05 May 2016

Personalizing PDFs: reclaiming a personal touch on reprints

As a grad student, one of my keys to my development as a professional scientist was getting acquainted with the relevant literature. Because I be old, this was all done on paper, and largely consisted of raiding my supervisor’s files and photocopying her reprints. Some of her reprints were signed, often with short little personal notes on them.

When I started to send off reprint request cards in the mail, I started getting back a few of my own signed reprints. I liked the personal touch, and I tried to put a personal touch on my own paper reprints when I mailed them out.

Of course, email requests and PDFs supplanted posted reprints (thank goodness!). I would never want to go back to managing huge file cabinets full of photocopied reprints, but I kind of miss that personal touch. I realized, though, that there is a way to reclaim it.

If you can edit PDFs (which you can in Adobe Acrobat), you can insert test anywhere you want using the “Tools.” You can use a typeface that has a handwritten look (say, something from comic letterer Blambot) to make it distinct and separate from the main text of the paper.

You can place a signature file, like a scan of your signature on paper, using “Fill & Sign.”

It takes only a minute or two. You can make a personal message, and thank the person requesting your reprint by name. While it might not entirely capture the charm of the ink on paper, but it shows a bit of effort. And maybe it can provide some of that sense of personal connection to a community that I felt as a grad student when I was looking through my supervisor’s filing cabinets.

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