Seems to be a fair amount of excitement among libloggers about Blog Slurper, a new Blurb template/program to, well, slurp up the contents of a blog and turn them into a book.
Dave Hook, The Industrial Librarian, thinks it might make sense to turn all of the Carnivals of the Infosciences into a book. Steven Cohen, Library Stuff, thinks ALA Editions should jump on that idea.
And I just don’t get it–particularly for something like the Carnivals.
I’m not saying blooks–books based on blogs–never make sense; there are clearly cases where they’re good ideas.
I’m also not dissing the Carnivals; I make a point of reading them, and am delighted that they’re all listed in a nice compact wiki page. Checking a few of them from that page confirmed my gut feeling. Some Carnivals consist of heavily-annotated/commented links; some consist of links with just enough annotation to guide you to the original post. Many Carnival inclusions are reasonably ephemeral, and they cover a huge range of subjects somehow related to the overall theme.
To turn this into a book, you’d need extensive indexing–and you’d be left with a book full of URLs, a book that made relatively little sense without, ahem, typing those URLs into a browser and hoping that the blogs were still around. It would still be an astonishingly random book.
Could such a book really attract enough readers to justify the cost of indexing and production within ALA Editions’ overhead structures? What would be the sales pitch for buying a print book that’s not quite as useful as the wiki page? I may be missing something here–but I’m probably as strong a “print books ROOL!” person as most any liblogger, and this is one where I don’t see print books as the right medium.
For that matter, I wonder whether you could use Blog Slurper to produce a formatted manuscript for any publisher other than Blurb? That’s a secondary question; the easiest part of turning the Carnivals into a book would be harvesting the text and transferring it to Word or QuarkXPress or whatever. I think that’s also true for most other blogs–if I wanted to produce a book based entirely on selections from this blog (unlikely, although it’s highly likely that text from this blog will turn up in books at some point), “slurping up” the posts–presumably by category, since pure chronology makes no sense at all for a multitopic blog–would be the easy part.
Among others who’ve posted enthusiastically about Blurb and Blog Slurper, Greg McClay (citing Rachel Singer Gordon’s post,, as I should also do), is apparently thinking about producing such a blook so he can be reminded of what he’s written.
Really? As with most any WordPress blog, McClay’s blog has a search box that works very well, and he uses categories to label posts. Between the two tools, I’ve never had any problem locating an old post–although I’m sometimes bemused by the other posts that come up, along the lines of “Oh, I said that too, didn’t I?” Here again, I wonder how a print book is going to make it easier to locate old posts.
Then there’s the other problem with Book Slurp: Blurb’s pricing. Right now, Blurb is designed to produce full-color vanity books, and priced accordingly. Let’s say that you slurp up 50,000 words of posts–which really isn’t all that much text for a year’s worth of a fairly frequent blogger, and is the length of many typical nonfiction library books these days. [This post all by itself is just over 1,000 words–admittedly, pretty darn long for a weblog.] Assuming plausible formatting on Blurb’s current full-page service (they don’t yet offer 6×9 text-only paperbacks), that would probably yield about 100-120 pages. (In a well-formatted 6×9 paperback, figure not much more than 300 words per page, but I’m assuming 400-500 words per page for the larger pages.)
Blurb wants $30 bucks a copy for such a book. Plus $9 shipping. Of which Blurb keeps 100%.
Blurb’s strength is pure ease of use (you don’t have to understand book design, you don’t need to layout the book and produce a PDF file, you just have to populate a template), and the service makes sense for very short run gift books: Where you want to produce photo albums for four family units, for example, Blurb may make sense.
Otherwise…well, check Lulu or Cafe Press, to give two examples of operations set up to support true self-publishing for short-run books dominated by text. Assuming that the 50,000-word blook requires 170 6×9 pages (with generous text size and margins), Lulu’s production and distribution price would be $7.94 a copy; I believe their default shipping charges are low. The price of a Lulu book is set by the author (at or above the production costs), and the author gets 80% of the difference between price and cost; thus, that blook that’s $30 plus shipping on Blurb might be $15 plus shipping on Lulu, with the author getting $5.60 per copy sold.
I’m not touting Lulu here, and it’s absolutely true that you can’t compare black-and-white 6×9 paperbacks to full-color 8×10 or 8.5×11 paperbacks. Lulu charges 15 cents a page for color pages, as opposed to two cents a page for b&w; a 100-page full-color book would start at right around $20 a copy–still, to be sure, considerably lower than Blurb. But the author has to design the book, at least in part. (There are quite a few services that compete in different ways. I’m just using one example.)
(Print-on-demand makes sense for very short run books, or where you can’t predict the sales level at all. When/if I do some C&I-related books, I’ll use Lulu or a competitor. But if you can project several hundred sales and have ways to distribute a book, traditional methods are still considerably cheaper.)
So what am I missing? How would a print book serve the Carnivals? Why would it be easier to search than a blog with a search box and categories?