PaperBlogs

Anybody with an interest in the publishing industry will be familiar with the dream of Print On Demand, whereby you order a book from a kiosk or similar service and a paper book is custom printed before your eyes. Former publishing honcho Jason Epstein is the person most commonly associated with this vision – he wrote a book about it (which I read last year) and recently published an essay at MIT Technology review called The Future of Books. Print on Demand is often seen as an alternative to eBooks, especially by those people unwilling to give up the aesthetic pleasure of paper books.

Well now the Print on Demand vision has crossed over to the blog world, which until now has been exclusively electronic (if you don’t count 19th century pamphleteers as bloggers). A new service called blogbinders is offering to “turn your weblog into a book!” (hat-tip Andy Lark). It supports a variety of blog types, including Movable Type, LiveJournal, Typepad and Blogger.

Blogbinder’s service is a 3-step process: first blogbinders has an automated service that downloads your blog content (sans HTML formatting and images), then you customize your book (including style, binding and cover work) using either a Wizard interface or self-selection, lastly you proof it and “the Blogbinders system will build a PDF file of your book exactly as it will be printed.” Then it’s apparently all set for printing and you can order as many copies as you want.

The pricing seems at first glance to be very reasonable. There’s a small binding fee and it’s then a per-page fee of 3-5 cents. One example they give is a 125 page “Perfect Bound” book, which you can get for $15.70. Even better, blogbinder seems to be gearing up to offer a “re-seller program” that will effectively let you retail your own book. Here’s how they put it:

“Hey – you can even add it to your web site or blog and let your friends and readers buy your book from it! In the future, Blogbinders will be adding a re-seller program that lets you earn a royalty each time your book sells!”

Blogbinders also has plans for new features, such as ability to add comments for LiveJournal users. Will that be the start of a socially-authored book craze? It’s along the same lines as what I discussed with Tim O’Reilly in my interview with him last year. A LiveJournal blog + comments as a book would be an example of mixing books with social networking. Lots of potential.

Another idea blogbinders has is to add “ability to download your content in XML or another format for re-use outside of our system (possible fee based service)”. Re-using content is a big theme in the blog world, so this feature would be another win-win from this blog-paper crossover.

The Blogbinders creators have a LiveJournal blog and there’s also a community discussion board. It all sounds promising and if it’ll bring the social software and publishing worlds closer together, then I’m 100% for it. Incidentally, it’s also a great example of a Web 2.0 service – it uses the Web as a platform for writing, ordering, customizing, printing and retailing books. End to end via the Web, yet the end product is paper-based. Sounds a little perverse, but you gotta love it!

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