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Electronic Texts
Self Publishing Options

    Print-Ready PDF     Time to Upgrade?     Lowering Printing Costs     Binding Options

Print-Ready Format

For those who would like to print copies of their own books, Heritage History provides print-ready pdf files that have been carefully formatted to attractively reproduce our classical history books on any home or office printer.

Our landscape, two-column format was designed to appear to the reader in a form similar to an open 5 x 8" paperback book. We selected this format because when open flat, it has the look and feel of a traditional printed book, but in some ways it is even more practical. A Heritage book that is spiral, comb, or ring-bound can be opened 360 degrees and stored flat. As long as stiff front and backing are used when binding, self-published books are just as sturdy as traditional paperbacks and are less likely to bend out of shape. There is no need to dog-ear them since they can simply be left open at the location one is reading, and they are just as portable as a regular paperback.

While e-Readers can be used to read copyrighted material, the option of printing your own books is possible only for books—such as those in the Heritage History library—that are in the public domain. Copyright laws prohibit reproducing protected materials, even for personal use, so self-publishing is not a frequently discussed option. However, it is inexpensive and appropriate for homeschooling families, professional educators, or anyone who appreciates non-fiction and literature classics.

The logistics of self-publishing your own books—that is, printing an efficiently formatted copy of an electronic book on a home printer and binding it yourself—is extremely simple. The difficulty is not in the procedure itself, but rather in making sure you are working with the right equipment. Heritage print-ready books can be reproduced on any printer, but the practical cost can range from about half a cent to 4 cents per page, and the cost of binding from about a dollar to four dollars per book.

In order to help Heritage users decide whether or not printing their own books is practical, the next few sections discuss the advantages of high performance printers, provide tips for savings on ink purchases, and present binding options. The key to practical, low-cost home publishing is in securing the right equipment. Once an initial investment is made, self-publishing can be fast, easy, and very inexpensive.

Time to Upgrade to a Laser Printer?

Many people who use the Heritage History website or Compact Libraries would like to self-publish some of their favorite books, but hesitate to do so because their printers are too slow and inefficient for large printing jobs.

If your printer is not up to the task of printing fifty to sixty pages of text quickly and inexpensively, it may be time for an upgrade. As recently as two years ago, a typical office-quality laser printer cost over $300, but today, high-yield printers can be purchased for only a little over $100. Laser printers will never be as inexpensive as the simplest desk-top models, but for anyone who prints more than a few dozen pages a month, they will certainly be more economical in the long run.

There are two types of home-printers: Ink jet, and laser printers. For a long time, ink jet printers have dominated the home-market because of their very low purchase cost. Laser printers, on the other hand, have traditionally been the printer of choice for office applications, since they are much faster and have far lower operating costs. But the distinct qualities that separate the two technologies are now starting to blur. Low-end laser printers have dropped considerably in price and the performance of some high-end ink jets have improved considerably. It is therefore worthwhile to look more closely at current printer option to see if it makes sense to upgrade.

Ink jet printers can be inexpensive to purchase, but they sometimes cost as much as 3 to 4 cents per page to operate. It is not uncommon for a family to spend more in ink costs during a year than they spent for the printer in the first place. Ink-jets always have small ink cartridges, since the cartridges must be mounted on a rod and move across the page to deposit individual drops. The advantages of ink-jets are that they are small, inexpensive to purchase, and they print in color as well as black and white. The disadvantages are that most ink jet printers are slow, their ink cartridges last for only a few hundred pages, and the per-page ink costs are relatively high.

Laser printers work in an entirely different way. Instead of relying on a printing mechanism that slides back and forth, laser printers deposit ink on the entire width of the paper all at once. They are therefore usually faster than ink jets—printing speeds are usually above 30 ppm. More importantly, they use large, high-volume ink cartridges that typically print 3000 to 6000 pages before needing to be refilled. The advantages of laser printers are high speed and low operating cost. Color laser printers do exist, but they are prohibitively expensive for general home use.

In the last few years the differences in performance between high end ink jets and low end lasers have become less stark, so some newer ink jets may be up to the task of high volume printing. In general, however, laser printers are faster and more economical than ink jets. But ink jets still have the advantage in terms of color printing, so even if you do upgrade to a laser printer for black and white printing, you may want to keep your ink jet for color prints.

Options Laser printers vary in terms of design, speed and yield (pages per cartridge), but there are not as many complicated options as there are for ink jet printers. The printing mechanism for laser printers is so much larger than for ink-jets that most "printer/copier" or "all-in-one" units use ink-jet rather than laser technology. The following laser printer options, however, are worthy of note. They will tend to increase the purchase price, but may be worth the extra cost.

Auto-Duplex: Auto-duplex provides for the ability to do automatic two-sided copying. The duplex feature does slow down the printing process considerably (~6 ppm. instead of ~30 ppm.), but it saves on paper and binding costs over time. It has only been available on low-end laser printers for a few years, but it saves a considerable amount of paper, makes binding easier, and produces very attractive books.

Network Ready: The Network ready feature allows the printer to be mounted in a way that it can be accessed from any computer on a local network, rather than being tied to one particular computer. If you do all your printing from a single computer, you do not need this feature, but if you have a home network with multiple computers, it may be worth the extra cost.

In the following table, the printers and ink-cartridges are listed together. The yield of the ink cartridge is also given. Divide the yield by the cartridge price to calculate the per-page printing cost. Also, the cartridge prices listed are for name brand cartridges. Refills or third-party ink suppliers may off significantly lower prices.

If you decide to buy a laser printer, you will find some variation in performance, yield (size of ink cartridge), and network connectivity but not many laser printers have complicated auxiliary features or add-ons.

 No Network
Yield = 8000 pages  Duplex
 Network Ready
Yield= 8000 pages

Lowering Printing Costs

It is important to understand that the per-page cost of home publishing depends more on the cost of ink cartridges than it does on the purchase price of the printer. The problem is that the per-page cost of ink cartridges is often not taken into consideration at the time printers are first purchased. It would be convenient if venders would publish this information so consumers could compare printers on a one-for-one basis, but they make more money from ignorant customers than informed ones. It is up to you, therefore, to understand the basics of ink cartridge pricing before purchasing a new printer.

Relative size of typical laser printer cartridges
vs. ink jet cartridges

The following is a list of things you should know about ink cartridges whether or not you decide to purchase a new laser printer. One could argue that minimizing ink costs is even more important with an ink-jet than a laser printer because the operating cost of an ink jet is usually significantly higher.

  • More often than not, you will save more money by focusing on cartridge costs than you will by trying to minimize your purchase cost. When considering a particular printer, make a note of the cartridge number and research ink costs before you make a purchase.
  • The business model for many printer companies is to sell printers cheaply—even below cost—in hopes of making high profits on custom ink cartridges. It is no accident that printer costs are low relative to cartridge costs.
  • A large third-party ink-cartridge market exists because of the inflated list price of the manufacturer's cartridges. The discount price of refilled ink-cartridges is often less than half the manufacturer's list price.
  • Well established printers with large installed bases have the cheapest ink prices. Newly released printers fequently have the highest ink costs. The cost of most refillable ink cartridges will decline over time.

To find the real cost-per-page of an established printer model, simply type the cartridge number into Google, and you will likely see about half-a-dozen ink-suppliers willing to sell the ink-cartridge for a fraction of the manufacturer's suggestion retail price. The third-party price of ink cartridges divided by the yield of the cartridge (the number of pages can print) determines the per-page cost of operation.

Binding Options

There are four ways to bind self-published books.

From top to bottom: Comb binding, spiral binding,
thermal binding, ring binding

Ring Binding—The cheapest and easiest method of binding one's own books is to stick with fail-safe three-ring binding. Almost every home has a three-hole punch available, and to make the job even easier, pre-punched three-hole paper is available. Books printed on three-hole-punched paper can be bound in a small three ring notebook, in a report folder, or with a simple, reusable set of binding rings. We favor the use of binding rings because they are inexpensive and it is very convenient to be able to open the book up 360 degrees.

The major advantage of three-ring binding is that it is simple and inexpensive. The only disadvantage relative to spiral or comb bound books is that ring-bound books are not quite as sturdy as other binding options. Stiff front and back covers are essential when ring binding, but even with high quality covers, a typical 100 sheet book can be printed and bound for less than $2.00.

Comb Binding—A simple comb binder can be purchased for less than $60, and binding supplies are inexpensive and widely available. Comb-binding can be done at home with attractive results. If one punches one's own paper, the per-book cost of comb-binding is just as inexpensive as ring binding. However, only 8 to 10 pages can be punched at a time, so for some people, the convenience of pre-punched comb-binding paper (which costs about 2x that of regular paper) may be worth the cost.

Whether one punches one's own holes or uses pre-punched paper, a comb-binder is necessary to hold open the comb while the punched paper is inserted. The finished product is attractive and compact. The total cost of printing and binding a comb-bound 100-sheet book will be less than $3.00, even if pre-punched paper is used.

Spiral binding—Professional spiral binding is more expensive than either comb or ring binding because in most cases, one must rely on a print-shop. Spiral binding equipment is considerably more expensive than comb-binding, and is out of the realm of possibility for most home-publishers. The typical cost for professionally spiral binding a book, assuming you print the book yourself, will likely be between $2 and $4 dollars. Add at least a dollar for home-printing costs and the total outlay for a professionally bound spiral bound book is between $3.50 and $5.00.

On the positive side, spiral binding is probably the most attractive method of binding self-published books. Spiral bound books can be opened up 360 degrees and are pleasing to read and handle. They can be bound along either the long or short side of the page, and are sturdier than either ring-bound or comb-bound books.

If you intend to spiral bind more than a few books, we recommend purchasing a supply of clear-front covers and stiff board backing so that you don't pay the marked-up price when you have your book professionally bound. These materials are relatively inexpensive in packets of 20 or more, but can add dollars to the cost of publishing if they are purchased individually.

Another way to save money if you choose to spiral bind books is to combine several smaller books and bind them together. Many of our books, particularly those intended for young and intermediate readers, are only 40 to 80 sheets, and two or more such books could easily be bound together.

Thermal Binding—Thermal binding is becoming cheaper and more readily available. Also known as "cover-binding" or "perfect-binding," this is the same method used to bind regular paper-back books. It is a long established method of binding, but only in the last few years has single-volume, desktop thermal binding become commonplace. Most office-services stores now provide this option for only a slightly greater cost than spiral binding.

Thermal binding requires the purchase of a pre-made cover, which typically costs $1-3 and includes an adhesive strip. The printer binds your book by placing your sheets of paper in the center of the strip and heating the adhesive while applying pressure.

A desktop thermal binder costs little more than a comb binder, but the great difficulty with home-based thermal binding is that each book requires its own cover, and thermal-binding covers are not one-size-fits-all. In other words, one would have to purchase a range of covers in various sizes in order to print books of differing lengths.

One advantage to thermal binding is that it does not require pre-punched paper. Another is that it produces books with a familiar look and feel. One disadvantage of thermal binding is that it has a relatively high per book cost unless the binding covers are bought in bulk. Another disadvantage is that, unlike the other binding options discussed here, it does not allow the book to be open 360 degrees. Given that books published in our landscape 2 column format are double the width of a regular paperback, it is convenient to be able to fold them at the binding.

In spite of these problems we expect the affordability and ease of use of thermal binding to increase in the future, and we will consider producing other print-ready formats that work better with thermal binders.

No matter what binding method you choose, we strongly recommend purchasing clear front covers and hard backings. If purchased in bulk they only add 40 to 80 cents to the cost of a book and they make the final product more durable and attractive. If durability is really an issue, printing the entire book on slightly heavier than usual bond paper will produce a very sturdy product.

In order to support home publishers Heritage History provides links to binding supplies, as well as laser printers at the Heritage Store Front. See our website at www.heritage-history.com for more details.

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