4. Libraries and Publish on Demand

The basic idea here is that Lulu (and CreateSpace) makes it feasible for even the smallest public libraries to either publish books (community histories, etc.) that might only reach a few dozen people, to provide publication assistance for patrons to prepare books that might literally never sell a copy except to the author (genealogy is the immediate and obvious case, but there are others). And to do so with little or no monetary investment, including no upfront investment for the books themselves.


  • Full-fledged lesson plan/speaking notes, ideally in two forms (one-hour in person/online, three-hour in-person?)
  • Word2007 template for 6×9 book, with sample .docx using that template and explaining elements
  • Ideally, a Mac-friendly version and/or a Word2003 version
  • Even more ideally, an OpenOffice version (if that’s feasible–if OO has the chops for this)
  • A PoD book setting forth the whole scenario and serving as an example, very high priced on its own with a substantial discount for workshop attendees (or bulk purchases)
  • Does this need a color book as well?

Book coverage:

  • Describing each element of the template
  • A typography overview, with notes on changing the template and lots of examples
  • A page and book layout overview, with notes on elements (and chapter changes)
  • Notes on copyfitting and typographic elegance
  • Notes on photos and charts, and the Excel trick
  • Notes on front matter and back matter
  • PDF issues
  • Notes on cover alternatives
  • Quick notes on alternative tools
  • When does the PoD option make sense?
  • Maybe notes on pricing, etc.–and the difference between PoD and vanity publishing.
  • Possibly other elements below

Workshop coverage:

Part 1: 30-45 minutes?

  • Possible uses [expand on this!]
  • Thinking about production options
  • What you don’t get with Lulu et al (copy editing, layout help, marketing, promotion)
  • What to do about those missing elements
  • Example pricing & release scenarios
  • The toolkit–basics and extensions
  • The nature of the template(s)

Part 2: 60-90 minutes?

  • Thinking about a book project
  • Working with the templates
  • Step-by-step through the elements of a book
  • Content and organization
  • Refinement levels
  • When is 6×9 wrong? When do you need color?
  • The hazards of dense photo management in Word2007
  • Details and trickery: Copyfitting etc.

Part 3: 45-60 minutes

  • Putting it all together
  • Cover refinement for wraparound covers
  • Checking the test copy
  • Thinking about sales & promotion
  • Discussion and other issues

What else? Is this a reasonable workshop?


On one hand, I bring a fair amount of value to this one, given amateur typographic and layout experience (good enough that I produced the camera-ready copy for two ALA Editions books and several earlier G.K. Hall/Knowledge Industry books), my own experiences with Lulu, my copyfitting experience with C&I. There should be thousands of libraries that could use the information.

On the other–I did a LITA regional workshop on desktop publishing in 1994 (I still have a copy of the workbook, including a magnificently and deliberately atrocious “do what I say” chapter). It seemed promising at the time. It happened twice, and was pretty much a disaster (partly because I wasn’t a great workshop presenter, mostly because very few people ever signed up).

Quick evaluation

  • Medium-scale effort (all new material), except that adding Macintosh and OpenOffice templates might be difficult.
  • Medium value added: Experience with PoD, some layout/typographic experience, some copyfitting experience.
  • Upfront: No money as such, but book preparation
  • Value to the field: Potentially high
  • Monetary rewards: Unclear, and might involve travel
  • Personal rewards: Moderate–I’d like to see more libraries doing this.


In the interests of a silly but amusing experiment, I am obliged to note that this post has nothing whatsoever to do with Kindle 2, Amazon, text-to-speech, 23 things or Authors Guild. It also has no specific references to Kansas or Nebraska.

How did I get all four of these up so rapidly? I remembered Word2007’s “new post” feature. Since I already had the four discussions in a Word document, it was just a matter of cut, copy and post…

11 Responses to “4. Libraries and Publish on Demand”

  1. Rick Mason says:

    I can answer one of the questions you posed: OpenOffice definitely has the “chops” to create a Lulu book. I created a book using the Word template about two years ago using only OO (probably version 2). The book contained formatted text (poetry) as well as images, and I had no problems with getting the layout right the first time.

    In addition, OpenOffice 3 has a blog post publishing feature that I assume is comparable to Word2007’s – I have not attempted to use the feature yet (on either program) and so cannot vouch for what it can do or how well it does it.

  2. John says:

    This is an interesting idea. Libraries as producers of local content is an important idea. Would enjoy a chapter (or three) on how that might play out for libraries into the future.

  3. walt says:

    Rick: Thanks. In my experience with OO2, it lost a fair amount of Word formatting, didn’t do a very good job of kerning, and generally underperformed–but OO3 is supposed to be a much different animal.

    John: Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind.

  4. bowerbird says:


    there is a need for this…
    a big one, i’d like to think.

    because i’ve spent much
    time and energy to fulfill it.

    freeing up creative spunk
    in the public at large is a
    thing that needs to be done,
    if our species is to survive —
    and that ain’t overstatement —
    so it has been a goal of mine…

    my tack differs from yours.

    i’m not sure yours will work,
    but it’s not for me to decide.

    but perhaps you’d like to
    hear about my approach?

    i have been programming
    an authoring-tool that will
    facilitate self-publishing by
    making it simple for people.

    created in this authoring-tool,
    one file (using “zen” markup)
    can output your book to a .pdf
    (for offline reading) and a site
    (for online social interaction).

    and of course, the .pdf can be
    used for print-on-demand too.

    the app does copy-fitting and
    takes care of sundry details —
    such as automatic hot-links —
    so the user can concentrate on
    writing their story.

    to the extent that my program
    does what it’s supposed to do,
    people won’t need a workshop.
    they won’t need to know word,
    or learn how to use a template.

    > It seemed promising at the time.
    > It happened twice, and
    > was pretty much a disaster
    > (partly because I wasn’t a great
    > workshop presenter, mostly because
    > very few people ever signed up).

    as you say, thousands of libraries
    — and tens of thousands of people —
    could use this information. could…

    but i’ve been coding authoring-tools
    for literally _decades,_ now, waiting
    for there to be a vast public upswing
    in the inclination to become creative.

    nobody ever seemed to be interested.
    not just in my tools, but _any_ tools.
    (for instance, bob stein created some
    neat authoring-tools that languished.)

    our culture has trained people to be
    passive “consumers” of culture, and
    not active _creators_ of it, regrettably.

    so i definitely feel what you’re saying.

    on the other hand, the big explosion
    of blogging has been a wake-up call.
    and the photo-sharing sites like flickr
    and photobucket are witness to a big
    new flood of interest in photography.
    and youtube. my goodness. look at it.

    so it might be time to stir stuff up…

    if you wanna play with my tool, i’ll be
    releasing a version of it very soon…

    either way, good luck with your stuff.


  5. walt says:

    Hmm. The only real problem with your approach (other than getting the tool out and having it work right–easily, effectively, with pro-quality layout) is that it’s a *new tool.”

    My sense is that Word is pretty nearly ubiquitous (particularly if you include direct competitors designed to use Word templates)–that most people likely to write books are also likely to already know Word. My intent is to describe how to do it easily, with no new tools.

    My sense may be wrong–frequently is.

  6. bowerbird says:


    your sense is perfectly correct;
    ms-word is extremely popular.

    and i don’t agree with people
    who say ms-word is incapable
    of creating a nice-looking book;
    one just has to learn how to do it.

    so if you can teach people, great!


  7. walt says:

    bowerbird: The only pushback I’ve ever gotten on Word’s ability to generate professional-quality books was from ALA Edition’s designer, who felt that the kerning (in Word2000) wasn’t up to QuarkXPress standards. As a result, my final ALA Editions book (after I gave up on Ventura because it kept crashing) was done in Quark, rather than directly from my computer–but my five more recent books have come directly from Word (via Acrobat).

    And, indeed, Word2007 sets type a little tighter and more cleanly than Word2000/2003–when you change a long document from .doc to .docx, there’s a noticeable change. (Which is why a few early-2008 Cites & Insights issues are a little short: I converted them to .docx in the process of converting from the Microsoft downloadable PDF generator back to Acrobat, since Acrobat generates much smaller PDFs.)

    (Oddly, my wife’s the one who’s really pushing Word2007’s capabilities–the genealogy books she’s working on have loads of photos with captions, which at some points in a very large document make Word grumpy. “Very large”=34MB at this point. But then, the situations are ones that any layout software would find difficult…)

  8. http://acrlog.org/2009/02/25/local-food-for-thought-movement/

    I thought you might find this link interesting, in relation to the topic.

  9. walt says:

    Thanks. I’d read the post, but not the more recent comments–which do relate more directly to what I’m thinking about.

  10. bowerbird says:

    > The only pushback I’ve ever gotten
    > on Word’s ability to generate
    > professional-quality books was from

    maybe i read more typographers than you. :+)

    seriously, though, where i hear that most
    is from the self-publishing “experts” who
    are constantly “advising” newcomers that
    they shouldn’t use ms-word for their book,
    because it “doesn’t look professional enough”.

    bad carpenters always blame their tools…


  11. walt says:

    bowerbird: That last sentence is the crucial one. If Experts don’t think any of my Lulu books isn’t professional enough (other than not having indexes in some cases–a choice), I’d love to know what’s wrong with them.

    Fact is, building an appropriate template does take some work; providing a good template would be part of my value-add.