Experiments with blog books

I’ve been experimenting with producing books from blogs, using the Web-based service BlogBooker.

BlogBooker appears to have one or two bugs. First, while blog entries appear in chronological order, comments appear in reverse chronological order. Second, BlogBooker regularly inserts close quotation marks at the beginning of sentences. It does not handle blockquotes particularly well, leaving too much white space above them, and sometimes indenting the first line oddly.

BlogBooker is not perfect in other ways. While BlogBooker captures still images posted on a blog, it will not include the images associated with most embedded videos (e.g., YouTube videos). It inserts an ugly title page. As an option, it can list links in footnotes, which is useful, but it places the footnote at the beginning of the link, not at the end. If a blog post includes internal links within that page, BlogBooker lists those links like any other, which is not very useful. BlogBooker does not retain the italics and bold type of an original Web page, though it does retain strikethrough type. And it will only accept output from three blogging platforms: WordPress, Blogger, and LiveJournal.

One last feature that annoyed me: BlogBooker places static pages within the regular blog chronology. But I feel that static pages should not be included in the regular blog chronology. I chose to edit the dates of each page so that they would not be included in the date ranges which I used to generate the blog book.

Even though BlogBooker is not perfect, it does produce reasonably good output with some customization allowed. It uses LaTeX as its underlying publishing platform, which means the typesetting is attractive. It does offer a number of options: specified date ranges; 5 page sizes, including U.S. letter, A4, 6×9″, 7.5×9.25″, and B4; 6 type faces; and 4 font sizes (9, 10, 11, and 12 pt.). You can choose whether or not to include comments or post author. It will automatically generate a table of contents and number the pages. Layout options include two columns, and starting each entry on a new page.

Best of all, the service is free. You can give them a donation if you want, but it is not required.

Because BlogBooker provides a PDF file as output, it is easy to create a printed book using one of the online print-on-demand Web sites. As proof of concept, I used LuLu.com to generate a printed book in trade paperback (6×9″) size. I added my own title page, and generally spruced up the PDF generated by BlogBooker; this, and fiddling with the time-consuming LuLu.com service, took up quite a bit of time. I have not yet received the printed copy, but LuLu.com has always produced excellent printed materials from PDF files.

As for ebooks: The PDF file generated by BlogBooker can serve as a perfectly adequate ebook. You can also use LuLu.com or other online print-on-demand services to generate an ePub file from the PDF.

In summary, BlogBooker can generate a reasonably good PDF book from a blog. If you’re satisfied with their somewhat quirky formatting choices, you can easily generate a print book or ebook from your blog.

6 thoughts on “Experiments with blog books”

  1. H, how you actually add title pages to .pdf?

    ” I added my own title page,
    and generally spruce up
    the PDF generated by BlogBooker;
    this, and fiddling with the time-consuming
    LuLu.com service, took up quite a bit of time.”

    br. Janne

  2. Janne, if you’re using a Mac, you can use Preview to add pages to a PDF document (read the Preview help documentation for specifics).

    If you’re using a Windows or Linux computer, you will have to get PDF editing software. Adobe makes the best PDF editing software, but it’s expensive — I’m sure there are less expensive programs out there, but I don’t know anything about them.

  3. Hmmm, I meet some problem… it is said in Lulus references:

    “Note: Lulu does not recommend creating a PDF using the PDF button found in the print menu on a Mac. Mac Quartz / Preview (Mac graphics technology that easily produces PDFs) was not intended for creating professional print quality PDFs, therefore it is not a suitable option when publishing on Lulu.”

    But, if I decide to accept lower quality, I still meet problem: edits made by Preview are disappeared (!) after handling file in Lulu. Even they are correctly uploaded at first. File is locked etc.

    br. J

  4. Janne, please note that this post is not about producing a professional quality book — it’s about producing a moderately good book with very little effort, at very low cost.

    If you want a professional quality book, then put in the time and money to do it right — get professional quality publishing software such as InDesign or Quark Xpress — hire an editor and a designer — and don’t bother with LuLu.com, but find a professional quality printer.

    As for Preview, I am not the person to ask — I suggest consulting the Apple support forums.

  5. Hello Dan, Thanks for the useful info. I have managed to get a pdf file of my blog from blogbooker. Its just good to have a saved copy and will decide in due course what to do with it. Are you the same Dan harper who visited my blog at nainitalgoddess.blogspot.com ?

    all the best

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