Writing on the Web is quite different. The medium is expandable, it accommodates different types of content like video or music, it has formatting challenges, and so on. But at times I would like to have a printed version of a post, or group of posts for carrying with me (no, I don’t yet use a tablet!) Until now, the only option was to print the post which may also include sidebars, menus, and other parts that are not needed in print. Recently, say a couple of months ago, I stumbled on a new service that creates printed books from any blog content. The service is offered by FeedFabrik (www.feedfabrik.com) and it can accept input from several popular blogging platforms including WordPress of course.
My initial attempts generated an error message and the process aborted. After reporting the problem, their programmers ironed out the problems, well, most of the important ones, and I was able to create several “books” in digital format. The process is fairly straight forward and I have produced several volumes of test output and you will find a link to a sample at the end of this article:
- Point your browser to feedfabrik.com and choose the book option, BookFabrik. They also offer a poster service which did not interest me and I have not tried it.
- Choose the correct platform, Blogger, WordPress, TypePad, Tumbler
- Provide your access ID and password to make sure others cannot create a book using your content. They promise not to keep the login information after the current session.
- Click on “Create my Book” button
The system logs into your blog and extracts blog contents, images (there are some snags) from each post excluding the headers, sidebars, menus, and other content that has a place on the Web but not in print. Depending on the size of the blog this may take a while, be patient. You will be presented with a progress bar which stands still for some time before showing the percentage of work completed. This is the most time-consuming part and it can be 5-7 minutes or more.
As you see, after the wait is over you will see the preview of your book and flip through the pages. The control block on the left allows to modify the date range, chronological order or reverse, the cover design, and several layout options. If any of these options are changed after the initial creation of the book a warning message alerts the user for recreating the book with the new options.
In general, the process works well. The obvious shortcomings are the exclusion of video and audio content, although technically it may be possible to embed them in the digital PDF copy. Other than these, there are several issues that I have reported to FeedFabrik and they informed me that they were working on them. These are the nits to pick:
- Ability to choose post categories to include, this is a must-have for me. It will allow creating content related to a narrow subject
- Page content is entirely omitted, which may be fine for most circumstances but it will be nice to be able to include selected page content.
- Their formatting treats a heading (H2-H6) after the first one (H1) like ordinary text. This causes the article to lose its entire structure and reading becomes difficult
- Some images are omitted if there is only a text link to them rather than an image thumbnail
- Tabular data presented in tables are not handled well at all and they indicated that was intentional since table-based old layouts can be extremely difficult to render. I found a workaround and did a screen capture of the table part of one post and inserted it as an image
- Some widow and orphan control is erratic and I had a heading separated from the paragraph that followed. The support person indicated that they normally pay attention to widow and orphan controls, those single line of a paragraph left on the previous page or the single last line of a paragraph that spill to the next page
- Some small images are treated as any other and presented on a separate line, a minor issue for sure
- I would like to control the font size and justification of paragraph content. Currently all content is full-justified. On an automated system like this it is difficult to properly justify both left and right edges of paragraphs and when not done right there could be gaping spaces between words. I would much prefer the have left-justified text than those artificial gaps
- Their WordPress plugin, which will remove the need to provide login information on their site, is not working reliably, it will be a welcome feature and eliminate the security concerns many will have, as I had initially
I think this service will be well utilized. It will allow me to create small PDF or printed books of some related content to offer in my small store. That said, for a large blog content the cost of a big book quickly climbs. I created a single book containing all the posts; it was over 1,000 pages and the printed version would cost me about $75. On the other hand, the PDF copies are very reasonably priced at 2.99 Euros. There is the option of getting a free PDF preview which includes all trim marks. They can be removed easily in Acrobat, but I encourage anyone interested in using this service to spring for the paid version of the PDF copy to support an excellent service.
For your patience for reading this far, here is a PDF copy of Kept Light 2011.
Take a look at FeedFabrik, you may actually like it. I did!