Wednesday, December 16, 2009

And I would want to do this, why?

As I've mentioned, Google has decided that not only are blog readers a potential market for ads, so are the bloggers themselves. One ad, in particular, offers to print one's blog in book form. I can see the appeal of that in general, and I'm not alone, but the devil is in the details. The details in this case are not particularly attractive.
  • They're offering to print up your blog in softcover for $15 for the first 20 pages and $0.35 for each additional page. This is way, way more than Lulu charges to print on demand, so they're essentially charging you a hefty premium for scraping your blog and formatting it lightly before printing it.
  • The formatting options are extremely limited. You can show the entries in forward or reverse order, with or without comments. I didn't find out whether they carry along the style of the online version.
  • I didn't see any mention of indexing or table of contents.
  • As far as I can tell you can't even customize the title. You can, however, add an introduction/dedication of ... wait for it ... up to 350 characters!
I wouldn't call this a scam by any means, as they say up front what they do and what it costs, but it's definitely vanity publishing in the broader sense (see here for some background on what I mean by that). It's certainly not a commercially viable proposition [for the blogger, that is].

If I were to produce a print edition of Field Notes, I'd take a somewhat different approach:
  • I'd regroup the posts by theme so it becomes painfully obvious how often I've flogged each dead horse. The tags would be of some help here, but only some.
  • I'd provide a short lead-in for each section and a longer introduction for the book.
  • I'd probably do some light editing to improve the flow from one post to the next.
  • I'd give some indication of links between posts and probably selected external links. Sidenotes, maybe.
  • I'd clean up some of the formatting for consistency's sake, particularly the pseudo footnotes that appear here and there and maybe the editorial notes I sometimes add after the fact.
  • I'd take out any superfluous commas and parentheses I missed the first time around.
  • I'd provide a table of contents and index. Again the tags would be of some help, but only some, in constructing the index.
  • Along the way I'd probably end up doing some gardening in the blog itself, cleaning up tags and tweaking posts.
  • I'd title it Field Notes on the Web: Old-media Remix
All of this would entail quite a bit of hand-editing, some custom scripting/XML-bashing, considerable puzzling over what belongs in which section and, not least, re-reading the whole blog and the finished result from start to finish multiple times. To make this worth my while I'd need to see some indication that people would buy it, and I'm at least a couple of orders of magnitude away from that level of readership.

So if you're interested in my version, tell a hundred or so of your closest friends to stop by, and tell them to tell their friends, etc.. Go ahead. I'll wait. In the mean time, if you really, really want to get your hands on a printed, bound copy of a bunch of Field Notes, feel free to track down the service yourself. As far as I can tell, they don't really care whose blog you print, so long as you print it. Myself, I don't see the point.

1 comment:

David Hull said...

Note to self: running ads to bloggers seems to have been short lived