RogerBW's Blog

Printing PDFs with Lulu 22 November 2019

I've recently made hardcopy books of some of my role-playing PDFs, using Lulu's print-on-demand service. Here are some tricks that might be helpful for anyone else doing the same thing.

Steve Jackson Games explicitly gives permission for owners of its PDFs to print them for personal use; not all publishers are so enlightened, but that's not a problem for this case. (I did ask all the players who wanted copies to confirm that they already owned all the material I was using.)

I wrote code to assemble a selection of PDFs into a single file to make things easier: specifically, it will extract the preferred pages from each source PDF (especially useful with issues of Pyramid that may have full-page advertisements and irrelevant articles), resize them to a single target paper size, and, where wanted, insert blank pages so that new sections start on the appropriate side of the double-page spread. (I'll share this program when it's a bit tidier.)

Lulu actually has two modes: the main site and Lulu Xpress. These have not only different front-ends, but entirely different document-parsing code; both accept PDFs, but the main site failed with an unspecified error with every PDF I sent it (even, as a test, a single file unmodified by my code) whereas Xpress had no problem. (Xpress doesn't allow you to list your book for sale, but for these I couldn't legally do that anyway.)

The slight difficulty here is that Lulu expects you to have written your document in a word-processor or similar, and thus to be able to tweak the PDF-creation options (they supply profiles for Acrobat Distiller). In this case I had no access to any files other than the PDFs and had a fairly limited range of things I could do to them – thus there's no easy way to push the page content outwards from the spine of the book.

I opted for 8.5×11", perfect-bound, glossy cover, black and white standard interior, and 60# Uncoated White paper. (Yes, Xpress all works in American; I even had to pay in dollars. Fortunately I have a credit card with zero commission for foreign currency transactions.)

Covers are more fiddly; I'm working on code to automate this process, but since one needs a single file including front and back covers and spine, I ended up taking the supplied template (which will vary for each page count), editing it in Inkscape, and returning the result in PDF.

The pair of books, 243 and 223 pages, ended up costing £14.50 to have printed and delivered to me. Quantity discounts only cut in at 30 or so.

Covers are decent.

Internal print is also good.

There's some show-through because of the thin paper (the reverse of this page has a grey box on it that comes up to the margin), but overall I'm really rather happy with this.

Tags: rpgs

  1. Posted by John Dallman at 11:22am on 22 November 2019

    Yup, I'm rather pleased with my copies.

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