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Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Word Made Print

I can't keep up with the modern world:  all this technology, all the possibilities.  Blogging, I've discovered, is tremendous fun, a very cool hobby.  Now, I just found out, you can turn your blog into a book:  the printed word.

For those of us who came of age before there were any home computers - much less the Internet - that phrase still carries an aura of the sacred.  A connection with the long transmission of human knowledge and thought down through the centuries.  A sense of permanence that no triffling electronic gadgetry can convey.

So it was with eager delight that I began investigating last night a couple of sites that will slurp (gotta love the terminology they use) your blog up and spit it out as a real, live, honest-to-God book, complete with hard covers and even a dust jacket if you like.

But after spending four or five hours tinkering with the possibilities, I was disappointed with both sites.  The first one I looked at, Blog2Print, is fairly easy to use, but the results are very limited in terms of design and format.  Everything is in one font, one size, no choices, and that font is something like Arial:  not very reader-friendly.  You get the same dinky font in the same size for the cover, where you would naturally want a bigger, bolder font.  And in your posts, hyperlinks don't show, neither do imbedded videos.  And block quotations are printed as standard text, so you can't see where they begin and end.  There's no way to change these default formats.

The other site I looked at, Blurb, goes too far in the other direction of complexity.  To use it, you have to download a very sophisticated editor, which might be fine for somebody who is already trained in desktop publishing and has a bigger, faster computer than mine - it nearly crashed my system.  And it has its drawbacks too.  Whereas Blog2Print lets your specify "all posts" or only those within a date range, Blurb slurps up every single post you ever wrote; you have to go back and manually delete, one by one, all the posts you don't want included.  I have nearly 900 posts now, so you can imagine how tedious it was to delete all but the first four months' worth, to get the book down to semi-manageable size.

Plus, the editor is far too complex for an amateur: unlike with B2P, the controls are not very intuitive, you really need to sit and study the software before you begin working on the book.  And I couldn't get it to change the text flow:  it starts every single post, no matter how short, on a new page; and every image in every post is reduced to something not much larger than a postage stamp, and cropped to fit the preset size.  And every hyperlink is changed to a footnote at the bottom of each post, which looks silly.

If you are serious about producing a very handsome-looking book at home, whether from a blog or not, Blurb has lots of fancy print and cover options; but it's just too hard to operate.

I did a trial run on both sites; and to print one copy of just the first four months of Blue Truck, Red State posts would cost about a hundred bucks.  Now, feeling as I do an old-fashioned reverence for the printed word - not mention more than a little authorial vanity (grin) - I would actually be willing to pay that much per volume, just to have, eventually, a little set of my books sitting on the shelf next to Shakespeare, Whitman, Wilde, and all the other big ol' queer authors.  (What would you pay to have your ego tickled in such famous company, huh?)

But I think I'll hold off on all that until I can get a finished product that looks decent and doesn't require a graduate degree in computer skills to accomplish.  Who knows, technology is advancing so rapidly, somebody is sure to improve on the process any day now.

Meantime, if any of you fellas want to stroke your egos a little, check out those sites, and also Google up "create blog book" to find some other self-publishing sites I haven't looked at yet.  A very cool idea - just waiting to be perfected.


Ultra Dave said...

That is cool! I'll have to check it out! Thanks Russ!

Russ Manley said...

yeah, it's a cool concept, Dave . . . let me know if you find any programs that are more user-friendly than what I found.

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