Quick ‘n’ dirty blog to paperback

So you’ve got a blog with several years of posts and photos on it and you want to make a book out of it to preserve those memories but you don’t have time to design each page. You need an automated-ish solution. What to do?

Here’s what I did…

Step 1: Blogbooker.com

First I went to blogbooker.com. After playing around with their free plan to figure out what I wanted, I sprang for their $19 package and chose the following options:

  • PDF output
  • High (lossless) picture quality
  • 7.5″ x 9.25″ paper size (important!)

I did not include comments or a table of contents, as these severely blimped out the size of the book.

Here’s a view of blogbooker.com’s options…


blogbooker.com options

I broke up about six years of posts into two books, a 350-pager and and a 750-pager. Blogbooker’s current $19 plan lets you generate 12 PDFs, and it was really nice to have those extra book generator runs available as I experimented to figure out what I was doing.

Step 2: Prepare the PDF for press

The PDF that Blogbooker generates needs a couple of things done to it before it is in the format that a self-publishing outfit like bookbaby wants.

First, bookbaby expects the paper size to be larger. Our 7.5″ x 9.25″ output from blogbooker needs to be centered on a 9.25″ x 12.25″ page, which bookbaby will then cut down to “large portrait” size, 9″ x 12″.

Then, blogbooker generates its PDF using the RGB colorspace, which is standard for viewing on a computer screen, but for book printing it needs to be converted to the CMYK colorspace.

Here’s how I made these transformations on the PDF I got from blogbooker. The following instructions assume that the PDF from blogbooker is named blogbooker.pdf and will transform it into a bookbaby-cmyk.pdf that is ready for upload to bookbaby.com:

# Center blogbooker output on a 9.25" x 12.25" page, 
#   converting images to CMYK
#   (9.25" x 72 points per inch = 666)
#   (12.25" x 72 points per inch = 882)
pdftops -paperw 666 -paperh 882 -level2sep blogbooker.pdf blogbooker.ps # Convert postscript back to pdf in a not-too-lossy way ps2pdf -dPDFSETTINGS=/prepress blogbooker.ps bookbaby.pdf 

# Convert back from RGB to CMYK
gs -dSAFER -dBATCH -dNOPAUSE -dNOCACHE -dPDFSETTINGS=/prepress -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -sColorConversionStrategy=CMYK -dProcessColorModel=/DeviceCMYK -sOutputFile=bookbaby-cmyk.pdf bookbaby.pdf

# Make sure it's in cmyk format (CMYKCMYKCMYK is good, RGBRGBRGB means something went wrong:
identify -format '%[colorspace]' bookbaby-cmyk.pdf

Step 3: Bookbaby.com

Now you can go to Bookbaby.com and start your book order. Their Large Portrait (9″ x 12″) size is a good fit with Blogbooker’s 7.5″ x 9.25″ output.

Step 4: Cover Design

Before you’re ready to complete your Bookbaby order you’ll need to create your cover art. To do this I opened Bookbaby’s cover template PDF in LibreOffice Draw, added photos and text and arranged  I wanted it, and then exported to PDF. I chose PDF export settings that would preserve image quality.

Then you need to change that PDF to the CMYK colorspace (this is like the conversion for the book shown above, except we pass an additional option to ghostscript on the second line to prevent it from rotating the pages):

ps2pdf -dPDFSETTINGS=/prepress cover.ps cover.pdf 
gs -dSAFER -dBATCH -dNOPAUSE -dNOCACHE -dAutoRotatePages=/None -dPDFSETTINGS=/prepress -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -sColorConversionStrategy=CMYK -dProcessColorModel=/DeviceCMYK -sOutputFile=cover-cmyk.pdf cover.pdf
identify -format '%[colorspace]' cover-cmyk.pdf

…Then you can upload cover-cmyk.pdf to bookbaby.

When I was printing my books, bookbaby had a deal on to create a single copy of a book for $19 plus shipping, $34 total. We were pleased with the results.

2 thoughts on “Quick ‘n’ dirty blog to paperback

  1. This is good info! Where did you make the transformations to the pdf? It looks like you’re editing the html somehow. Sorry, I’m a total layperson just trying to learn.

  2. Hi Amy, I used the pdftops and gs command line tools to do the PDF transformations, I did not do any manual editing. My computer runs Linux and those command line tools are easy to get for Linux, but they should also be available for Windows or Mac if your computer runs one of those operating systems.

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