by Suw on March 19, 2010

Making a blank booklet is one thing. Binding a book full of text and pictures and stuff is definitely the other, mainly because you need to get all your pages in the right order. Unfortunately, the right order is not 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…

If you think about an 8 page booklet, made of two sheets of paper each with four pages on, the 1st page (the front cover) is on the same sheet as the 8th page (the back cover). On the other side of that sheet you’ll have pages 2 and 7; the second sheet will be 6 and 3, then 4 and 5 (the centre spread).

Although it’s really not that complicated this ‘bookletisation’ – more properly called imposition – can get a bit mind-bending if you’re doing a book that’s made up of lots of smaller booklets – more properly called signatures. So let’s say you have a 64 page book, and you’re going to bind it using 4 signatures of 16 pages printed on 4 sheets of paper (each with 4 pages) that will be folded in half and sewn in the middle. That means that your page order starts:

16 – 1
2 – 15
14 – 3
4 – 13
12 – 5
6 – 11
10 – 7
8 – 9
32 – 17
18 – 31
30 – 19
20 – 29 etc.

The pattern is relatively straightforward, but you wouldn’t want to be laying it out by hand! Instead there’s imposition software which takes a PDF ordered normally and then shuffles it all about depending on how many sheets of paper you have in each signature.

Searching the internet for something that works for Mac, I came across this great review of the three main ones: BookLightning, Cheap Impostor and CocoaBooklet. After looking at all three, I decided to go with Cheap Impostor, as it is shareware, which means that I can play with it immediately and pay for it when I know I’m actually going to use it properly. So far, it does the trick perfectly.

I took the most recent version of Book of Hay and ran it through, printing it out on A5 sheets to fold into an A6 booklet. It’s kind of amazing to see your work in proper book form, rather than as one long document on screen. It really changes your relationship to it. It is no longer just a long stream of words, it’s actually broken up in to proper pages and, as you read it, it behaves like a proper book. I can see this being very useful in the writing process, as it will give me a better sense of what the final thing will read like.

I can’t wait to get Argleton, my current short story effort, finished now so that I can get the first draft bound up into a pamphlet. I’m trying to think about what sort of binding would be best for it, what would match the contents most accurately. It’s a whole new way of thinking about writing and it’s bringing back some of the excitement that has been missing over the last few months.

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