Vanity Press, Done Right

Posted by Arlo on Jan 22, 2007 under Here's an Idea

What ifHere’s an idea.

Recently I read about some bloggers who had been devastated by the loss of their writings.  It sounds like this wasn’t just a coincidence, but rather a global problem with the service they were using, Blogger.  Doesn’t matter; I run my blog with WordPress.  But it did get me thinking.

Once upon a time, I installed a word count plug-in on my blog.  It’s right up there at the top of this page.  As I write this, the total is up around 168,000 words.  That’s a hell of a lot of information to lose.

Oh, I’ve got backups.  My web host can roll back to a previous image of the server at a moment’s notice.  Plus, WordPress has a MySQL database backup option.  Heck, if worse came to worst, I could go back to the original text documents I used to compose each entry.  Of course, they’re often not the final edits, don’t contain the photos posted along with them, and they’re spread out among four computers and various backup discs…

You know what would be cool?  Getting a copy of my blog printed as a book with one of those online vanity presses.  I’m under no illusions that it would be of interest to anyone but myself, but you have to admit that it’d be a pretty neat-o way to archive all I’ve written.

I’m psyching myself up to tackle this daunting project. has a very robust offering of printing methods; I’ll probably use them.  And while I’m confident that, in time, I can figure out their processes, I’m not looking forward to formatting 168,000 words and photos to their precise requirements.

Someone should create plug-ins for the major blog services (WordPress, Movable Type, Blogger, etc.) that automatically download the entire contents of a blog and saves that information in pre-defined, ready-for-the-press, .pdf templates.  Templates ready-made for specific-size book formats on a site like would be perfect.

Wouldn’t it be cool to order a book version of your blog with just a click or two?

I can’t imagine that this would be a complicated task for the PHP/MySQL intelligentsia.  All the textual information in my blog is contained in a readable database.  Furthermore, all the images I use are also accessible in read-only directories on my website.  Lulu publishes the formatting specs for each of their book types.  Insert tab A into slot B, right?

A cursory search on the internet shows that one company apparently tried this, but they’ve since gone out of business.  There also is a WordPress plug-in out there that does the first step – creates a .pdf out of your blog’s database – but I have to say it looks like it would take more time to puzzle out than it would to just lay the pages out by hand.

Anyway, I think I’m going to go ahead and put the time into figuring out how to use  If I can stay on task long enough to export my blog to a properly formatted Word document, it looks like a few simple changes in Page Setup could easily let me changed my archived blog from a comic book to a mass market paperback to a hardcover book.

I suspect my eventual product will be better for the attention I give it (I can dig up the original photos, lay out paragraphs and chapters just right, adjust my margins by hand, etc.)  I tell you, though, if I could use a plug-in to quickly and easily rip my blog to a pre-defined template, I’d order up a new volume for my shelf every year.