Musings of a programmer, musician, photographer, and Christian.

Staples Arc Paper - $100 vs. $20

(see here for the full Agile Organizer series)

I’ve now been using my agile organizer system for now going on three years, with a few adjustments, but the main principles firmly in place. I did however switch form factor from letter sized to junior sized paper (5.5” x 8.5”, or the half-letter-sized) and 2x2 sized stickies rather than the standard 3x3. As not everything winds up on stickies, as I keep a running log of what I’m doing, notes, etc. as written on the regular pages, I did eventually need to get refill paper.

First, I extracted the blank pages from some moleskines I would never use again and used that, but I found that moleskine paper is a bit smaller, and compared to the arc paper, not really all that wonderful. I looked online for the normal refills and was stunned to find that 50 sheets of refill paper was about $5 for 50 pages, or $.10 a sheet. That seemed a tad more than I wanted to spend – it’s nice paper, don’t get me wrong, but not that nice.

So I thought to myself: “self, if I can find out what weight of paper it is, maybe I can see if it makes more sense to just print my own.” So I looked it up on Amazon, and got wildly different, and mostly implausible shipping weights, but eventually I found one that looked reasonable: a 4 pack of 50 sheets of 8.5x11 paper that weighed 2.8 pounds.

Paper weight for bond paper (the common printer paper stuff) is the weight of 500 17x22 sheets of paper. One 17x22 sheet is two 17x11 sheets. Two 17x11 sheets is four 8.5x11 sheets. So by that means, the paper weight is the weight of 4 x 500, or 2,000 sheets of 8.5x11 paper.

Our Amazon 4 pack of 200 sheets weighs 2.8 pounds. So multiply that by 10 to get to 2,000 sheets, that gives us a very convenient paper weight of 28 pounds.

I did a quick search, and a ream of 28 pound paper runs about $15. I bought it, and indeed it is the same weight as Staples Arc paper (or so close it doesn’t matter). Now to print lines. I wrote a Python script which outputs HTML. I then used Chromium (Chrome would work just as well) to make a PDF, which I used pdftk to make a double-sided version, and voila!

The 500 page ream yields 1,000 junior sized pages. I estimate the print cost to be maybe half a cent per page. With a paper cost of $15/1,000 or 1.5 cents a page + a half a cent per page to print for a total of 2 cents a page, makes 1,000 pages cost $20, which to me is a much happier price to pay, even with the extra work involved to do it, rather than the 20 * $5, or $100 bucks for 1,000 pages from Staples.

My PDF templates are here:

After printing, all that’s left is to use the guillotine to cut the pages in half, and then punch them. So instead of $5 for the 50 page pack, it works out to about a buck - and my templates have more lines :)

If you’re interested in source code, you’ve got it here.