I would like to be able to make my own perfect paperback books, I would like them to be good quality. What equipment would I need to start?
If you mean with the pages glued on end into the spine, what’s called coincidentally “perfect bound,” I don’t think you can do that without special equipment. However if you google around, there are a huge number of resources on handmade books. When I make a book as a gift or something, I usually stitch the signatures together with twine, and then bind the twine of multiple signatures to a spine. This is more how hardcover books are made, but you can do this without using the heavy board usually used for hardcovers.
If you’re near a decent sized city, I’d be surprised if there weren’t some kind of lessons or adult education series thingy on bookmaking. It’s a pretty popular hobby.
When I worked in print shops we made pads of paper by locking a stack of paper into a rather simple press and painting the edge with two coats of a flexible latex glue. The stack is then sliced apart to made individual pads. (Cardboard backs were evenly spaced in the stack of pages before locking down the press and gluing.)
For a small stack of pads, we might not even lock them in the press. We’d just weight them down with a couple of bricks and glue them.
I understand that perfect bound paperbacks are made in a similar fashion, except the glued edge is roughed up first to bind the edge together more permanently than you would for tear-off sheets. Then a cover is glued to the pads of pages.
Seems rather simple to me.
I have made nice perfect bound books at home with just typical household stuff-- vice, clamps, brush, rotary tool for roughing up the pre-glued edge. I had to go to a print shop to use their guillotine for the edges.
Just as a point of reference, many of the office/corporate printer manufactures (Canon, Konica-Minolta, Ricoh, etc.) offer monochrome and color laser printers that can have optional perfect binders attached. These setups usually run around six figures, so they’re probably a bit out of your price range, but may be just the thing if you’re running a low-to-medium volume print shop.
These perfect binders all work pretty much the same way (since they’re all made by one Japanese company and just repackaged/licensed to the printer OEMs). They usually support binding of about 200 sheets of standard 20 lb paper, using hot-melt glue to bind the body pages & attach the cover stock. Some offer built-in trimmers so you can make books of non-standard dimensions; the Canon perfect binder even lets you adjust the angle of the trim so you can make your books in pretty much any quadrilateral shape.
In my day job, I work on a programming team responsible for the leading digital pre-press print-on-demand software product, so I’ve spent a lot of time working with these printers – they’re a helluva lot more powerful than your standard LaserJet.