Eureka! At least I think so . . .

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kristacook-p40
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Eureka! At least I think so . . .

Postby kristacook-p40 » Tue Jan 30, 2007 8:32 am

I hesitate to mention the following, largely because there are a number of accompanying issues that need to be checked out and thought out. I’ll do my best to cover what I know about.

A few months ago, I read a New York Times article about a company called Blurb. I visited their site and thought “Eureka!”.

Blurb is a self-publishing company; it was set up largely by a woman who has a background in photography. It’s still in Beta. I believe it debuted in March 2006. All you have to do is download their free software. Using the software on your computer you compose your own book. When you are done composing your book on your computer, you upload it and they print it off and ship it to you. When I discovered this, I immediately thought “PERSONAL HISTORY”. So, I’ve been scanning all my records and memories into my computer. The software allows me to drag and drop a picture into a template and I’ve been typing out my personal history, adding captions to the pictures etc. I’m over 100 pages now and I can go up to 440 pages for one book. The end product is astonishingly affordable – a hard copy 440 page book with custom dust jacket is only $80 plus shipping/handling – much more affordable than scrap booking, I’m told. Prices correspond to book length/soft or hardcover.

Since discovering it, I’ve thought about numerous church applications. Obviously, personal history is the biggest possibility. We’ve compiled cookbooks in my wards and stakes and sold them. The Young Women compiled one and sold it to raise money for girls’ camp etc. The company offers a general catalog of books that their customers have created and you can browse and purchase any of them. Or, you can create a private bookstore where people can view/buy your book only by entering a code.

The above covers the basics, but there are other features etc. I have a number of concerns about suggesting this on this site. The product costs money. I’m not well versed in church policies and procedures. We are encouraged to seek out no-cost or low-cost solutions to what we do and there are various restrictions that the Church has imposed that must be followed. So, any thing like this must be used with extreme caution. Obviously there are serious copyright issues to consider. Enthusiastic overuse could really be dangerous for a number of reasons.

This sort of effort is more useful for individuals than for church, I think, but it could assist us in so many ways. Personal histories could be made available to other family members in a wonderful format. Entities can publish their own cookbooks. Blurb offers a cookbook template. Baby books, wedding books, there is even a blog book template. One suggestion in this LDSTech Forum suggested ward blogs. Genealogy could be permanently preserved, etc.

I’m going to extract all the pictures I have of my three oldest nieces and compile a book for them which feature the pictures I took of them and my memories of them. Families could compile a yearbook of their activities and send it to relatives for Christmas. This sort of thing can really knit families and entities together. I can see compiling a book of memories from a special temple trip, family trip to Nauvoo or Palmyra to see a pageant, girls’ camp, EFY excursion, etc. You get the idea.

This forum is specifically a “tech” forum. I want to put on my librarian hat and lecture you for a moment. (I’m currently in library school). Tech people and librarians share a great deal. However, librarians are extraordinarily concerned with long-term preservation and access. Let me give you some axioms. 1. We do not have any long-term preservation options that are better than hard-copy books. Books are a very stable format. Books can easily be preserved for hundreds of years – even old books. NO ONE expects digital solutions to last more than 10 years. 2. We do not have any long-term preservation and access options for photographs that are better than putting hard-copy pictures in a shoe box. This is the most stable format for pictures that we have currently developed.

You have to resist the arrogance of the age in evaluating information creation, search, access, preservation, etc. Can you imagine trying to preserve the entire world’s accumulated knowledge on vinyl records or eight track tapes? We are tech professionals and tech enthusiasts, but we need to remember that the tools we use/develop should be the best tool for what we are trying to accomplish. The best tool, ultimately, may not be a technological one.

Having droned on endlessly, I’ll finish with other self-publishing options I know about:
Blurb: http://www.blurb.com/
iUniverse: http://www.iuniverse.com/
Lulu: http://www.lulu.com/
Picaboo: http://picaboo.com/
Shared Ink: http://sharedink.com/

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cboyack-p40
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Postby cboyack-p40 » Tue Jan 30, 2007 9:01 am

I've been waiting for Blurb to support wordpress blogs so I could make a book as an archive (a "journal" of sorts) of what I've written about. This could be used for people who blog about doctrinal issues, family events, or whatever.

Impatient and eager to get 'er done, I wrote a script myself that will convert a Wordpress blog to an HTML dump which you can then import and style in your preferred program (I used Apple's Pages, but you could also use Word or InDesign I'm sure).

The script can be accessed here for those interested: http://www.connorboyack.com/blog/making-a-blook-with-wordpress-and-pages

As you mention, Blurb costs money. However, I'm sure that with enough interest, a free alternative can be developed based on some agreed-upon specs. This script took me a few hours to write; a program that lets you do everything Blurb does would obviously take longer. I do agree, however, that it's a great method for personal history!

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Publishing alternatives

Postby HaleDN » Tue Jan 30, 2007 9:08 am

All you have to do is download their free software. Using the software on your computer you compose your own book.


I would be nervous using custom software provided by a company that couldn't be used with other publishers. Many publishers offer great flexibility with the software that you use as long as they can convert your document into the format that they need for printing. By using a more standardized product, you preserve your flexibility in going to another printer, should that be necessary. (Some want documents in a postscript format, but many are moving to PDF)

The end product is astonishingly affordable – a hard copy 440 page book with custom dust jacket is only $80 plus shipping/handling – much more affordable than scrap booking, I’m told.


I don't have the book in front of me and I don't recall many specifics, but our family printed a family history book at a local printer in Davis County, Utah, on high quality paper (about 200 pages?). Then we had it hard bound with gold embossed lettering. It is true that volume will bring the costs down, but at higher volume it ended up costing us less than $25 per book.

If you only want one copy then the $80 price may be best since the company is doing a lot of the legwork for you. But if you have a larger number of copies, it is worth calling around print shops and binders to get a better price. Some will have minimum orders because of the work it takes to set up their presses. Make sure that you are still getting a quality result that you will be happy with for years to come!

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Postby WelchTC » Tue Jan 30, 2007 9:28 am

This sounds like a cool service. I've heard of similar services for people who want to publish technical books before. One specifically around family history is not an idea that I had thought about.

Since you mentioned your concern, the community guidelines state that people cannot post "Commercial messages, promotions, or similar solicitations". I think that your post does not fall within this realm. Thanks for sharing.

Tom

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Ancestry.com

Postby mkmurray » Tue Jan 30, 2007 1:39 pm

***I don't feel this is solicitation, but please inform me if it's out of line and I will remove my comments***


By the way, Ancestry.com (one of the MyFamily.com companies) will soon be coming out with a self publishing service geared towards Family History. If you already subscribe, you will be able to easily import existing records, images, and stories from your account at Ancestry.com and MyFamily.com into a scrapbook type book. I don't think you will have to be a subscriber to ultimately use the service.

I believe the first stages will be printing to PDF format for printing on your own computer, and the following stages will be sending the book to be bound by a professional printing company if so desired.

Just another option for those interested...

kristacook-p40
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Options

Postby kristacook-p40 » Wed Jan 31, 2007 8:23 am

haledn wrote:I would be nervous using custom software provided by a company that couldn't be used with other publishers. Many publishers offer great flexibility with the software that you use as long as they can convert your document into the format that they need for printing. By using a more standardized product, you preserve your flexibility in going to another printer, should that be necessary. (Some want documents in a postscript format, but many are moving to PDF)

I don't have the book in front of me and I don't recall many specifics, but our family printed a family history book at a local printer in Davis County, Utah, on high quality paper (about 200 pages?). Then we had it hard bound with gold embossed lettering. It is true that volume will bring the costs down, but at higher volume it ended up costing us less than $25 per book.

If you only want one copy then the $80 price may be best since the company is doing a lot of the legwork for you. But if you have a larger number of copies, it is worth calling around print shops and binders to get a better price. Some will have minimum orders because of the work it takes to set up their presses. Make sure that you are still getting a quality result that you will be happy with for years to come!


Yes, it is better to preserve your options. Unfortunately, they are pretty limited where I currently live. We don't have any binders or printers at all, so gathering quotes isn't possible. The options I mentioned in my post are specifically "print on demand" . They offer volume discounts, but the idea behind these services is to make it possible to just print one book, affordably, and I need them to do my legwork. Most of this country is rural and options are limited. However, your posting made me nostalgic for Davis County. I used to live in Syracuse -- nice area.

Living in wards/stakes with expansive boundaries, communication and travel can be complex. This is another reason why we are so grateful for the electronic tools the church provides. These tools are really simplifying some of our greatest challenges, and the ideas from all of you on this forum just promise to make things better. Thanks!

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Out of the books, a binding

Postby langbert » Sat Feb 24, 2007 2:58 am

Krista,

I'm curious why you say "no one" thinks digital will outlast books...I'm extremely curious about this. To be frank, I have a hard time believing such. But I'm also interested in why you say such, since you have the librarian background.

I should mention that I come from a family of librarians, even a ravenous pack of wild linguists if you will. :D I totally, completely value hard, solid, bound books. I'm not one to say that technology will ever completely replace this valuable commodity. But we have seen it replacing some hard copy arenas. Newspapers have been on a sharp decline since the advent of the Internet, for example. But I'm not trying to make a point. Only that I'm curious about what you've brought up, and I sincerely think it's worth exploring, especially considering that section about books in the Doctrine and Covenants:

"...the books were opened; and another book was opened, which was the book of life; but the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works; consequently, the books spoken of must be the books which contained the record of their works, and refer to the records which are kept on the earth. And the book which was the book of life is the record which is kept in heaven...wherein it is granted that whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven...for out of the books shall your dead be judged..." (D&C 128:7-8)

Notice the reference to books and binding. :D I thought you'd appreciate that.

I truly believe that there is so much of worth in our family histories, and I anxiously await the time when technology becomes sophisticated enough to really help us in this arena. I look at it as more than just a duty: record keeping and the like. I'm an artist by nature, a creator of sorts, if you will. And, like Heavenly Father, I think we all have the God-given desire to create and preserve things that are important to us. So I kind of look at family history in this sense. I yearn to create histories of my ancestors that are worthy of them, if that makes any sense.

You talked about the books you've been able to create through a downloadable digital service. This is kind of like what I'm talking about. We're on the precipice of this technology burst, and I see so much possibility down the road. Sometimes it takes my breath away just thinking about it. Now, don't get me wrong, I LOVE BOOKS. But you've really made me think about some things. How is it dangerous to keep digital copies of things? I've been living under the assumption that bits and bytes may/will last as long as other types of perishables (i.e., books). Very curious, indeed! Thanks for the brain teaser.

p.s. I have a lot of hope in the Church's role in helping us do these things, since they've burst onto the techie scene like this. :D Thanks!

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Postby russellhltn » Sat Feb 24, 2007 5:11 am

Rhapsidiomite wrote:I'm curious why you say "no one" thinks digital will outlast books...I'm extremely curious about this. To be frank, I have a hard time believing such. But I'm also interested in why you say such, since you have the librarian background.


I can tackle that one.

One of the first computers I laid my hand on was a NEC "laptop". A close relative to the Radio Shack TS-100. It saved data on a cassette tape. When I starting working with computers professionally, the backup medium was a 10 inch diameter reel of 1/2" tape. My father had some data on 8" floppies. Some of my first family PAF files are on 5 1/4" floppies. Do you know where I can find machines to read any of that? It's only been about 20-25 years since that was common media.

The media format isn't the only problem. Programs change too. My mother wrote about her early childhood and some of her poetry on a 3.5" floppy. No problem? Well, it was saved using a Brother WP-75 word processor. While the disk will fit any PC, the disk format is not readable by a PC. Even if disk format was, there's still the issue of the file format.

Using the PAF example again, the current version of PAF can't read a PAF 2 backup file. Only PAF 2 can. So if the disk is a backup file, one must find a PAF 2 program and do a restore. Then one must go though a few more versions to get it to the current PAF 5.

What is the lifetime of this media? Magnetic media is made of iron oxide ground into a fine powder and glued to a plastic backing. If you've ever run across a hold roll of scotch tape or masking tape, you'll know that glue doesn't last forever. Likewise the magnetic media has a limited life. I believe Sony and indicated that the life of VCR tape stored under good conditions is a little over a decade. By the time your children are adults, the original video of your wedding will be unplayable.

One of the major advantages of a digital file is that it can be copied over and over without any degradation. The problem is, due to the limited life span of the media, both in terms of the media itself and its format, it must be copied to a new medium to remain viable. The problems is, who is going to do that? It's one thing to copy known important stuff. But who is going to copy the unimportant out of date stuff that will later become a treasure? Are you saving all the emails you sent in the past 20 years as a type of digital diary of your life? Will you remember to do it before you no longer have any equipment that can read the format? Will you remember to dub your wedding video?

The bottom line is electronic media has a limited lifetime and must be continually copied. There is no format currently available that is truly long-term.

On the other hand paper has survived quite well. Paper needs only the human eyeball to be read. While it does degrade, many times it has survived over a hundred years of neglect and still be readable. Even when the paper was intended to be disposable, such as newspapers.

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Postby thedqs » Sat Feb 24, 2007 11:45 am

That was a great summary of Digial vs. Print. There are many books and scrolls from back before Christ and throughout Medevil times. The thing is though, paper and books now a days are made to be thrown away while back in those earlier times paper was made out of skins, old cloth, and other lasting products. The average book today will only last about a couple hundred years if treated very well. (I just had a lesson on this a week ago)

The nice thing about digital media is that it only takes a short time to copy/convert but trying to copy a book or video takes a lot longer and the quality degrades.

Anyway I am all for the printing out and creation of family histories (I have 2 myself) but I also believe that the original file should be kept updated so that it can be used to create more book when the old ones break, water damage, burn, or just fall apart.

So will digital outlast paper or visa versa? No, they both will coexist together.
- David

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Postby langbert » Sat Feb 24, 2007 2:27 pm

RussellHltn: So I pretty much agree with your assessment. But I also think that you're referring more to the advent of the digital age, which was not prepared for the era of conversion and copy.

It's becoming much more easy to both copy and convert formats. I *DO* think it will become easier and easier, and that "standards" will become just that, more standard, so that things will retain their original digital stamp, if you will.

It's an interesting argument, and I'm still not convinced that one format is necessarily better than another...just different and serving different purposes.


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