You know those ideas that are so obvious you can’t believe you never thought of them? That’s how it was when I heard someone speculate (when talking about electronic vs. paper) that you could probably turn an out-of-copyright digital book back into a paper book by using a book-printing service.
So – I’m thinking – I can take an out-of-copyright PDF book that’s on my laptop, one that I use all the time, and have a brand-new, paperback book made for maybe $15? OK, this could work.
I settled on volume one of Savage’s A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England for my test. I logged into Lulu.com and uploaded the PDF. Well, that didn’t work. Lulu.com had several objections to make (by way of red error messages): the page sizes weren’t uniform, and I needed to embed the fonts. Embed the fonts? That’s a mind boggling thought for something that was typeset 152 years ago. I think those fonts are gone!
I googled, and I tried a few things. What many people do is grab the text only and reformat the whole thing into their own new document, with their own fonts. I had no interest in introducing errors (and work) that way, and I would like to keep any pictures and formatting in place. One other thing that I did try was to re-size all pages to a (larger) standard size – for instance, placing all pages onto an 8-1/5 x 11 size. For some reason, lulu.com wasn’t accepting that the pages were now the same size. So I thought a bit, tried some more things, and I did, in the end, make it work.
Please keep in mind that I am printing a personal copy of an out-of-copyright work, for my own use and not for re-sale. In general, many American works printed before 1923 fall into this category.
So here are the steps that DID work:
- You must have the full version of Acrobat (not just the Reader). I happen to have that on my home computer because I use it a lot.
- You must have the PDF book on your computer.
- I opened the PDF book in Acrobat:
- The first pages, and last pages, which depicted the brown cover, seemed to be a different size, so I deleted them. You can see the size of each page by hovering your mouse near the bottom of the page until a box opens up showing the dimensions. I learned that if the size of the pdf is slightly smaller that the size of the finished book that you select in Lulu.com, it may work, but to be safe, decide on a finish size acceptable to Lulu.com FIRST, resize the pfd at this point to that exact size, and proceed with the next steps. You re-size a pdf by choosing Document–>Crop Pages–>Change Page Size to–>Custom (be sure to choose Page Range=All).
- Then I used “Save As” to save the book as a TIFF file. Giving this command results in each page becoming a separate TIFF file, neatly lined up, in order, in the folder where you had the original PDF (it’s really best to put that pdf in its own folder before doing Save As). This takes several minutes.
- Next, you recombine those files using File–>Combine–>Merge Files into a Single PDF. This opens up a window that asks you to grab your pages and drop them in. You should keep them in order (may want to sort the set of pages in its folder first, using Arrange By -> Name).
- In the bottom corner there is a “File Size” selector – I used the largest size. Click “Combine Files”. It will take a few minutes.
- The resulting new PDF has lost some clarity, but it’s not too bad. If you hate the level of clarity, you may need to stop at this point and just forget it. I find some are better, some worse.
- The resulting PDF is called “Binder1” – you should rename it. Around this time, I worried that I still needed to have the “embed fonts” option turned on (even though there really were no fonts at this point, only pictures) but I need not have worried, that setting was already on in my Acrobat software. I also deleted those hundreds of single-page documents from my computer.
- Log into Lulu.com or another book-printing service, upload the new PDF, create a cover, check everything carefully, and order. If you have not exactly matched the page size, Lulu.com will give one pink warning that the page size doesn’t exactly match the trim size of book but ignoring that should be ok – you just risk that the print will drift to one side of the paper instead of staying in the middle. I printed in the 6 x 9″ size. With an email discount coupon I had, and shipping, the 532 page book came to $16.10.
The book arrived today:
This was very little work, once I figured it out. The type is a little grainy but better than what I pictured as a PDF, above. For a reference book that you won’t be reading cover-to-cover, it’s nice to have. If I owned InDesign I could probably do a better job.
The link to this post is: http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2012/02/08/how-to-print-your-own-out-of-copyright-book/