Apparently today is ‘International POD Publishers Do Things Which Greatly Annoy Paul Butzi Day”, on which all the POD publishers in the world attempt to provoke me into throwing a stroke by doing stupid things to annoy me. And not one of you warned me. Hmpf.
This morning, after fooling around with various ways to get from an InDesign document to something that can be force-fed into Blurb’s Booksmart software, I sat down to actually attempt to generate something I could order from Booksmart. Today was the day to, at long last, actually order a real printed book from SOMEONE, and for various reasons that someone was going to be Blurb.
It’s easy to get InDesign to render a book as full page jpgs. Well, it’s easy once you know how. Before that, it’s a bit of a mystery. But I’d figured that out, and armed with an InDesign book laid out to the dimensions specified by Blurb, I fired up InDesign and populated a folder with jpgs with names like page01.jpg, etc.
And then I fired up BookSmart. I will give you the complete story, with three part harmony, full orchestration, and a lot of feeling.
I understand why software like Booksmart exists. Really, I do. It exists because InDesign is too complicated, and asking someone to put together a book of their vacation to Epcot Center or Bermuda with InDesign is like asking someone “Will you please run down to the corner mailbox to mail a letter, and oh, by the way, would you mind using my Lockheed C-5a Galaxy strategic airlift jet?” I mean, InDesign is overkill for practically anything. And it’s expensive, too.
But still. People could lay out their books in Word, or Pages, or whatever tool they want, and generate PDFs which they upload. But when this is proposed, of course the techno guys at Blurb cover their ears and cry out in horror. People will get it all wrong. They’ll be mad because their books look like crud. They won’t pay. Blurb will go broke.
And so, what happens is that Blurb hires someone to write a simple layout tool like BookSmart. Limited feature set. Careful limits on what can be done. Templates. Handholding. The techno guys at Blurb no longer cry out in horror and shout “No, don’t do that, you’ll shoot your eye out, kid.” when they watch someone getting ready to upload stuff to Blurb to be printed.
Hey, they even have a (beta) version for the Mac, so I should be pleased, right? Wrong. Booksmart is bad.
My first intimation that my life with BookSmart was not going to be lovey-dovey was when I realized that it was not child’s play to get it to just let me cram pages into a book and plop images onto those pages. Oh, no, it took several abortive efforts before I got to that point. And then, when I had all of those files named ‘page001.jpg’ etc. imported into BookSmart, I had to plop them onto the pages one by one. And if that isn’t bad enough, I had to put up with some moron’s version of drag and drop, where I had to click once on an image to select it, and then click on it and drag it to the page, instead of just click and drag and drop. My carpal’ed out wrists started to protest even with the Apple Mighty Mouse in little plastic shards and the ergonomic mouse installed.
But in the end, I got it all done, and even think I got all the pages in and in the right order. It took me three tries with the cover, because it kept insisting that the ‘subtitle’ field had too much text in it even though it was empty. In the end THAT problem turned out to be that the ‘title’ field on the cover had nothing in it but a single space. When I deleted that space, BookSmart stopped complaining. At this point, realizing that this was probably pretty buggy software, I started in praying in earnest.
But I did manage to upload the book to Blurb. And I ordered it, and I even paid the outrageous $10.92 for standard 5 day ground shipping. Hey, Blurb! I could ship a Lockheed C-5a Galaxy strategic airlift jet from where you are to where I am, overnight, for less than that. Be ashamed.
And then, after I successfully navigated through giving them billing and shipping addresses and such, and I’d ordered the book, I went back to BookSmart, to make sure I’d saved my work.
So I hit ‘file/save’ and Booksmart threw up this dialog, and I typed in a name, and BookSmart saved my work. But where, I pondered, had it saved it? It never asked me for a location. So I searched and searched, in vain, trying to find where the hell this worthless steaming pile of offal had saved my work. Because, you know, I wanted to make sure it would appear in my BACKUPS and stuff.
But no, I couldn’t find it. Not even harnessing the Magical Power of Spotlght Searching on my mac could reveal the location, because there were about 27 quadrillion things that came up when I searched for SoFoBoMo2008. So I created a new, empty book. And I saved it with a wildly improbable name that (ahem) made fun of the software developers at blurb in a particularly inappropriate way. And then I searched for THAT using Spotlight.
And I found it, and to my everlasting horror, I discovered where BookSmart had saved my work. Here is a little quiz – when BookSmart saves your work, does it save it in:
- your Documents folder
- on your desktop
- your home directory
- the BookSmart folder in the systemwide applications folder, which they’re not supposed to do
If you guessed #4, you’re right. That’s what it does. You’ve been warned. When BookSmart saves your work, and it doesn’t get picked up in your backup because no one backs up software they can just reinstall, don’t blame me. Blame the ignorant moron at Blurb who wrote the software. And if that happens to you, and you want a particularly inventive, vulgar, vitriolic curse to level at the morons responsible at Blurb, let me know. I’ve got a real dandy, and it’s only been used once. I’ll give you a special deal.
Now, it’s true that Blurb thoughtfully included a way for you to change this location. But if you’re working on, say, three different books, they all get saved in the new location. So I can’t have my SoFoBoMo 2008 book stored in one folder, along with the VioVio version and the Lulu version and whatever, and then have my Pacific Coast book in another folder entirely. No, that’s not allowed.
Honestly, I thought the software world moved away from this sort of microcephalic horsepucky with Dos 2.0. Apparently not at Blurb.