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Monday, December 6, 2010

Advice on Preserving Your Memories: Especially Personal and Family Histories

In an article entitled, "Preserving Your Own Documents" on the Church News and Events site we get some startling advice from an expert. Well, it is probably startling for most people:
Are you worried about preserving your own valuable documents and precious photographs? Chris McAfee, a senior conservator for the Church History Library, has some advice—choose carefully what you keep, and think paper.
It may seem strange in a digital age, but he recommends printing and saving paper copies of documents and photographs.
. . . “people should not expect their digital materials to last more than five years.”
Having a recent library degree this is right in line with what I was taught.

We need to avoid the arrogance of the age in thinking our digital technologies are so wonderful. As library students we were given this five year prognostication. But, it makes sense. Can you imagine transferring all the world's knowledge onto vinyl records, or cassette tapes, or (gasp) 8-track tapes? None of these technologies was ever very stable.

Paper is a stable medium. We have books that are centuries old and still with us. Paper makes sense.

When we discussed photograph preservation in library school we were told that we have not yet developed anything superior to keeping actual photos in a box.

McAfee explains the reasoning for his advice, going into the standards being developed for digital media. He holds out hope for digital preservation but right now he recommends paper and so do I.

But, I want to throw out an intriguing option I found that combines digital and paper options in a useful and effective way. It's called "Self-Publishing." (I suspect some scrap-booking companies have developed some options as well but I am not familiar with them.) The self-publishing movement comes from inside the printing industry.

I'm most familiar with Blurb so I"ll explain it. The others are similar. I read an article about Blurb in The New York Times about six months after the company got started. It's innovation was offering it's bookmaking software for free and then charging to print the hard copy. It makes print-on-demand affordable. I decided to try it.

I downloaded their Booksmart software onto my computer from the company's web site. It was, and is, easy enough to figure out without explanation. I set up my book by selecting a template, colors, fonts etc. I download my photos onto it and drag and drop them into place. I type whatever text I want just like I would in word-processing. When I'm finished I upload the book to the company's web site and order copies of my books.

It is astonishingly affordable and easy. When I say "upload my book to the company's web site" it is not complex. Just select "Publish" and click on it and the software does the rest. You can even do basic editing on photos. The software allows me to view my book as it will look in hard-copy. Like I said, ridiculously easy.

One of the first things that occurred to me was that it was perfect for creating my personal history. I type in the story of my life, drag and drop pictures, order the book and I've got a perfectly preserved personal history in addition to all the photos and text being preserved digitally.

I haven't quite got volume 1 of my personal history done. I'm on page 282 and I'm only up to 8th grade. I scanned my reports cards, pictures of art work, writing exercises, everything.

I have completed a cook book. After I got done we ordered some for family for Christmas. You can view it on the Blurb Bookstore. The preview shows the entire book.

Once I get done with my personal history, I'll either give it to family members (if I'm rich) or give them the link and let them buy a copy themselves (if I'm poor). Blurb lets you make a book public or keep it private so only those you want to have access to it do. I've done another book on Blurb but that one is private.

I've amassed a list of all the self-publishing options I know about. The links are below. I hope this posting encourages you to explore some of the wonderful options out there. The only thing I don't understand is why Mormons aren't making better use of these tools.

AuthorHouse
Author Solutions
Blurb
Booksurge (Acquired by Amazon)
Createspace (Owned by Amazon)
FastPencil
iPhoto (Owned by Apple)
iUniverse
Kodak Gallery
Lulu
My Publisher
Picaboo
Pubit (Owned by Barnes and Noble)
SharedInk
Shutterfly
Snapfish
Xlibris
Wordclay

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