It was a few days ago and my son and I were sitting on the floor playing cars. We were having a great time. As the the little Mini Cooper crashed into the red truck a thought crossed my mind; these times are fleeting. My son won't be little forever. Remembering these times is important.
We take pictures and tell stories to save these memories for our future. The archiving of our personal libraries is something I worry about. The world is information-rich, but how much of the information is being stored in a permanent way? This is especially true when so much depends on the digital. Our society has started to believe in the permanence of the digital world. In time I think that this will create a digital oubliette where things you thought were permanent prove to be very temporary.
After being frightened by this possibility, I started thinking about Magic Margin. This blog has been a work of several years. In that time I have created over four-hundred posts, took thousands of pictures, and devoted nearly a thousand hours of work. In short, Magic Margin means something to me.
So, I wanted to back it up. I wanted to save my work. Blogger lets you download an XML file of your site and all the corresponding comments. This is a good feature if you want to save it to a hard drive, but I wanted a more permanent solution that didn't offer just another digital file. I dug around the Internet and I found many web sites offering to turn your blog into a printed book. In mind this would be the perfect solution. Prices and options were all over the map, but I came away with the impression that the full-service sites it would be too expensive for a large blog like this. Then, I found BlogBooker.
BlogBooker is a free-to-use blog to PDF converter based on LaTEX and a few other open-source text formatting tools. The process is pretty easy. You upload your site backup XML file, set the date range you would like to archive, pick an output size, and let BlogBooker do its business.
The process is relatively fast. I opted to make my "book" into year volumes with 2010 being the first. It was a short blogging year because it worked out to only be 74 pages. Subsequent years I must have been wordier because 2011 worked out to 290 pages.
The output file is a PDF paginated correctly. This PDF is suitable for uploading to a print-on-demand service like Lulu. It was Lulu that I picked to print volume I of my opus.
The product turned out nicely. I like the size and feel of a trade paperback and it was fortuitous that I was able to select that. The product looks professional and a gloss full-color cover is standard. The paper feels professional, but the failings of my book is the BlogBooker rendering engine.
All the text is there, but frequently spacing is odd. Also, paragraphs on this blog are separated by a carriage return. BlogBooker strips those out. As the output format is PDF I didn't have a means to edit the content directly. The warts and odd formatting must stay. Since I have Adobe Acrobat Professional, I was able to replace the BlogBooker standard title page with something more to my liking.
In the end I am happy that I have been able to take my digital work and turn it into an analog memory.