If you are going to print and bind your own book, the first thing you need to do is prepare and format the text of your book. You are also welcome to use one of the books I have already formatted that are ready to go.
If you decide to format your own book to bind it yourself, there are several things to consider.
Copyright and Sources
The first, of course, is copyright. You should only be printing text that you haver permission to print, either because you wrote it yourself or because it is out of copyright in your country. Some things are out of copyright, but someone else spent time making it available for use and they retain some copyright over that particular version of it. In some cases you are still able to print it for personal use. It is worth taking a little care to make sure that you don’t print something that you do not have a legal right to print.
Text vs PDF
Another thing to consider is what is available to you. Many books are available free of copyright in an editable text version on Project Gutenberg. These are books that are out of copyright that volunteers have carefully copied of us all to use freely. Other books are available only in un-editable PDF versions from sources like the Internet Archive. I believe these are free of copyright, but you should confirm for yourself.
My favourite source for text is Project Gutenberg. I copy the HTML version of the text from Project Gutenberg into Word or another word processor and format it exactly as I would like.
For books that are only available as PDFs, you can make some small adjustments (like the number of pages, order of the pages, etc.) but there are fewer changes you can make. Of course, someone else has already carefully formatted these for printing. If you spend a little time, you can make quite a nice book from these sources. One little hint: make sure that left pages are on the left side and right pages on the right side in your finished product, or your page numbers could look strange!
What are Signatures?
Your book will be made up of several signatures, or little booklets. Each booklet is made up of of 3 to 6 pieces of paper. Each sheet of paper has four pages of the book on it. I like to ensure that each signature in my book has the same number of pages (although this isn’t perhaps strictly necessary). To do this, my book must be a multiple of both 4 and a multiple of the number of sheets of paper in each signature. This limits the possible number of pages in a book.
General Book Layout
The very first page and the very last of your book are ideally blank, as you glue them in part to the cover.
Remember which pages of your book will be facing each other in your finished product. Page 1 will be on its own, and pages 2 and 3 will face each other. Then pages 4 and 5 are another pair. When I am working on my book layout in Word, I add an extra blank page at the beginning of my book when I shrink the view to see two pages at a time, those two pages are ones that will be next to each other in my finished book.
You may want to look at a real book to look for some common conventions that make books easier to read. There aren’t universal rules that apply to all books, but you should think about them. Where do the page numbers go? Where do the titles go? Do you want headers with chapter names or the book title? Do you want every chapter to start on a right page? You can do many of these things in Word and other word processors.
I used a program called Create Booklet purchased from the App Store on my Mac for about $10. When I have prepared my document as desired in Word, I can then print and choose “Open in Create Booklet” in the bottom left corner (where it normally says PDF). This program offers the option to “split into” booklets. Preview the book to make sure you are happy with it. Then you can export it to save it as a PDF to share with others, or print it straight from Create Booklet.
Books Formatted for Binding
I have prepared a few books, formatted and divided into signatures (and plan to create more in the future). Many of them I specifically formatted by me for printing, although some have been made from resources that I could only find as PDFs. As far as I know, all the book contents are in the public domain. Please feel free to download and print the books I have formatted for binding for your own use.
When you are ready to bind your book, go on to the next step, printing your book.
Steps to Binding Your Own Book:
Step 2: Print your Text
Step 3: Sew your Text Block
Step 4: Make and Attach the Cover