (If buying a used printer, remember that most printers come with self-test functions usually activated by holding down a button for several seconds. Each used printer I've purchased I was able to plug into a nearby outlet and test to make sure it worked before I lugged it home . . . which was convenient with the color laser printer, since it probably weighs 100 pounds.)

Remember, too, that you don't need to buy everything all at once. If you forgo the comb binder to start with, you can still go to the local copy shop with pages you printed yourself; they can comb-bind them for only a few bucks.

So if you're bemoaning the fact that your favorite e23 supplement hasn't had a print version yet, why not take matters into your own hands? As a bonus, you'll have a copy you won't be afraid to make notes in or take into a bath.

-- Steven Marsh


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