Blog to Book?

I recently went looking for some software to make a blog into a book. Here’s what I found:

- Lulu will take PDF files for a book. Blogbooker.com will try to create a PDF from a blog. Unfortunately, my blog made BlogBooker choke (I have 991 posts from my blog) — even when I excluded comments.

- Blurb.com will try to create a book from a blog, but it only supports blogs hosted on WordPress.com, not other WordPress blogs. That will help some people who want to print their blog into a book, but not everyone.

- I had the best luck with FastPencil. In order to reduce the size of your exported blog, you’ll first want to go to your comments section, click on the “spam” link and clear out any spam comments by selecting all the spam comments and clicking “Empty Spam”. Then you can export your WordPress blog (from the Dashboard, click Tools, then Export) as an XML file that you can download to your computer. From there, FastPencil lets you upload the .xml file and then select which blog posts to include in the book. You can also filter by time, which I had to do. Even my blog posts (no comments) from the last year and a half still made a 350+ page book, and FastPencil choked on turning my entire blog into a book.

FastPencil did a few things well. Included images were imported, and some formatting such as bold made it into the PDF. But other formatting, such as code formatting and newlines/spacing between paragraphs didn’t make it. Embedded content such as videos or polls were likewise empty. Trying to import my entire blog also didn’t work. But all in all, I was impressed with FastPencil. They also have nice collaboration tools (e.g. you can designate editors, reviewers, co-authors, and project managers to help in writing/polishing the content). The site also works through your web browser instead of as a downloadable program, which appealed to me. If you’re used to WordPress, FastPencil won’t be too much of a change.

It’s still not a point-and-click affair to make a nice looking coffee table book out of a blog, but it’s getting closer. Right now, the “make a book” niche feels like the early days of recordable CDs. Back then, CD-R discs were expensive enough that I would spend time to make sure that I used all the free space on the CD. Eventually prices dropped so much that you didn’t feel bad about burning a half-empty or not-perfectly-polished CD.

If you’ve tried other blog-to-book services or websites, let me know your experiences in the comments.

52 Responses to Blog to Book? (Leave a comment)

  1. It would be really nice if I could find a blog to book service that let me choose 1 to 3 thumbnail stills to replace the video I have embedded…

  2. Duane Forrester

    Nice work Matt! I’ll have to check out FastPencil. I went pseudo old school and used Dragon Naturally Speaking to help write parts of my own latest book. I think this idea you surface is a very neat way to produce a book. Some publishers might have an issue with the duplication of content between book and blog, but if you’re self-publishing, this is much less of an issue. And in reality, I think users would still like to buy a book to have in hand.

  3. Great post Matt, I didn’t know about this software and always thought about this topic, when a big blog has a lot of articles, it’s not a bad idea to sum all up and make a blog off it. Greetings, Alex.

  4. Duane Forrester, what struck me is just how much content a blog can generate. I figured my blog would be as much as a standard book, but it’s more like three books — and that’s without comments.

  5. This sounds like a great idea. Any other suggestions of tools to use or has Matt got a fairly complete list. My site is built in Joomla, excluding some of these tools.

    It has got me thinking though Matt, a series of ebooks from my site perhaps?

  6. Matt,

    You should make a book solely on the vast spectrum of questions you get over the years from people regarding their sites as well ranking techniques – that would be an entertaining read.

    You could throw in the guy that sat next to us at lunch last year at Google IO who was asking how to get more traffic to his escort site along with the Captain Sprite stories :)

    See you at SMX West in few weeks.

  7. We looked into doing this with Techdirt about a year ago, and discovered that it would be like 25 to 30 books! That’s when we realized we were looking at an impossible task. Still would love to put it all into a nice set of books, but don’t think it’ll happen any time soon.

  8. David Minor

    But will it come in three handsome leather-bound volumes for a low, low price?

  9. Tim

    This sounds like a good new project for Google Labs :D

    Automatically turn your blog into a book and show it / sell it through google books? Sounds like a good idea to me!

  10. I was investigating how to write a WordPress plugin to do this, outputting to the ePub (sort of universal) and .mobi (the non-DRM’ed version of Kindle’s format) formats as well as PDF. It’s a lot harder than it might seem to really get something like that working in a way that offers the flexibility and functionality to be really useful to a broad user base. There are a lot of variables and details involved in turning a blog into a book that you really don’t realize are there until you start getting into the nitty gritty of how to do it.

    At the beginning, it seemed like a cool little project. The deeper I got into it, the deeper the rabbit hole went and I realized that it would be much more involved than I’d thought.

  11. Hi Matt,

    A couple of my friends at Pothi.com created a tool that I tried out sometime back. You should give BlogSmith a try and see how it works out for you.

    Regards
    Prateek Dayal

  12. Matt, what about printing the book yourself at a professional printer? I am living right now in Eastern Europe and the cost of printing is pretty cheap and I imagine the same in the USA if you find the right printer.
    All printers today take PDF files and work with InDesign, its very easy.

    Something like LuLu is very efficient but I would not rule out self printing and publishing if you want to try to increase your margin on each book sold and make yourself stand out a little.

  13. A blog to book AdSense ad often appears within my blogger account though i never checked it out.Unless you write all text posts your gonna loose so much content.I remember seeing a british website that had started a blog newspaper and it seemed cool.Anyone could submit content and the users voted on the best stuff which was published in a weekly newspaper.

    Your own newspaper is the way forward ‘The Matt Cutts Times‘ …

    Paul.

  14. I recently heard about blog2print (http://blog2print.sharedbook.com). I haven’t actually used it, but I did ask it to compile the last year of my blog (about 340 posts or so). It took forever to compile the proof, and I thought it was choking, but in the end it worked. I “flipped” through the pages and it looked quite decent. Comments and all.
    Off to check out FastPencil.

  15. Bart J

    Matt, Are you also planning to *print* the book/PDF of your blog?

  16. Hi Matt, thanks for the great review and I appreciate your tips. I like the idea Tenkely had about choosing a thumbnail for the videos. And to address David Minor, we can’t do leather-bound yet, but you can get hardcover with a dust jacket that’s looks really slick. We are aware of the newline/spacing issue and are working on a fix, we also just added a “Code” tag to preserve formatted code. The “Code” tag isn’t part of the blog import yet. These new features should make it into a public release in the near future. –Mash

  17. Michael Ashley, thanks for the update on FastPencil! It was definitely quite nice for the (admittedly unusual) task I was trying to do. :)

  18. I never really put much thought into this topic, but now I have :)….I’m not there yet, but I have seen some interesting blogs that have a good several years of quality content which really adds up in large increments over time if you post several times a week.

  19. I tend to be of the mindset that most blogs require a lot of tight editing & re-organization of material to work well as a book, unless you just want to have a printed copy for yourself. As you mentioned, it is amazing how many pages a blog rapidly comes out to in printed form.

  20. Seriously, am I the only one that cannot for a second understand why anyone would ever want to print their blog? Printing a blog is like taking everything that makes it great and turning into everything that makes paper books bad! With things like Kindle and other Google Books services in the works, the world is moving away from printed reading in hoards. I have been following your blog for years Matt, and almost never do I feel the need to comment, but this one I just couldn’t pass up.

  21. I worked for Lulu for about 3 years in marketing and I know that engineering discussed creating a tool like Blurb to suck in Blogger/blog posts easily. I think the main issue was that the formatting of a blog page is so different than the page of a book. I tried a few tools to create a book from one of my blogs and never really found one that kicked out a format that looked decent. It was easier to just create a word doc and upload that to Lulu and create the book in that manner.

  22. Have just succesuffly made a book at FastPencil and Booksmith. It just a book not even I would wish to have. I agree with Jeff and ythink that with a book in mind I had better started a differently structured blog. Perhaps a CSS3 manual or something similar, writing categories as chapters from the beginning….

    BTW, Matt, I just went through your ‘Productivity’ latter posts and had enjoyed them a lot.

  23. why don’t you find an intern.
    it is sad but they are the best blog to book softwares in the market. :))

  24. @prateek Thanks for the shout!

    @matt Do check us out. It is still an early release but we have tried to get as close to generating a good print book as possible. Would love your feedback. Just put in your full feed url and click :)

  25. I’ve always wondered why almost nobody has tried to print a blog. It’s a completely logical extension. They’re both tools for communication. Think about it: PostSecret is an online blog… yet Frank Warren is a New York Times’ Bestselling author simply because he collected postcard secrets and published them in a book. I really think the web will never completely replace print media.

    Why? The web is nice to check for quick updates online, but a lot of people want to be able to sit down with a cup of coffee and experience a book. It feels good in your hand, the pages smell clean and crisp, and it’s more fun to slowly page through a printed book. Plus, you can fold back page corners and write notes in the margins. I’d love to buy Matt’s blog in a book!

  26. olivier

    @Abhaya : It works fine, but can we have more than 100 limit posts ? Even if you charge ?

  27. What made you consider software to turn your blog into a book as opposed to, say, an editor? “Editor” as in “a Human whose life is to shape writing into works” as opposed to
    WYSIWYG” and the like

  28. Hi, I too have used Fastpencil as the best out there at the moment. Is microsoft word capable of doing the same ?

  29. it’s great, if we have so many post, why not we collect it and make a book? because not only all of us like to read on computer, maybe some people like to read book offline. But, if there are several catagory, maybe it’s rather difficult to choose about topic or title

  30. Some people said, that they would feel more useful if it is not only writing, but also has the purpose of writing itself.

    I think the owner of this blog has a commitment and a strong consistency in writing, communicate information and ideas out.

    The articles in this blog are an expression of sharing experiences and information quality, rather than simply filling the free time writing less useful.

    When I read the articles on this blog, I often get new knowledge and experience, especially about the internet and blogging. It’s great for me, coused I remember my basic science is not an IT, but forestry.

    Some people have successfully launched their books comes from a collection of writings. An example is Mr. Prayitno with the title of the book: “Intelijen Bertawaf: Teroris Malaysia dalam Kupasan” – which, if translated into English may mean: “Malaysian Terrorists in discusses”

    The book, which the title with “keyword” that concerns many people today, born from the commitment and consistency of the writing on the media blog.

    Hopefully we can follow in the footsteps of the senior bloggers in achieving success. Let’s start writing with a consistent, and within 2 or 3 years we will have hundreds of articles that can be made of a book

    regards

  31. Hi Matt, thanks so much for the great tips. I have been thinking about doing this with my blog and had no idea where to start. I think FastPencil might work best for me too, you saved me some time researching for sure!

  32. A number of people are wondering why would people want to go from pixels to paper, and while it does sound backwards in many ways, there are any number of reasons why one would want to do that.

    For one, being the author of a book carries merit, and that alone can raise the “perceived credibility” factor. Perhaps soon an online status equivalent of a book author will surface, but at the moment none comes to mind for me- yet.

    Put simply, imagine yourself meeting a person who tells you in conversation they wrote a blog VS a book. For most the latter would make the bigger impression.

    I’m sure there are a number of other reasons, but for now lets remember that lots of folks don’t have laptops, or other online devices, and a thin book can be easy to carry and not worry about.

    The other day I found a really good thread on a topic I’m interested in, and copied maybe 20 sheets or so, stapled it, and it’s been with me for a couple weeks when I go somewhere where I might find myself reading. Blogs to books would fit this capacity as well.

  33. Thanks for the resources. Do you know if any of these tools allow you to create an ebook? Have tried to use Blurb.com for this and it wasn’t an option – they only did ‘print’ books. Any help would be appreciated.
    Cheers,
    Suzi

  34. I am trying to turn an ebook that I sell on my website wwwStaphInfectionResources.com

    I have it in PDF format and have heard about Lulu but dont know much about them, does anyone know of any other companies that also do that sort of thing, I am looking for a company that as I sell each book online I send the address info to them and they mail the book directly to the customer.

  35. Hey Matt,
    These seem like very cool products and I never really thought about changing my blog to a book. I am not sure I would want to, because there might not be any continuity to it, even when topical similarities, in order to create my blog as a book I would need to re-write much of it to create a flow that often does not happen with a blog.

    Now, where this comes in nicely is if you want to create sections of your blog to PDFs or whitepapers, for topics that are not time sensitive or will be out of date (books are often out of date as soon as they are published too!)

    Anyway, thanks for letting us know about these tools, I will check them out, but not sure if I could ever make something like that work for me…

  36. I have already done this and it should be published soon, I love the idea and did some research on it…i can’t wait until it is all done.

  37. Joseph

    Thanks for pointing out fastpencil. I used to use Adobe acrobat which has a website to pdf option , that let’s you enter the address and specify how deep you want to go into the website.

  38. If you include comments in your book as you indicated you might, won’t there be some copyright issues?

  39. Hello Everyone

    Not sure if I can mention this – if not, I do apologize, and please remove.

    Turning a blog into a book is one of the services I now offer. Details are available on my site.

    Best regards.
    Colin

  40. Well, I´ve tried all of them and none can convert pages of wordpress, just posts. Which is a bummer because my site could be converted into a beautiful tourism guide to lisbon hehe…

    Anyone knows a tool that will allow pages into ebooks?

    regards,
    Flavio

  41. @olivier That limit is there since we have not optimized our code yet and it takes too much resources as the number of posts go up. We are working on removing it soon.

    @suzi We allow you to convert into ebook also but PDF only for now – no ePub yet. http://blog2book.pothi.com

    Abhaya

  42. Thanks Matt for sharing this useful utility with us.
    I have converted my blog to Ebook. Now it really looks interesting.

  43. Hey Matt —

    Great post. Just came across this now. This is perfect for my online book on the concept of focusing in our digital age: link

    I’ve been reading your articles on and off for the past couple of months (mostly through YCombinator). Great job, great posts. I really appreciate the time you’ve invested in this.

  44. Matt White

    Hi Everyone,
    I am looking for a tool that is similar to this, but designed for turning blogs into newsletters. I work for an organization that creates a quarterly newsletter, and maintains a blog. The content tends to be different in the two mediums, but simply because this has been the status quo. I would like to encourage greater use of the blog, while reducing the time to put the newsletter together. Ideally, the tool would allow you to select which blog posts to use in the newsletter, and some formatting/organizational tools to help format the newsletter for print. Has anyone seen any tools out there that fit the bill?
    Thanks!
    Matt

  45. (This is not really what you asked, but just wanted to share a print service provider perspective on the matter.)

    I’ve been pondering about the possibility of creating a service like this, but after a lot of thought, I think that the XML to PDF rendering process should be provided either by a separate actor or by the blog service provider itself.

    Creating a print ready PDF with tools like TCPDF (or the proprietary equivalent PDFLib) resembles the process of creating a web template a lot, so for Blogger (below “SaaS-provider”) to add a PDF-template to the range of web-templates would be a lot easier than for the print service provider to “reverse engineer” the data model.

    From my perspective as a print service providers it’s also better for both customer, SaaS-provider and us if we can focus on creating high quality prints instead of investing in SaaS.

    While not available to the developer community just yet, our solution is to offer an API to SaaS-providers where they query our server for price, delivery and options and then make the order. All through their own interface.

    This setup benefits all actors in the process;
    1. The end customer doesn’t have to get involved with a third party, all communication is done with the SaaS-provider (meaning less interfaces).
    2. The SaaS-provider can use this to add another revenue stream to their service (since the customer relationship is B2B for us, we can lower the prices significantly and the SaaS can take their cut).
    3. We can focus on printing rather than developing software. Yay!

    Below a link to the basic API for price queries. It accepts GET queries and returns JSON-data. “jt” is jobtype (1 = sheet printing), “a” is amount, “p” is pages, “fxx” stuff is different types of finishing and so on.

    http://www.whyprint.fi/getprice.php?language=en&category=21&product=239&type=1&jt=1&f=5&fft=1&fff=1&ffp=0&fct=1&fco=1&bl=3&a=1&p=350&s=5&w=0&h=0&pr=2&c=1&cc=1&m=3&mc=19&fwp=1&fwc=2&fwcf=1&fwcb=1

    As said, it’s still only a method for querying prices, no other services are connected to it yet. But if anyone has interest in this, don’t hesitate to throw me an e-mail!

    (The URL is about to change in a few days, realised a month ago our site is a complete SEO-disaster and I’m in the middle of mod_rewrite voodoo; the reason for reading your blog. :))

  46. Marc

    Hey guys,

    I enjoyed reading the conversation about how to print a blog / how to make a blog book. We at http://www.bookfabrik.com try to find an easy and convenient way to turn your blog into a book. We are still “beta” and are working on our layout machine – if you have a blogger.com account, go and check it out. Any comment – in addition to the things said in this stream – is most welcome. Thanks also to Flavio for his comment on wordpress pages – we will put this on our feature list!

    Cheers,

    Marc

  47. very nice…I didn’t know of blurb thanks Matt. I have been wanted to do that for a long time.

  48. Just World Booksis a start up publisher that has turned out three titles this fall that are all curated from blog content. The process is rather involved and involved multiple layers of editors, a typesetter and a POD service. The goal is to shape the blog content into a book format in a way that is highly readable. Future publications will also be curated from blog content. Far from a service or software, it is a team effort, but we think the product is much better for it.

  49. Hi Matt!
    I had the pleasure of meeting Bob from Lulu at a internet conference and I really believe in his product.. but I’m so high on fastpencil right now- thanks so much for bringing this to our attention.

    Regards,
    Pammy

  50. Hi, Maybe LJBook (ljbook.com/) is a good option to publish your blog. It provides the possibility to create a pdf from WordPress and Blogger. The 2 most used blogs I think.

    For people from the Netherlands and Belgium unibook.com/ would be a great way to publish!

    Cheers,

  51. I think it will be a great idea to convert a blog like yours into a book format along with PDF that others can read and refer to at a later date.

  52. I am so glad I found this. My girlfriend was looking for a way to do this with her blog. She has written several entries of her short story children’s book and would like to take it to the next level. Thanks.

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