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July 21, 2008

Blog to Book?

I've been asked about this twice this week so I thought I'd dig up this old blog post and feature at the top of the blog for a while. :)

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For the last several years, my blog has been my sanity saving hobby but that changed last summer when I discovered www.blurb.com.    I still love my blog but now I can also preserve these special memories for our family in book form. 

It's not effortless to convert your blog into a beautiful high quality book but it IS totally possible.  Blurb provides the quality and you provide the content.  And I think it's incredibly rewarding and even...  fun!   

I've completed four years of blog-inspired books and I'm incredibly proud of the results.    These are books my family will enjoy for a lifetime (plus the lifetimes of generations to come).  With the possible exception of my overcooked Pot Roast, I can't give my family a gift likely to last as long.

Blog_to_book

Blurb lets you "slurp" your blog right into their software.  It grabs everything with your dates and headings and text in the right order.  It also imports your blog photos but I've replaced the photos it imports with original, higher resolution, photos from my computer. 

Why do this?  Most of the photos on our blog are usually resized so they'll load quicker for viewers.  Even though they look good on the computer, they're reduced in size and will print very small.  Small photos are less satisfying to look at in a book and not really worth to $$ to print them.  So I replaced all the photos.  It was a pretty big task but here's how I did it:

I uploaded my entire blog into one book (all four years!).  I picked size 11 by 13 and did a little bit of clean up.  Then I immediately made four copies of this draft and re-named each to correspond with only one year.  For example

"T_ _ _ _ Family Album (2004)" 
"T_ _ _ _ Family Album (2005)"
"T_ _ _ _ Family Album (2006)"
"T_ _ _ _ Family Album (2007)"

Then I went back into the 2004 draft and deleted everything that wasn't a blog entry from 2004.  I did the same with all of the other books/years too.  That gave me four smaller projects to work on at my leisure.  The task was much less overwhelming when it was broken down this way.

To replace the photos (and add others I had but didn't put on the blog), I took all the photos on my computer, copied them then put them in one folder and sorted them by date taken.  Then I divided them into folders according to date.  This made it easy to find and replace (or add) a photo just by dragging and dropping it into the free Blurb software.

You'll have to clean up the formatting of your book before it's totally ready to send to print.  They have dozens of different ways to combine photos and text and you'll be able to mix and match your pages to make the most of each page.    It's not hard and I found that it was really fun and very personally rewarding since I was making a record of something that would be special to my whole family for all the years to come.
 
I was also preserving our priceless photos so they wouldn't be totally gone if something should happen to our computers or if our house burned down.  I can't tell you how much I worried about losing our irreplaceable photos.  Once you print your Blurb book, they store the digital copy forever and you can always go back and print another copy if you need to. 

The 11 x 13 size worked best for me because most of our photos are large enough to print beautifully as an 8 x 10 (or larger).  This gave me plenty of room to have my blog text and still have a big gorgeous photo on the same page.    But other size books are available and they're also very nice (I've created Lifebooks for both girls in size 8 by 10).    Before you do anything,  I recommend that you first look at the public Blurb books that others have made just to get some ideas about what layouts, size and formats are available.  Once you pick a book size, you can't change it without starting over from scratch -- so pick carefully!  Also remember that larger books are more expensive.    We didn't plan to print more than one copy of our yearly albums so it was okay that they were big and more expensive.  But they still averaged out to less than .50 cents per page!  That's an 11x13 full color page for less than .50 cents!

Sorry this got so long but I'm pretty excited about our yearly album.  Our 2008 book is already in progress and now all I do I simply add to it as I go along.  When I post something to the blog, I copy and paste it to the book too (and add all the extra pics I want).  Then, when the year ends, I'll be able to add the last few pictures then upload it and it'll arrive a couple of weeks later!
   
The initial (huge) time investment is over and now it's just a little bit of maintenance to keep the current book updated.  I've also been able to include text and photos that I'd never put in our public blog (personal emails about the birth of our niece, etc) but it's wonderful to have a permanent record of events that are significant to our family.  Even if they're not part of our blog.

Before I started printing our blog this way, NONE of our digital photos were in physical printed form in any album in our home.  Seriously, we had no album since our wedding album in 2001!

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