17 April 2008

Turning bytes into books

Relatives always ask when I'm going to write a book about the family. As do many other genealogists, I reply that it isn't a possibility yet; things keep changing, new information is always being discovered.

However, there may be a way to handle this. You may be in the same boat, wanting to produce a comprehensive volume of research and photographs, but wondering what to do about updates. There's some good news as there are ways to produce periodic updates to the big book as new family facts are uncovered. You could even prepare a book focusing simply on a roots trip to an ancestral shtetl. The possibilities are endless.

Although this New York Times story focuses on scrapbooking, the hints, tips and resources offered can easily be adapted by genealogists and family historians wishing to preserve their unique discoveries.

Resources include Blurb.com, Picaboo.com and Picturia Press.

Today, Ms. Leendertse still turns a pile of pictures and paragraphs into bound books, but instead of working just for a roster of major publishers like MIT Press, she helps individuals create books. She is participating in an offshoot of the scrapbooking phenomena, the hobby of collecting and preserving photos and mementos.

What was once a pastime for mothers recording family memories for their children has blossomed into a new, fertile marketplace of collaboration. People with stories to tell are creating personalized books filled with pictures, blog entries and even business proposals. While some of these glorified scrapbooks are aimed at the world at large, many new titles were never intended to be sold in stores or marketed in any way. For instance, architects submitting bound proposals for their projects have used some of the scrapbooking tools.

The digital tools — the camera, scanner and word processor — have opened the field of book creation to the amateur as the hobby moves away from pasting buttons and rickrack onto pages. But sometimes the bookmakers need a little help.....

Downloadable digital designs, templates and illustrations can be found at theshabbyshoppe.com, scrappydoodlekits.com, rakscraps.com, peppermintcreative.com and escrappers.com. Some have free samples, charge for more complex types, and some distribute free files for an annual subscription to archives.

Katie Pertiet, the creative director for DesignerDigitals.com, sells new downloadable artwork for scrapbookers from a Web site she runs with her husband from her home. Last year, she herself created five different books with more than 400 illustrated pages filled with photos and stories about her children and grandchildren.

Every Sunday morning she shares some of these designs with her customers. Some are produced by Ms. Pertiet and others by artists who license their art to the site. She estimates that she sells about 700 packages each Sunday.

The story also talks about software:

Book creators use Adobe Photoshop (about $650), but others find the simpler and less expensive Photoshop Elements (about $100) adequate. Some amateur bookmakers prefer focused scrapbooking software like Nova Development’s Art Explosion Scrapbook Factory (novadevelopment.com) selling for about $40. As the name might imply, the package comes with thousands of fonts, illustrations, templates and “photorealistic embellishments” like pictures of buttons, ribbons or charms.

What can a book cost? According to the story:

A 7- by-7-inch soft-cover book from Blurb.com starts at $13 for 20 to 40 pages, with extra pages additional. Bigger, fatter books like a 150-page 13-by-11-inch hardcover cost $85. There are volume discounts. Picaboo.com sells some 20-page soft-cover books for $10 and offers a variety of bound books including ones covered with linen or padded leather.

Read more here


  1. Thanks for the article. I was in the same boat about a year ago: the 50th wedding anniversary for my in-laws was fast approaching and I felt the data and pictures were not complete.

    But I went ahead and printed a book at Ancestry Press anyway. I've asked them to make corrects, add info etc. Then I can print a new one for them.

  2. Great information here Schelly! Thanks!