Friday, February 20, 2015

Want To Preserve All Your Genealogy Blog Efforts? Better book it! (February 20, 2015)



Like many genealogy/family history bloggers, soon after I began my blog and accumulated an increasing number of posts to which I had devoted a lot of time and energy -- as well as photographic and documentary materials -- I started to become concerned about how this continuing effort was going to be preserved for my sons, future descendants, interested family members, and relatives. I realized that the words, photos, and documents in my posts existed only as electrons in the "cloud" that is Google Blogger.  While I was (and am) happy with the quality, speed, and ease of publishing posts via Blogger to share with family and others, I became increasingly aware that I had no permanent, secure control over the content I had painstakingly created. As I thought about it, the preservation of the electrons that are Filiopietism Prism blog is anything but assured (think hackers, destruction of a server farm, future demise of Blogger, etc.).

Prior to beginning my blog, I had some experience using iPhoto to make Apple books. In fact, I have created five such hardback photo books to date. All are genealogy related, but they have limited text options and so are largely captioned photographs of family history and family events such as our son's wedding and the birth of our granddaughter. It was apparent that iPhoto books were not going to be a means of preserving my blog in book form. 

I started looking around for other options.

In early April 2013, I contacted Heather Rojo of Nutfield Genealogy blog to inquire about any efforts she made at preserving her blog in book form . . . and that is when I learned about Blurb and "slurping" blog content into a book format. Heather told me that she had been using a website called Blurb to publish Nutfield Genealogy in book form. Blurb does various kinds of books, but Heather's favorite feature on Blurb -- and the reason she uses it for making Nutfield Genealogy into book form -- is Blurb's "Blog to Book" feature.  

"You have to download a software called Booksmart to use Blurb," explained Heather. "When you choose the blog to book option it slurps the posts you select (you can select all or just certain ones) right into a book project.  You can edit it or leave it as it is.  It's very easy."

Following Heather's recommendation, I went to Blurb and produced a book of the first three months of Filiopietism Prism in plenty of time to make a Christmas gift of a copy to each of our sons. The finished product is pictured above. It is 96-pages of quality, high-gloss paper with a hardback cover and paper dust jacket. The book is square and large, measuring 12 inches x 12 inches. The inside looks this . . . 


What is immediately apparent is that the book format is not identical to the online version of the blog.  To see the difference, compare the actual blog post of Monday, February 11, 2013 here with the photo above showing how the same post loaded into Blurb and became the book entry shown above after some editing by me. Comments, color, and other template features of the blog page are eliminated and only the essential content is included.

I found that once the blog content is slurped into the chosen Blog to Book format, there is still considerable editing and formatting to be done in order to avoid wasted space, move photos into more logical positions, and to create a more book-like appearance. It is time consuming, but well worth the effort.

I have been working on Vol. 2 of my blog preservation project and have been contemplating some changes. In the beginning I thought I had to faithfully duplicate and preserve all the content of my blog . . .  but with more thought, I have determined that some of the post features on the blog are themselves somewhat too topical and ephemeral -- and thus probably not as important to try to preserve.  Case in point is my weekly Saturday Serendipity post that makes reading recommendations about interesting posts on other blogs and about genealogy/history-related pieces I have come across. Similarly, my old Samaritan Sunday series about genealogy-related good deeds performed by kind and generous strangers is likely on the chopping block for future volumes.   

What about cost?? 

The price per book can vary depending on the quality of the paper chosen and whether or not you want a softcover or hardcover (with dust jacket or ImageWrap), but for my 96-page book the cost ran about $1.00/page. When I consider the time and effort I have put into blogging and the value to my family of making sure it survives as something other than electrons, I think $1.00/page is a great bargain!

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All photographs by the author. 

Read more about Heather Rojo's book projects and her use of Blurb here.
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Copyright 2015, John D. Tew
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12 comments:

  1. Thanks for this post, John. I'm on post 8500 now...not sure I want to invest that much time and money in about 85 books for my blog. Selecting the "family story" and "family photos" posts is probably the best I could do, but I'm up to #350 in Wordless Wednesday posts alone.

    I wonder if there are easy automated ways to make digital books out of blog posts...besides copying/pasting selected posts into an MSWord document and saving it as a PDF.

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  2. I'm really looking forward to making my blog into a book. I've looked at Blurb too. Congrats on your book! It looks great!

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  3. John,

    I want to let you know that two of your blog posts are listed in today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2015/02/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-february-20.html

    Have a great weekend!

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  4. John, thanks for your take on Blurb. Very helpful. I've been considering it for a specific series I had blogged on a while back.

    Could you give more feedback on the paper quality and production details? For instance, I couldn't tell from your photo of the book whether you used a matte finish or just plain paper. I'm wondering how the photos came out on the paper you chose (as compared to, say, photos on glossy paper, which of course would be prohibitively expensive).

    I'm right with you on the concern for permanence viz a viz electronic storage. Actually, I have always done what Randy mentioned (in his comment above): for each post I make, I have a corresponding file in MSWord filed by date. One of my "Round Tuit" projects is to just print the whole thing...just in case. However, by isolating specific series by tags, I could do a much more usable--and appreciated--production by going the route of Blurb, as you suggest.

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    1. Hi Jacqi!

      I don't have the purchase receipt or record, but I went with the "Premium Lustre Hint of Gloss" I am almost positive. It is definitely NOT plain paper and has a nice sheen to it with nice reproduction on the photos. It came in at almost exactly $1.00/page.

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  5. I am planning on using my "52 Ancestors" posts as a "52 Sketches" book. Thanks for the review of Blurb!

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    1. Glad you liked the post Dana! I think you will be very pleased with your 52 Ancestors project when you get it saved into book form. Be sure to proof and proof again before you send it off. ;-)

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  6. A very interesting post, as I had been thinking for some time how to turn my blog posts into a book. Thank you for sharing your experience. with Blurb.

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  7. Sue -- I am so happy folks have found this post to be of use. I credit Heather Rojo with turning me on to Blurb, so I am just "paying if forward." ;-) I urge you to turn your blog into book form as soon as possible so you do not lose all your creative efforts! Go for it!!

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  8. John, I enjoyed your post, and liked the comments. About two years ago, I did a book through Blurb, but it wasn't genealogy related. It was filled with flower photos! It's now collecting dust, but I'm glad I did it. You are so organized, so making these books just seems like a logical thing to me.

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    1. Thank you Barbara!

      I enjoy doing these books since in this new brave electronic world I am still at heart a bibliophile. I like the feel of a book in my hands -- and a book works even when the power is out and a candle is available. ;-)

      Ask my family and they would say I try to appear organized, but my work space screams semi-controlled chaos. :-)

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  9. Thank you for this post. About 5 years ago we (or my brother did) used Blurb for a book for my parent's 50th Wedding Anniversary (turned out great). But I forgot about it until I read your post. Your book looks great! I'd like to turn my blog into a book or at least the Ancestor Stories posts. Thank you for sharing this! I've listed it in my NoteWorthy Reads post for this week (see http://jahcmft.blogspot.com/2015/02/noteworthy-reads-4.html).

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