How Much Does it Cost to Make your own Book?

The first thing people ask when I suggest binding your own copy of a book as an alternative to buying books or reading them online is “How much does it cost?”

The most expensive part, by far, is the printing, which should cost only pennies per page in consumable resources (paper and toner.)

To bind your own book, you need a duplexing printer that can print on both sides of the page. I prefer a laser printer over an ink jet printer because I believe that the price per page of printing is cheaper for laser and the ink doesn’t run on a laser printed page if it gets a little damp. My duplexing laser printer cost me less than $200 a few years ago. It is a duplexing, wireless, laser printer from Brother, but it doesn’t seem to be available anymore. There are some reviews of laser printers here, if you are looking to buy. The printer is the most expensive equipment required for binding your own book.

The printing also requires consumables – the toner and the paper. For my printer, a new toner cartridge costs about $125 and, according to the specs, each cartridge prints 8000 pages. To be conservative, I’m going to say I will only get 5000 pages from a toner cartridge. That means it costs $0.025 to print one side of a piece of paper. When printing books, you will be printing on both sides of the paper, so you printing will cost $0.05  per piece of paper. (And keep in mind that each sheet of paper you print is actually 4 pages of the book, as the pages are folded in half.) The cost of printer paper is variable. If you get 500 pieces for $8, it then costs $0.016 per sheet of paper. With the nickel for toner, it then costs $0.066 per double sided page printed. Each of those pages is 4 book pages, with 2 pages of the book printed on each side. A 300 page book then uses only 75 pieces of paper (300 divided by 4), and it would cost less than $5 to print. ($4.95 with my estimates!)

To create your text block, you need some scrap paper, some nice paper for the end pages, thread, and glue. These are all things that we had at home, but will get used up eventually. The cost is relatively low for all of them, and very little of them are required. They were all materials that I already have at home.

The non-consumables include a bone folder, that costs around $10 and an awl that costs less than that. Sewing needles are very inexpensive. The last thing I use is a book press, made following the directions from Sea Lemon. It cost under $10 to make with two cutting boards from the dollar store and some bolts and butterfly (or wing) nuts from the hardware store. I already the sewing needles, and I discovered we had an awl in the tool box in the garage. I bought a bone folder and the materials for the book press, for less than $20. These materials have been used repeatedly and will be used again and again. They might not be worth it for a single book, but if you are making more than one, they are worth the expense. Sea Lemon has a video with suggested alternatives to a bone folder and a video with suggested alternatives to awls. The book press would also be used as a flower press. Of course, you could also just use heavy books!

For making the book cover, you need glue and box board and fabric or pretty paper. I used cereal for the box board. For the fabric I have used a variety of things, including scraps from other projects and purpose bought fabric from the fabric store and old clothing bought second hand at the thrift store. The cost of the cover can be nothing, or it can be very expensive, depending on what materials you choose.

I have found my self-bound books to be a very good value, costing much less than buying new, but not necessarily cheaper than buying second hand from a thrift store. The advantage over thrift store buying is that you can get the books you want now, rather than spending years searching for a book!

I hope this has helped to answer your questions about costs.

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