Recently, I just finished a two-book archive of the first year of Coyote Blog. Today, I got the books (or blooks) in the mail and they look great!
Why, one might ask, did I put my blog in a book, when everything is archived by pressing links right over there to the right of this page ------>
The first reason was for my dad. My dad is 80-something and refuses to join the Internet age, but he would like to read my blog. So, I produced a couple of volumes of my blog posts to give to him for Christmas. (See, that's how confident I am that he is not reading this online -- I just published the contents of his present).
The second reason is based more on my having been a part of computers since getting an Apple II back in the late 70's. Electronic media are not necessarily the greatest for archiving. I wrote a lot of neat little games on my Apple II. I wrote programs in college in pascal and assembly language on an S-100 bus C/PM computer. I wrote programs in SNOBOL on cards for the mainframe at Princeton. I received hundreds of emails on early CompuServe email. Anyone know where all that stuff is today? Neither do I. Already I remember some cool web sites with content that seems to be gone from the Internet. There is some kind of reverse-Moore's Law here that, if concocted, would say that the cost and complexity of reading and retrieving electronic files doubles every five years it ages.
So I decided to create a paper archive. In the end, it cost me about 8 hours in formatting time and $30 in publishing costs to get the first year of Coyote Blog in book form. For anyone who is interested, here is what I did:
First, I picked a printer. It was important to do this first, since it determined what format and formatting I had to get the electronic files into. I first considered BlogBinders. The advantage of this service is that they can suck all of the content they need right off the web site, really making the process quick. I decided not to go with them, because (at least 4 months ago) they did not retain any of the HTML formatting. This means that the blockquotes I make heavy use of just became regular paragraphs. As a result, a reader could not tell the difference any more between my writing and what I was quoting. This caused me to look for another option, but you might still want to check it out -- I know their product is maturing so they may have more functionality today. There is also a Beta going on right now at QOOP Blog Printing that might be a good option soon.
These were the only two direct print from blog options I found - if you know of others, please add them to the comments section. So, I then turned to the print-on-demand self-publishing world. CafePress has done a few things for me in the past, but I decided their print on demand was a bit too pricey for this. Based on a few recommendations, I chose Lulu.com to publish. I thought their pricing was reasonable, and I liked their royalty and pricing flexibility. While I don't intend to sell the Coyote Blog archive, I am close to self-publishing a novel and I wanted to give Lulu a test spin.
Once I chose Lulu, I then needed to choose a format. I knew I wanted a Perfect Bound book, and, scanning the pricing calculations, it was clear the cheapest option was to go for 8-1/2 by 11, since this reduced page count. Having decided this, I downloaded their Microsoft word template, which made sure that I had all the margins and gutters and such right.
Now came the tedious part. I wanted the posts to be in chronological order, but my blog displays in reverse date order. I had to temporarily change the way the blog publishes. Then, with the posts now in the right order, I just copied and pasted the text right off the site monthly archives into the word template. I did some trial and error - cutting and pasting out of explorer gave different results than out of Firefox. Pasting as HTML gave different results than pasting as rich text. Eventually I got what I wanted.
Now came the really really tedious part. I went through and did a few different edits, actually working in Open Office writer because I find it easier for this type work than Word:
- I changed the font from sans serif Arial to a more book friendly serif font (patalino)
- I deleted posts that had no value without the links (posts like "check this out") and some but not all my frivolous picture posts
- I added monthly chapter headings
- I played around with font size and line spacing for readability (remember, the first reader of this will be in his eighties)
- I added an index with the page numbers for the monthly chapter headings as well as page numbers for may favorite posts. I did the latter by setting the titles of my favorite posts to "heading 2" rather than "heading 3" for the other posts. Both had the same formatting, but I told the contents to only index down through heading 2, but not heading 3.
- I cleaned up a bit of spelling
- When it was clear the whole was too long for one book, I broke it into two books
(update: Several people have misinterpretted the "tedious" and "a lot of work". This was really just minor whining. The time spent taking the electronic material and finishing it out into a book was about 0.1% of the time it took to actually write the articles the first time around on the blog or that it would take to write a 800 page two-volume tome from scratch.)
Since I was using Open Office, it was easy to just save the final file as a pdf and upload it to Lulu. Lulu also provided templates for the covers (front and back) and I did some simple work on the covers, uploaded everything, and two days later the books were in the mail.
I have posted excerpts from the files with links below, both word and pdf, so anyone who is interested in trying blog printing themself can see what I did.
Download blog_print_example_doc.doc (word format)
Download blog_print_example_oo.odt (Open Office format)
Download blog_print_example_pdf.pdf (PDF format)
You can see the book here in my Lulu storefront, which has both the electronic and paper versions available for sale. I am NOT recommending anyone buy it - I just wanted to test Lulu for future projects (verdict: I was very happy with the entire experience). The only reason you might buy one is to see a sample if you are considering a similar project. The cover looks great, and the paper quality is first rate. The text printing is good but the non-cover graphics printing leaves something to be desired, but that was probably the fault of the source file having low-res graphics. (update: Welcome to Blooker Award readers!)
As a final note, in the extended post I have put the text of my forward for the volumes which explains some of the shortcomings of paper blog publishing:
Forward to Print Version of Coyote Blog Archive:
This book and its companion volume are an archive of my blogging efforts at www.CoyoteBlog.com for the first year of the blog's existence, a time period stretching from late September 2004 to September 2005.
A text record of a blog is by its nature very imperfect. The real advantage of blogging, beyond its immediacy and low-cost reach, is the ability to link other online sources to extend or provide backup for a particular article, called a "post". Throughout this print record, you will see phrases that are underlined like this. In the original electronic version, these were links where readers could click through to view related material on other web sites. I have chosen to leave this underlining in this text version, as an aid to understanding where richer content was available to the original online readership. Another important point of style is that blog posts typically quote heavily from other sources as part of the commentary:
Rather than using quotation marks, most quotes are indented and printed in italics, like this.
In compiling this archive, I have chosen to remove many of the original posts. Most of these removed posts were short posts whose main purpose was to point readers to other interesting content on the web, and as such are nearly meaningless in a printed version.
I have done some cleanup of spelling and grammar, but readers of this printed version should recognize that blogging is a real-time activity and readers generally do not expect publication quality prose. Along these same lines, you will encounter a number of Internet abbreviations, including LOL (laughing out Loud), OMG (Oh My God), and Fisk (to tear apart someone else's argument line by line). Readers online would have been very familiar with these shortcuts. You may also note that a number of the articles have sections at the end marked as "Update". This is additional information added to the text after it was originally posted, consistent with the dynamic and real-time nature of blogging.
Finally, given the sheer volume of material here and the near certainty that few people will be interested enough to plow through it all, I have highlighted some of my favorite posts in the Table of Contents on the previous page. The index at the back contains a full listing of all the articles included in this volume.