One book I ordered this semester is a loose leaf book (3-hole punched) that I'm currently keeping in a binder. Problem is, the pages are quite thin, and tear very easily near the hole punches. What can I do to help prevent this?
You could take the book to a copy shop, and have it binded properly (e.g., hot glue, hardback, etc.). Here in the Netherlands, that costs about 3 euros for a simple but effective glued back.
Find someone who has access to a document scanner and scan it. Our departmental copier/printer can also scan (I think the spec is 100 ppm), so 2000 pages will take a while, but not forever.
EDIT: Have you contacted the author to see if an electronic version is available?
In the olden days, you could buy little sticky circles that you'd place around the holes and this would prevent the pages tearing out of the binder.
Another approach is to put the whole thing in a box.
Or maybe scan the document and carry it around on your iPad – that's probably the modern solution.
I use Acco Pressboard Covers for exactly this purpose, and they work great.
Manufacturers should either reinforce the page edges or stop hole-punching the pages; the paper is just too thin for the books to be used in 3-ring binders. One solution I found is to use reinforcing strips. They are pre-cut to page-size (10.75" by 1"), but are not hole-punched. You stick them on the page edge and then hole-punch it. You don't necessarily need to reinforce all of the pages of your book, just the first few pages in the front and back and the occasional page that gets torn out.
One of the advantages of loose-leaf books is that you don't have to carry all of the chapters in your backpack. You can take the chapter you are reading, and possibly the index, glossary, answers, etc., and leave the rest of the weight at home. One way to do this is to use swing-clip or zip-up report covers. Since the covers can be reused, this is also an environmentally-friendly way to solve the problem. After all, one of the reasons loose-leaf books are made is to reduce waste, especially for books that become outdated each year when a new edition is printed. Loose-leaf books require less material to manufacture and less fuel to ship.
One final idea is to bind the book using binding post screws or brads (available at office supply stores). Make a cover for your book with two pieces of cardboard (possibly from the backs of old notebooks), hole-punch, place your pages inside, and then bind the whole thing with screws or brads.
These work wonderfully.
you can break it up into groups of chapters, but make a copy of the front table of contents and the back index for each bound group that you want. these posts unscrew so you can switch it around when you want.