Life hack for PhD students: A better way to print papers

As PhD students, we have to read a lot of papers, some of which can be skimmed through on screen, but many of which have to be printed out for proper digestion. Like many others, I often staple each paper in the corner or along the left side. One day, the office’s printer ran out of A4 sheets, but I really needed to read that paper, so I had to improvise. Thanks to a little piece of publication I made at a previous job, I had an idea – print in A3 and make it a booklet.

Let me show you how this kind of print job looks like, and then I’ll tell you how it is better than the other methods. Here’s an example that I made recently – a baby weaning book that I printed for my wife:

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Printing in booklet mode is easy – it’s a feature that is readily available on all printers that are capable of double-sided printing. The trick is to staple in the middle, and I have my good friend Ang Ye Feng to thank for the tip. Here’s how to make it.

First, put an eraser under the paper, and fully open your stapler like this:

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Here’s how it looks like from top (note that I have folded the paper in the middle to determine the gutter line). Remember this is A3, but you can do the same for A4 or any size for that matter. Just staple it down.

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Now, turn the paper up. The staple has pinned into the eraser (left part of the picture). You just need to remove the eraser and fold the two pins down (right part).

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Now the job is complete. How is it better? First of all, holding this booklet feels much better than holding the traditional side-stapled or top-stapled jobs: it’s beautiful and elegant. But there is one important advantage: this arrangement allows more white space at the centre than stapling on the side. Studies have shown that these white spaces let your eyes rest in between lines, which helps when you are reading something so dense as a journal paper. Of course, stapling on the top left corner also maintain these spaces, but the first one or two sheets will keep falling off when you keep flipping back and forth between pages.

PhD life can be fun!

Note: the paper used for demonstration is by Eduardo Borgomeo, an excellent researcher.

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