PDF and paper books
I see a lot of folks planning their participation for SoFoBoMo, and they’re all cranked up about Print On Demand (aka POD) books and POD publishers like Blurb, Lulu, and the rest.
And what confuses me, somewhat, is that the explicit goal of SoFoBoMo is not a paper book, but a PDF format file. Last year, we picked PDF as a way to do an end run around having participants struggle with the varied software, process, etc. of the multiple POD publishers, along with the turn around time for getting books printed and delivered. And it turned out that using the PDF format was a big bonus because it let participants share their SoFoBoMo books – something that would be hard to do if all we ended up with was physical paper books. As Gordon McGregor pointed out, last year we had 60 books finished. I looked at every single one. And if I’d had to buy 60 paper books, even if they were sold at the cost of production, I’d never have done that.
And thus it turns out that SoFoBoMo stumbled into the right solution, albeit for somewhat wrong reasons. We should have been unconcerned with the software worries (because generating a PDF requires some software, eh?) and we could have avoided turnaround issues by just saying that the time you lost to turnaround didn’t count. But instead we went the PDF route, and we reaped rewards unexpected in our common hours. Life is ever thus.
And so I urge the people who are busily learning Booksmart or other POD layout software to consider the benefits of PDF – sharable, it can be uploaded to the SoFoBoMo website (this feature is planned, anyway), free copying – all good things. It’s even true that it’s relatively painless to go from a PDF to a book with Blurb or other POD pubisher – export the pages as individual images, drop the pages into the POD software as full bleed pages, and order the book. In an important way, this keeps you from being tightly bound to a particular POD publisher. That’s exactly what I did to get a physical printed book – by aiming at the PDF as the primary output, I pretty much killed two birds with one stone.
Maybe it’s child’s play to generate a PDF from the various POD software tools each POD vendor provides. But if I were going that route, I’d want to verify that before I make that my plan, because it would be a bummer to miss out on all the advantages that PDF output provides.
And yes, I understand the significant emotional impact of holding in your hands an actual physical book, with real paper pages that have your photographs on them. But there are equally compelling experiences with that PDF file, too – and because the experiences occur in the mind of someone half a world away from you, there’s a tendency to discount them.