Project Gutenberg: Digital Library

I love making books, and I don’t mind making blank books but there is something about binding a text block that contains a story. One of my hobbies, aside from bookbinding, is writing and I have many friends who are writers themselves. As shown in a previous blog post I bound one friend’s first completed novels.

When it comes to binding books, copyright is something one must keep in mind. It’s not impossible to buy an e-book off Amazon and turn it into a Word document, to then format it and turn it into a PDF and print it off. You could turn any text you wanted into a text block to work with! But what if you wanted something that was free? And something that you didn’t have to worry about the copyright for?

Let me introduce you to Project Gutenberg!


Project Gutenberg is a volunteer effort that works to digitize and archive culture works, and, according to its founder, Michael Hart, it is here to “encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks”.  Project Gutenberg was founded in 1971 and is the oldest digital library.  It offers over 54,000 free eBooks!

It is important to note that their eBooks may be freely used in the U.S.. Their copyright has expired by U.S. copyright law. This may not be case in other countries, and they encourage you to check your country’s copyright laws.

As a bookbinder, I love this! I love that I can go in and find an e-book for free that I can print off to bind. So here is a brief introduction to the site. Above was a screenshot of the home page, below you can see their catalog. You can search by title, author, language and in categories or genres. You can also type a title in their search bar.


For this example, I’ve gone ahead and found Peter Pan. As you can see there are many options and they are sorted by popularity! 3

From here I selected Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie.


You can view Peter and Wendy online in HTML, download an EPUB file or Kindle file, as well as other options. Here is the page for Peter and Wendy, you can see the options yourself! Try clicking on the HTML option to see the online version. To turn it into a printable document I downloaded the EPUB file and in order to convert the EPUB I use Calibre.  Calibre is an e-book management program This program allows me to convert the EPUB file (or Kindle file) into DOCX, PDF and others. It’s free to download online and is a great program to keep your eBooks in. You can find the program here.


Above is a screenshot of the program. You can see here I’ve already changed the book into the formats of DOCX and PDF. In the upper menu bar, you can see an icon that says ‘Convert Books’. It’s as easy as that. Below, I’ve taken a screen shot of the conversion page and highlighted the input and output selection.


To start I turn the EPUB into a DOCX file. This is important because the formatting will need to be played with before you print it. In Word, I open the file and make sure that the text is how I want it to be laid out (for example, chapters start at the top of the page, one word isn’t left hanging alone on a page, font is readable, and add page numbers if I need to or desire too). Prior to fiddling with the formatting, I make the margins narrow and I go into page set up and select book fold. This automatically puts the text landscape and sets it up so that the page can be folded in half like a book.


Once I am satisfied with the format of the book in Word, I save it as a PDF file (to ensure it won’t lose its formatting and to use the next program). Once the book is ready it needs to be printed double-sided but it also needs to be printed so that when you fold the signatures together the pages go in the right order. If you print it off simply as is, the pages will not be in the right order when folded.

There are many programs that can do this but I am using PDF Booklet.


PDF Booklet allows you to decide how you want to shuffle the pages of your PDF so that you can print it like a book. For my own projects, because I print them myself at home I need to keep in mind that the size of my paper is your typical letter-size paper. If I play with the rows/columns options you can see that it will print may pages of the book on the same sheet, which would be great for mini books or if you had larger paper. For my projects I leave those set to 1 and 2, which prints one “page” of the book on each half of the paper. I select multiple booklets (to create multiple signatures) and you can select how many leafs you want per booklet (so how big you want each signature).


It will generate a PDF for you with the pages mixed appropriately. This image shows that the signature goes to page 20. The next signature starts on page 21. At this point, once you’ve doubled checked it and are satisfied with how it looks, you can print it!

Some bookbinders will argue that it is crucial to have paper with the grain running short, so that the grain will run top to bottom of the page. I agree! This is very important but typical A4 letter size paper has the grain running long, so if you use it to print a book the grain will be going the wrong way. I’ve seen many debates about this, professional publishers in the 1800s/1900s have grains going all sorts of directions and not all books are printed properly. I have printed books with the grain running the wrong way, but I have made sure that the end pages that get pasted down have the grain running the right away, so that they won’t warp the cover board. I like to use: Southworth® 100% Cotton Resume Paper (which you can get in ivory or white and easily online from Amazon or Staples). Another option, is to get paper that is short-grained and I have found a supplier in the UK which sells A4 Ready to Bind Paper. I have not tried it out myself but it came recommended from a bookbinder. You can find it here:

I know that there are many other ways that this can be done, with other programs. Perhaps there are ways that are simpler than this! So far, I’m content with how I’ve figured it out. I’d love to know if anyone else has a any recommendations or tips for turning eBooks into text blocks.  Let me know! And, if you have any questions about the process for how to do this yourself, or get confused and stuck – let me know, I’d be happy to help.

Until next time,




3 thoughts on “Project Gutenberg: Digital Library

  1. Wow! This is awesome Arielle! I have 3 digital books written by a Great, Great Aunt and 2 written by her brother, my Great, Great Grandfather that I wanted to do this with, but didn’t know how! Thank you!! *I know, too many exclamation points, but I am excited.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay! I’m excited for you, I hope it works out – let me know if you have any trouble, I’d be happy to help. 🙂 I took me a lot of trial and error when I first printed my friends book (tip: if you’re using good paper, don’t use it right away, print off a page or two first on plain paper to be sure you’ve got it right!). If you have adobe/reader there is a tutorial from them on how to turn a PDF into a booklet: it might save you downloading PDF Booklet.


  2. Reblogged this on Sariafi's Notes and commented:
    Definitely gonna try this method and apps to print my digital book collection into physical books. I recently love to explore book binding, too. So, this will help so much.


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