The Microlibrary is a project of The Center for Open and Sustainable Learning - COSL
The Microlibrary is an effort to develop an affordable print-on-demand service for public domain and open access educational materials, including books (e.g., from Project Gutenberg), courses (e.g., from OpenCourseWare), learning modules (e.g., from Connexions), and other materials, so that these can be turned into paperback books very inexpensively. The library is currently comprised of a few thousand dollars of commodity hardware that can travel from place to place and some custom software written by COSL engineers. The goal is to leverage existing open educational resources and put them (literally) in the hands of those who need them and - for whatever reason - want them in print.
COSL says that you can go to their web site in order to learn how it works, download any of 20,000 free books ready to print or see where they have been lately.
In the Spring Semester of 2007 over 150 kids (and some of their parents) will experience the Microlibrary and learn about the history of printing, the history of books, and how books are made today. They'll get hands-on experience with the printing, binding, and trimming processes involved in making books, and all 150 children will get a free paperback book like Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Pride and Prejudice, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Hamlet.
The book creation process begins with converting one of the 20,000 free ebooks from Project Gutenberg into a specially prepared PDF file that is properly rotated, paginated, and prepared for duplex printing.
The second step is actually printing the PDF on a duplex-capable printer. The duplex printer prints on both sides of the sheets of paper, so that the pages in the book have text on both sides, just like you would expect.
The third step is trimming the printed pages and preparing them to go into the binding machine. Sometimes it's a little tricky to get all the edges cut perfectly straight!
The final step is placing the prepared pages in the binder, together with either a clear cover or more traditional paperback cover and a glue-covered spine strip. The binding machine heats up the glue on the spine strip, which binds the pages together and the cover to the pages.
COSL has a link to Instructables for instructions on how to make the books without the expensive equipment listed above; but at the time of this article, the Instructables web site was down and this could not be verified.
The 20,000 available books can be found at their
Link to the Online Library