Blank / bogus books
August 14, 2019 6:40 PM   Subscribe

Where can I get some nice-ish looking bogus books custom made for kind of cheap?

For an escape room I'm making, I need some books as props. I don't care what's on the pages, because I'm going to put an RFID tag in them and glue them shut. So they can be journals / notebooks, (i.e., blank) or a whole lot of lorem ipsa (that is the plural of ipsum, obvs.). Probably around 300-500 pages.

What's important is that it's got a kinda nice-looking hard cover, cloth bound, and has a foil embossed title on the spine and the front.

I'll be making a few different titles, but only want maybe 5 copies of each. I've looked at a few print-on-demand places, and they either are fancy pantsy and charge $139 a copy, or they're like lulu, which has acceptable prices (sub $20 a book), but they really want to casewrap the book, and if I insist I want a cloth bound book they only can foil-print the title on the spine. The cover is the whole point.

Does anyone know a place that fits these criteria? My normal search results seem like some kind of SEO Thunderdome instead of anything useful.

NB: I hate dust jackets and if they give me one free I will throw it out.
posted by aubilenon to Shopping (15 answers total)
I would haunt thrift stores and/or charity book sales - there will be beautiful old textbooks (like 1950s, so actually nice looking) and stuff which no one wants but which look great.
posted by jb at 6:44 PM on August 14 [2 favorites]

I need specific and dumb things printed on the covers/spines. Ideally in some kind of classy looking embossed foil.
posted by aubilenon at 6:49 PM on August 14

I would look into recovering old books. There's tons of videos online of bookmaking. It's fairly easy to DIY. If you're okay with not having things embossed, you could use a stencil and quality metallic paint or vinyl letters on cloth (or paper). I personally like Golden Acrylic metallic paint, thin it a little and do layers. You could also probably get embossed metallic printing done on flat paper, then use that as a wrap.
posted by Crystalinne at 6:52 PM on August 14 [7 favorites]

Prop houses in Los Angeles will make these for you but it won't be cheap.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:18 PM on August 14

I didn't mention this in the OP, but all the books (including the replacements when the first set wears out from people mishandling them day in and day out) need to be pretty much the same size/thickness. So you can't tell which goes where without solving the puzzle. I also have about six billion crafting / tinkering / construction projects to do in the next few months. Since print-on-demand books exist and I almost found exactly what I'm looking for, I am still hoping this is a problem I can just throw a modest amount of money at.

Crystalinne, your suggestion does give me the idea of getting blank covered notebooks/journals and going from there, which is currently my leading backup plan.
posted by aubilenon at 7:21 PM on August 14

I believe I have seen “books by the yard” for sale at Half Price Books, if you happen to be lucky enough to be near one.
posted by ewok_academy at 8:42 PM on August 14 [2 favorites]

At my local Half Price Books, one of the "books by the yard" options is Reader's Digest condensed books. These are fairly nice looking, and uniform in dimensions.
posted by CrunchyFrog at 8:55 PM on August 14 [5 favorites]

I confess I just did a google—I don't have inside experience with this company—but I can't resist trying to help build an escape room. Some of the log books at this company are reasonably-priced and have a custom cover option. They've also got a spine stamping add-on... at least I think that's an add-on option. It's not a super user-friendly site and I'm not 100% sure how it works. But they can allegedly make "virtually any book you can think of."
posted by babelfish at 12:28 AM on August 15

Yeah, you want a blank journal, likey from Amazon or Alibaba or thereabouts. You can get leather-ish ones and then hand them over to someone to emboss. Embossing by hand takes awhile and requires some skill so that is the pricey part.

One other option, since they won't open anyways, is to make them out of wood and use foil pens for the cover.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:04 AM on August 15 [1 favorite]

Since you don't care about the actual contents, I think rather than looking for book printing services, it might make more sense to buy some cheap second hand books of the right size, and then look for book binding services. I've seen repair and restoration for a leather bound book quoted at $40-50-- one would think a hardback binding would be less than that.

Or if you have any librarian friends at a local university, they might be able to direct you-- a lot of schools have paperbacks rebound as hardcovers so they last longer, and some of them have in-house programs. They might have the ability to take commissions from the public.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:11 AM on August 15 [1 favorite]

I'm wondering if you can work with an Etsy seller (example) to buy a bunch of blank books/journals from another source and have them embossed. If there's a trophy/keepsake store near you, that might be an option, too.
posted by momus_window at 10:43 AM on August 15

Could you get an old set of encyclopedias or something with nice binding, and then just paint the spines to have the titles you want?
posted by bink at 11:01 AM on August 15 [4 favorites]

There's also Books by the Foot, which starts at $6.99/foot of books and allows you to choose a color theme.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 11:09 AM on August 15

Escape room owner/designer/maker/everythinger here! If I was tackling this, I'd look for a set of blank journals (as they are likely easily replaceable should the need arise) and have them laser cut to my specs. Normally the gilding comes from gold leather dye, but apparently acrylic paint is an acceptable substitute.
posted by lhall at 12:15 PM on August 30

Thanks for the suggestions everyone.

What we ended up doing was getting these blank journals and some bookcloth, silkscreening "gold" designs on the front and spine, and then wrapping them up. They look great, but I think we'll still need to put a top coat on them to protect them from getting too grubby as a million people handle them.

The Books by the Foot suggestion in particular is helpful for some other aspects of this project, and they were super helpful, offering to provide books that are topically relevant to our game's theme.
posted by aubilenon at 6:23 PM on August 31 [1 favorite]

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