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Printing Books at Home

    - RC number of pages / Estimate of printing cost - also includes optional Henty totals.
    - Printing cost calculator - works for any book and any printer
    - Printing half size books
    - About font sizes - why they don't need to be giant.
    - Benefits of using text files - and a couple possible drawbacks, with solutions.
    - Formatting text files
    - Printing tips - printers, duplexing, 2 pages per side, covers.


RC - NUMBER OF PAGES / ESTIMATE OF PRINTING COST - Click here to see an estimated cost of printing the RC (and optional Henty) materials with a laser printer. This also includes the total number of pages to print. Or you can visit the RC Page Count page and Henty Page Count page to see it broken down by book.

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PRINTING COST CALCULATOR - Click here to find out how to calculate your own printing costs. This formula will work for any printer and any book (you don't have to use RC to get this formula to work). It has two options - half size printing or full size printing.

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PRINTING HALF-SIZE BOOKS - Many of us prefer half size books. Some people worry that the fonts come out too small. But for most of the books, that's not the case. ("Little Women", "Our Soldier in the Civil War" and the science texts are exceptions. Read more about font sizes below.)

Benefits of Half Size Printing (See pictures of the inside of half-size books -- from RC or a wordprocessor.)
  • Save Money - If you are printing from RC, printing half-size will save you half the price of printing!

  • Save Space - For those of us with limited space to keep books.

  • Easier to hold - The more compact books are much easier to hold since they aren't so floppy. The floppy books would be okay if you were always going to lay the book on a desk while you read, but how many of us do that? (No one at our house, at least.)

  • Easier to read - It has long been known that narrower blocks of text are much easier to read. It's easier to go from one line to the next without losing your place. (That's why newspapers and magazines print in columns, and why books come in standardized formats.)

About Font Sizes
Remember that the RC books were scanned from normal size books to begin with. Most books are smaller than a half-sheet of paper, and definitely smaller than a full sheet. So printing them, even half-size, will generally result in a font size that is larger than that of the original book.
For children that are just learning to read, you obviously won't want anything that comes out tiny to start with. But once they have grasped reading, it should be fine to wean them off of the big print.

If you are interested, here are the font sizes of the following books when printed in half size from RC.
(Font size is equivalent to Times New Roman)

  • McGuffey's Eclectic Primer = 16 point
  • McGuffey's 1st Reader = 16 point
  • Nursery Rhymes = 20 point
  • Jolly Robin = 16 point
  • Life of George Washington, and Our Hero General U. S. Grant = 13 point
  • Bobbsey Twins = 14 point.

    Some research says that 12 point font is large enough even for 2nd graders (though they didn't research smaller, so it wasn't ruled out). According to publishers, anything 14 point or larger (in a standard font like Times New Roman) is considered "large print".
    Excepting Grant and Washington, all of the above count as "large print", even at half size.
    (You could print Washington and Grant bigger if you like. But many people are saving those books for slightly older children anyway.)
    When choosing half or full size, just use your common sense: If you'll need a magnifying glass to read it, don't print it half size. If your child can barely read, don't give them itty bitty print. If you have a capable reader, don't assume they can't handle normal sizes.

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    BENEFITS OF USING TEXT FILES (See pictures of the inside of books made from text files, before and after printing.)
    • Clean pages - The RC pages sometimes have glitches here and there, and in a few of the books the print is a bit faded and not as easy to read.

    • Font size - Choose your font size. Many of the RC books come out with fonts much larger than necessary, and have lots of wasted white space (even when printed in half size), and it just wastes toner/paper/space. A few RC books have very small fonts and it would be nice to have a bit larger font. (Little Women, for instance.) And struggling, or brand new readers may need a little bigger font at the beginning.
      (Read more about font sizes above.)
      Note: The standard mass-market paperback font is Times New Roman 11 point. If your child has reached the level where they are reading paperbacks from the store, then there shouldn't be any problem with printing in that size font.

    • Less wasted margin space - The original books were not the same dimensions as a piece of printer paper. Most of the RC books will come out with extra-large margins either on top and bottom, or the sides (usually top and bottom).

    • Cheaper Printing - because of more appropriate font and margin sizes, you save paper, toner, money, and shelf space.
      An experiment - I took 32 books from RC and compared them to the same book made from a text file.
      I compared the RC books if printed without publishers ads, and without dark pages (RC allows you to skip the "picture only" pages if you like).
      And the text files were with an 11 pt font and 1.1 line spacing, formatted with a word processor. (Those sizes were used because they're the closest match to mass-market paperbacks from the store.)
      The results? The books formatted from text files were, on average, only about 56% of the size of their RC counterparts. That'll not only save you space, but money too. (Remember this is an average and will vary from book to book.)

    • Editable - If there are any words or sections you don't feel are appropriate for your child, you can take them out. In public domain works it is legal to do that. It's nice to have the option of deciding what goes into our kids' little heads. Read more on the legal use of public domain books.

    • Many to choose from - Just go to Project Gutenberg. There are over 100,000 free books available.

    POSSIBLE DRAWBACKS OF USING TEXT FILES (And suggested solutions)

  • Plain text files don't contain pictures - Usually not a big deal, especially to all but the youngest readers. But, many of those older books didn't have pictures to begin with, (or only had one, at the beginning, like Bobbsey Twins and Tom Swift). The RC software comes with the option of skipping the pages that are pictures only. That option wouldn't be available if they thought the book's usefulness was compromised by skipping them. (Though sometimes we want the pictures just because they're fun.)
    Solution 1: Use Gutenberg's HTML version of the same book. Many of the books at Gutenberg (or elsewhere) are available in text AND HTML with pictures. (At least for those that had pictures to begin with.) Pasting pictures from the HTML version into your word processor works quite well. (If pictures are very dark you can make them smaller to save toner. The illustrations are still completely enjoyable.) Illustrated versions are marked on my RC Booklist.
    Solution 2: If you really love/need the pictures then you can just print that particular book from RC. OR you can add the pictures from RC into your word processor. (Select the page by browsing the tif files from your CD-drive, not through the RC viewing software.)

  • Occasional typos - Again, usually no big deal. From the books I've read, it's usually obvious what they meant to say, and doesn't keep you from understanding the book. Some texts are nearly perfect, while some need a bit of work.
    Weigh the costs - If you're making your own curriculum for free, it seems worth it to put up with some typos. If you're on a tight budget and need to save money on toner and paper, or you have limited shelf space, text files are a great option.
    Solution 1: Use your spell checker to find obvious flaws, and correct them. Once you have removed the Gutenberg "small print" (which you'll do anyway), it's legal to do anything you please with the text. (Or you can download books I've already formatted and done all these steps to, as well as having proofread some.)
    Solution 2: Use solution one, and go one step further to make the world a better place. Let Project Gutenberg know of the errors. They have an entire department devoted to fixing typos. Every time I format or read a text with errors, I send them on to Gutenberg.
    It can take them a few months (they're quite busy), so just use the text you already have and don't wait. At least you know the fixed version will be there for other people down the road. (And you'll feel all warm and fuzzy inside, knowing you helped someone else.) Just be sure that you're correcting the latest version before you submit corrections. It may have been corrected by someone else since you last downloaded.

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    FORMATTING TEXT FILES

    Click here to visit the Formatting Page. It has basic guidelines for book setup, as well as specific directions for formatting in MS Word, Corel WordPerfect, and Open Office.

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    PRINTING TIPS

    Printers - The first thing necessary for printing books is a laser printer. It costs about 1/3 as much as printing with an inkjet. I would recommend Pricegrabber.com for finding the best prices on printers and toner/drums. I own a Brother HL 5150-D and highly recommend it, or another Brother--they're good printers. When I bought it (early 2006), it had the best price and best operating cost of any printer I found. Of course, this can vary from time to time. (And depends on where you buy it. Online's probably your best bet.)

    Duplexing - if you get a printer that has automatic duplex, it means it will print both sides of the page for you without you having to turn it over. (This option can be turned off, for those times you want to print single sided.) The duplexing option is great for printing books.
    When you manually duplex (print all of one side, put the paper back in and print the second side), you run the risk of having the printer pull two pages through at a time. (Most printers do this at some point, even if it's not very often.) If this happens and you're not watching every page go through, it will ruin the rest of the book. (Yes, it's happened to me.)
    If an auto-duplexing printer pulls through two pages, you will ruin only 2 or 3 pages before it sorts itself out, and the rest of the book will be fine. It's much easier (and cheaper) to reprint 3 pages, than an entire book. [I've found that my Brother printer hardly ever pulls through more than one at a time. It's a big improvement over my old inkjet.]

    Printing 2 pages per side - Some printers work well printing 2 pages per side, but some don't. It depends not only on the printer, but also which program you're printing from. If you have a printer that won't do this properly, there's a great little program called FinePrint you can use. (For more info, read my FinePrint tutorial.) You can download a free version, which is fully functional. (The free version prints their logo across the bottom.) It's very easy to use. I've done more than 100 books with it and never had any problems. There's another program called Clickbooks, but it costs more, and I've heard that it sometimes has problems.
    I have a Brother printer, and was unable to properly print booklets from a wordprocessor (I have WordPerfect). And from RC it didn't work unless I set it to 300 dpi (which is okay, just a little lighter.) Since I use lots of text files and print from a wordprocessor, I decided to get FinePrint. It was well worth what I paid for it. (I got the teacher discount. E-mail them to request it -- it applies to homeschoolers, too.)

    Printing Covers - make beautiful covers using free clip art. The following are some of my favorite sites.
    Clipart ETC - educational clipart in black-and-white.
    Portrait Gallery - photos or paintings of famous figures.
    PDClipart - Public domain clipart.
    Wikimedia Commons - Public domain images (including artwork).
    Or see my Printable Books and Covers page for free covers I made.


    Find MORE PRINTING TIPS on the Tips Page or the Estimate Page. You may particularly want to see the part about how to make materials reusable.

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    BINDING METHODS - Now that you've learned all about printing, move on to the binding section.


    Go To Project Gutenberg


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