Book Printing, Word Documents and PDF’s
My apologies for a lack of posts this week. I have been trying to sort out a couple of books!
I am trying to compile a hard copy book of the most popular blog posts on the site, which involved a lot more work than I had anticipated. First it involved identifying the most popular posts and then sorting them out into some sort of categories. In the end I printed out the post titles and went through the list with different coloured highlighters, not the most hi-tech method, but it worked for me.
So how do you find out which posts are most popular? To do this I use Google Analytics, if you have a website you can sign up for the service free of charge. (I wouldn’t be surprised if Google end up running the world)
Then I needed to put my posts into Word. This website uses software called Wordpress. I usually type the posts directly into Wordpress as copying and pasting from Word gives you all sorts of formatting problems on your website. (If you would like your own website but Wordpress sounds a bit complicated, have a look at it’s free little sister Wordpress.com, it’s much easier to set up)
To put pictures up on a website they need to be small (in the kb range) or else your web page takes too long to load, people get bored and click off to somewhere else. To print out, a hard copy book, your pictures need to be larger or else they look crap, so I had to go back to my source files and convert all my website images to jpegs. You get different types of picture file, many of the blog images on this site are PNGs but most printing companies prefer jpegs. To do this I used a free bit of software from an Australian Company called Pixillion Image Convertor. I like this bit of software, it’s fairly idiot proof (I can use it). You can convert a lot of files at once and select what size you want them.
After that, I had to format my Word document so that it could easily be converted to a pdf (which is what commercial printers need to print from). I learnt a lot from the Word Most Valuable Professionals website. It was easier to format my entire PhD thesis than prepare a print ready pdf but I got there in the end. (Note - Insert Page Break is NOT the way to go…)
So now I need to convert my Word Document to pdf. There are a few options, Word 2007 will do this for you (but I have Word 2003). You can also use Open Office, which is a free, open source version of software similar (but not identical to) Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access. As I had prepared my document in Word, copying it into Open Office messed up my contents and index, so I gave up on this. The other software that I tried included doc2pdf and an Adobe pdf print driver (if only I could afford Adobe Acrobat!).
Many Publish on Demand Companies will create a print ready pdf for you. I tried lulu.com (probably one of the largest, it is an American company). There website is modern and well set out, but they don’t have much in the way of customer support. I emailed their help desk a week ago and still haven’t had a reply. I spent 7 hours getting error messages telling me that my fonts weren’t embedded, so good luck trying to sort that out with no support. They are not not a complete waste of space though, I have published my ebook with them.
Another company that creates books is Blurb. They specialise in photobooks, although you can also download blogs (from Wordpress.com ONLY, not Wordpress.org). I made a short photobook in Blurb, I found the software (called Bookstart) easy to use, although it eats up computer memory like you wouldn’t believe and I’d never want to use it to create a text heavy book because the text editing is chronically slow. Blurb is another US company, but they also have printers in Europe so you can select A4 (rather than 8×10 inches, which seems to be the standard in America). There are hundreds of other photobook companies in the UK (including most of the major supermarkets) and their prices vary widely, it looks like a very competitive market.
There are many other print on demand companies, although it seems to be more popular in the US than the UK. Another one I looked at is called WordClay, their customer support is far superior to lulu. You have a live chat button and can message a real live helpful person! Having said that the page breaks in my Word document and their pdf varied wildly and I got fed up repeatedly trying to upload my document with minor changes. Their cover designer was rubbish, you couldn’t even upload your own picture, so lulu wins there. Even using their own cover designer right justified text would automatically be centred on the pdf.
You had the option of uploading your own cover design to WordClay, but you would need some high end software like Photoshop, Illustrator or Corel. I bottled out when I got to the spine width calculator and decided that life was just too short (and my graphic design skills too limited) to bother. Another downside to WordClay is that it takes 1-2 weeks for them to get your book on their printers.
What about local companies? Well the printer in Huntly closed several years ago. I know of MMS in Keith and Librario in Kinloss. If I ever get round to writing a proper book instead of a motley collection of blog posts then I would certainly consider Librario. I used the University of Aberdeen Copyshop at the Queen Mother Library to soft bind my thesis, although that isn’t really a cost effective way of producing a book and I believe RGU have a similar service called the Gatehouse.
So at the end of the day, what have I decided? I haven’t. I like publishing on the web because all I have to pay for is my broadband connection, my web hosting (with CS New Media, who also have a very helpful support service) and the software I use (such as SmartDraw and Word). I can update or remove information when I like.
However, many people don’t use the web and many people do like to flick through a book, the trouble is this is expensive for me to produce, hard to market and distribute and likely to go out of date very quickly.
Thanks are also due to Black Lab Software for providing me with a UK based medical dictionary for Word (I got very fed up with the squiggly red lines in word) and hopefully my spelling of eosinophil and myelogenous will improve. Shame it doesn’t work in Wordpress
Like any good scientist, working on a very limited budget, I will experiment with a few different methods until I find something that works. If you have any suggestions I’d be pleased to hear them, use the comment form below or to email me privately click on the Contact Form.