January 16, 2009

DRAGON Magazine In Print

Have you ever wished that you could get the latest copies of DRAGON or DUNGEON in print?

Well, I have. There's just something special about the tactile feel of reading RPG fanzines and not having to stare at our computer screens yet again - don't we all do that enough? This is one of the many reasons I'm drawn to these new indy press fanzines that have cropped up in the vacuum created by Wizards of the Coast's "digital initiative". It's not only that excellent mags like Kobold and Fight On! are well written and engaging, its also that they are delivered to your door - in the flesh. In my opinion, profitable or not, WotC really missed the boat on this one.

Well, it doesn't have to be that way any longer. By following the tutorial I've laid out below, you can have your issues of DRAGON or DUNGEON in print and in full-glossy color for about $20 a copy from Lulu.com. Willing to settle for a B&W interior? Then the price drops to about $6. Of course, physical copies of these magazines are for your own personal collection - not to resold or distributed (that would break about a dozen or more laws), but they look awesome once printed.

  • Adobe Acrobat (full version). The Mac "Preview" system application will also do, but there are occasional PDF rendering issues with it, especially with embedded fonts. Personally, I'm using Preview and Acrobat 9 together.
  • A subscription to Dungeons & Dragons Insider. Without this you might have a difficult time legally obtaining copies of your favorite fanzine.
  • About an hour of time.
    1) Download the latest Complete Issue of Dragon as a PDF and save it on your computer.

    2) Open the document in your PDF viewer and note the document size and make sure it is still 11" x 8.5" and is a high-res document (in this case its ~38MB for 80 pages, so yes).

    3) Next, rotate the entire contents of the PDF file counter - clockwise 90º so that the dimensions of the PDF are now 8.5" x 11".

    4) Save the document. If you cannot save it for some reason (like its protected), then alternatively you can use your PDF printer to print a saved version of your document to a new PDF.

    5) Next, return to the document and rotate the entire document 180º (clockwise twice more) and just print the first page to your PDF printer (as shown above). This file is going to be used as the actual cover file for your homemade print magazine. If you have options for High-Quality Print, or Press Quality Print, then use those options to print this first page. The result should be a very high quality PDF document of just the first page. Notice how the image preview of the document is turned 180º relative to the one before it.

    6) Open the PDF print of the first page. Go to the file menu and save this document as a 300- or 600-dpi PNG file. You are now ready to upload everything to Lulu.com.

    7) Open your browser and head to Lulu.com. Of course, this same process could be done with just about any other POD publisher as well. Once you are at Lulu, create an account with them if you do not already have one, then head over to "My Lulu" and choose "New Project".

    8) On the next page choose Paperback book. Then title your work and leave a pen-name. PLEASE NOTE: You should also make sure that "Keep it private and accessible only to me" is selected. Publishing this magazine into the Lulu Marketplace will get you into trouble. Once done on this page, click "Save & Continue".

    9) On the next page you'll see your publishing options. For the cheapest reprint (about $5.50), also choose Publisher Grade paper, and everything will default to the correct settings (B&W interior, 8.5" x 11", perfect bound). If you go this route, you might as well print it from your printer at home in my opinion. For a nicer, glossier finish in full color choose Lulu paper with full color interior. Of course, this is way more pricey at $21.50. If you are still up for the challenge, click "Save & Continue" and head to the next step.

    10) Next, upload the rotated version of the PDF to Lulu. Note from the screenshot that you must OWN the PDF you are uploading. If Lulu gives you an error about embedded fonts (WotC uses a bunch of custom fonts), then go back to Adobe Acrobat (full version) and resave the PDF with fonts embedding enabled. When are done uploading, click "Make Print Ready File", then click "Save & Continue" on the next page.

    11) Now you come to the cover, which could be whatever you want it to be. Personally, I like my fanzines to look like fanzines, so I would choose the option to upload the hi-res PNG file we created to use as the cover for my mag. Click on "Edit Picture" at the bottom of the cover editor, and then choose "Use a Different File", then "Upload a File" and point to your PNG file. Ignore the pixel size recommendations -- the image comes out just fine in the final product. Maybe not CRYSTAL clear, but looks better than my printer at home. Finally, click "Make Print-Ready Cover".

    12) The final price is about $20. You could save money by bundling multiple issues together into a single publication, but Lulu maxes out full-color printing at 88 pages, so you would have to find another print service. After reviewing, click "Save & Finish".

    You are done! You can immediately order your newly minted DRAGON magazine for personal use, and Lulu will deliver it right to your door!

    Of course... would anyone actually be crazy enough to do this? $20 for one copy of Dragon?

    Well, honestly I will be doing something similar by collecting all the articles from all the past and current issues of Dragon that are of the same topic and binding them together in one convenient book. Having all the new magic item or new monster articles from 30 years of dragon together in one book would just be nice to have.

    Hmmm.. food for thought...


    1. $20 a copy?!?!? I like printed books myself, but that's crazy.

    2. Heh... true, but if you can live with B&W interiors its more like $5 or $6 per. copy.

    3. I'm a diehard advocate for bringing back print Dragon, but $20 a copy on top of the $8 sub is just crazy.

      Less so for 88 pages of a self-compired 'best of...' though.

    4. To what extent is cost dependant upon length.

      That is - what would it cost if someone wanted to have four issues (i.e. a merged pdf) bound together into a single 'volume'?

      Is most of the cost the binding and printing or is it mostly a per page rate?


    5. @Johnathan: I've looked through the Book FAQs and I'm not sure why you've rotated the actual inner text upside down and the cover the other way?

      This might be how I get my personal copy of OSRIC printed. Thank you.

      @Syrsuro - it's per page and binding costs. So to do 4 issues would increase the page cost. The FAQs do a good job so far of explaining how it works.

    6. @Chowiz: I'm glad you found this helpful! I rotated the first page just so that the front cover has "DRAGON" across the top of the page instead of upside down along the bottom. Its becuase of the way the PDFs of dragon are laid out... landscape with DRAGON on the left side going vertical.

    7. One hour of my time is worth about $40 (according to my employer. That raises the cost to: $8 for sub + $20 copy (might as well go for the color at this rate) + time spent = $68!!!!

    8. OH... well... how much does it cost to drive down to your FLGS to buy a copy of [insert fanzine here]? I mean.. in terms of time? =D

      Yeah.. I'm not saying this is at ALL economical... but, just a case in point that you CAN make your own custom books/magazines from existing collections of PDFs. I'm currently assembling a B&W book (softback, color cover, B&W interior) of all the dragon magazine magic item articles ever printed. A few hundred pages, but its well worth the ~$30 or so that its going to cost to get printed. Much better than reading it on my computer LCD.... blehhh

    9. I followed your instructions but Lulu won't upload it because it says that the pdf is still 11" v 8.5" when it is actually 8.5" v 11" - what the heck?!


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