Software and Equipment Used for Publishing Project

I relied on advice in the books I mentioned in the last post to select software and equipment to produce and publish my book about the Leica D-Lux 4 compact digital camera. The book titled Book Production and Design is an excellent guide to page layout for a self-published book. The software it recommends for this purpose is Adobe InDesign, a successor to PageMaker. In fact, the book provides a detailed step-by-step roadmap to setting up the book using InDesign. So, that is the software I bought. I have used other Adobe products for years, notably Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, and Premiere (for video editing). I like the Adobe programs, but a problem for a self-publisher is the expense of these programs, which are used by and designed for commercial operations. By careful shopping on eBay, I managed to find a legal, licensed copy for about $300 or so; an upgrade edition that was sold along with the qualifying product for the upgrade.

For the initial writing of the book’s text, I used Pages for the Macintosh. I recently switched from a Windows computer to a MacBook Pro, and bought a copy of iWork, a Mac suite that includes word processing, presentations, spreadsheet, etc., like Microsoft Office, but cheaper. Pages worked fine as a word processor, and I was able to save the document in .rtf format for importing into InDesign.

Because my book is about the use of a digital camera, I need to have photographs in it. InDesign is good at handling graphics, but I need to edit the images first. For that, I bought a copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements. I didn’t have Photoshop for the Mac and didn’t want to buy a copy, so I settled for Elements version 6.0. So far, Elements has worked out well for me. It has really grown from being a small-time version of Photoshop to being a robust program that allows me to do anything I need to do, including editing photos in RAW format, which is a fairly sophisticated feature. It also allows me to resize the images, crop them, adjust colors, and everything else I need to do to get the images ready for inclusion in the book.

I also bought a copy of Adobe Illustrator, thinking that it would help me include illustrations or drawings showing the camera’s controls. That hasn’t worked out, at least not yet, because I’m using the new Snow Leopard operating system on the Mac, and I haven’t been able to get Illustrator to run at all. I’m hoping that will be fixed with updates to the Mac OS or to Illustrator before too long.

That’s it for software, other than standard items such as internet browser (FireFox), web development (DreamWeaver), and other items needed for general work on the computer.

I’ll start my discussion of equipment by mentioning one item. In the previous post, I wrote about Rupert Evans’ excellent book, Book-on-Demand Publishing. In that book, he makes it clear that the one item you absolutely have to have to print and bind your own books is a heavy-duty paper cutter. I had, like most people, worked fairly often with a standard office-type of paper cutter, with the blade that swings down to trim a few sheets of paper. What Dr. Evans is talking about is called a guillotine or stack cutter. This type of equipment can slice neatly through a stack of one hundred or more pages, depending on the model. It is used to make the final trims of the book, after it has its paper covers and is bound. The book likely needs to have three final trims: on the right side and at the top and bottom. The result is a final-looking book, with clean, squared-up pages. Without a heavy-duty stack paper cutter, you can’t really achieve that look.

Most such paper cutters cost upwards of a thousand dollars; many of them are electrically powered, come with stands, have some automatic features, and cost thousands. But, there is one model that sits on a tabletop and is completely manual, but solidly built and able to slice cleanly through about 200 sheets of paper. That is the Martin-Yale 7000e. That is what I bought. I tried to find a new one, but everywhere I tried was out of stock, so I bought a “lightly used” one on eBay, for almost as much as a new one would cost. (I paid slightly over $600.00.) With my wife’s assistance, I have made several cuts, and it does what it’s supposed to do. We had problems for a while when it would not cut through the final few sheets, but we figured out that the cutting stick had been worn through where the blade comes down. I rotated the cutting stick (which is a piece of wood or plastic that provides a resistant surface below the blade’s cutting area), and now it cuts well again.

Next time, more about the equipment. After that, I’ll talk about getting help with editing.

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