How To Make A Book

Created for Toegepast 21, how to make a book investigates the mechanics of DIY and open-source systems, applied on the analog medium of print. It is an example of how a maker mentality opens possibilities for breaking down and re-exploring traditional and ingrained ways of doing things.

Although printing techniques have thoroughly evolved throughout centuries, the core of the process still remains the same. A printer takes an empty flat sheet of paper, and adds content to this sheet. Repeating this process several times leads to a stack of paper, which can then be glued or bound into a book. This project, however, doesn't take a sheet of paper, but an existing book as the source material for a new or derived publication by interpreting, removing and adding to the original content.

The core of the project is a printer, built around an XY Plotter (a cheap DIY-kit by Makeblock), modified so it can edit books. A wooden frame fits the plotter on top of an adjustable platform, allowing books and magazines of all sizes to be leveled with the plotting surface. A DSLR camera and two fluorescent tube lamps on top of the construction function as a ghetto, yet high-resolution, scanner for the book's pages. The camera and the plotter connect to a computer and allow the page to be digitalized, processed and altered. By in turn sending commands from the computer to the plotter, the changes can be added back to the physical book.

The printer is controlled by a computer running a Python script which can detect whitespace, images, and text on a scanned page, and uses OCR to "read" the page. The content of a page can be linked to previous pages or online resources and the plotter itself features a pen holder and a laser to add to and/or remove parts of the book's content.

So far the printer has been used to publish a series of four publications both exploring alternative ways of printing and publishing, as well as highlighting and incorporating aspects from DIY and open-source culture.

See the plotter in action on Vimeo.