Saturday, November 27, 2010

From blogs to books

When I started writing I had many notebooks, recording something every day so they became like scrappy journals. The habit came from using sketch book, some of which I have from my teens. It is seldom that I look at them, though I like them being there.

Nowadays, other than first drafts of essays, almost everything I write is developed and stored electronically. This blog is an obvious example, but even my personal notes are made direct to the screen. My work exists largely in a virtual world and I worry it will be lost. And much that I like electronic publishing, there is something that remains exciting about the physicality of a book.

So last January I decided to transfer my blog to print. I used a company called Blog2Print and ordered two copies, one for my house in Wales and one for Wiltshire - they cost about seventy pounds which I guess is quite expensive but I opted for hardback and they do have over 150 colour pages. There is an option of a high quality PDF which you can self print for about a fiver.

The advantage of Blog2Book is that the set up is incredibly simple - it takes minutes to have the layout on screen, you can personalise covers, add dedications and receive a low resolution proof to check before confirming the order. The disadvantage is that the formatting is limited and the process doesn't always like posts with wrap around text. Overall the quality is excellent, the service fast and its a nice way of keeping a physical record of your work.

Having the blog printed also set me thinking about 'home books' and how underrated they are. I have a friend who wrote and illustrated stories for her children; my mother makes similar books for Dylan and my uncle keeps an illustrated diary of his adventures on his boat. For the last ten years my father in law has been keeping a Pembrokeshire diary, full of snippets and silly drawings and lists and photographs - he won't let us see it until the book is full (which he claims will be very soon) - everyone is waiting eagerly.

I suppose the whole point of home books is that they are not intended for a wider audience. This means they are not restricted by the conventions and commerciality of publishers. Like our lives, they are less than perfect, full of quirks and foibles - at their least, home books are a bit of fun and a personal touch; at best they are unique and intimate records to be passed down generations.

This isn't a sponsored post or anything like that, but I'd say having your blog printed is a good exercise. It reminds me of when I exhibited paintings - it is only when you see the images together that you fully understand what you have created. I always thought of Views From The Bike Shed as a public recording of my random thoughts. The interesting thing, that I can't fully explain, is when I see the words in print, it feels more personal, something more worth the keeping. Maybe your blog is like that too?


  1. That's great Mark. I saw and advert for these online the other day and wondered about them. I think yours looks excellent. What a great keepsake. :-)

  2. Look great. I thought about doing something similar last year for my relatives who don't use the internet so they'd get an idea of the kind of thing I'm doing these days.

    But that's as far as I've got with that project - well done on being the trailblazer!

    Just 3 more posts to go.... :)

  3. PS Hope you've floated a ball on the pond to maintain an airway for your fish. I guess it's frozen over by now?

    If not and it is frozen, you need to thaw it slowly using a pan of very hot water.

    Sorry if I'm telling you things you know already!

  4. You told me about Blog2Print some time ago so I took a look and it was, as you say, simple and relatively inexpensive.

  5. Wow. I've long wanted to do something like this. Thanks for the heads-up and for the link!

  6. That's a fabulous idea. I've been contemplating it myself but I have too many other projects going on at the moment. And with Christmas nearly upon us, think it might be something to look at next year.

    CJ xx

  7. I find the shift in perception when words are actually printed onto paper fascinating - it sounds as though this happened to you too when you re-read your blogs in book form. I always experienced this with academic work; arguments somehow gained gravitas as they moved from screen to paper. The same is true with my creative writing, which appears more legitimate printed out. Aside from that though, how lovely to see this book and be reminded of what you have achieved with all those well-chosen words.

  8. I've often considered doing that myself. However services like that don't do self hosted wordpress blogs, so it would be a case of copying and pasting. Not something I really relish as I've had periods of quite prolific writing in my five years of blogging.