Tuesday, September 10, 2013

My Book ‘Thinking Out Loud’

So I decided to make a book version of this blog. I made it for myself. It is called Thinking Out Loud and it looks like this. 

Given that so much of my writing on this blog is essentially Digital-First Advocacy, it is worth addressing the question of why I have invested time and effort into reconfiguring my blog writing into a paper-based artifact? There are a set of related answers to that question.

The first reason is the sense of agency achieved by creating an alternative second home for my writing that exists apart from the Blogger platform. My current belief is that Google’s Blogger product is unlikely to be depreciated within the next few years, as was the case with Google Reader which they closed down in July of this year. That said, since I do not host my own blog on my own server, I have to be very respectful of the fact that every single word I have published on this platform since 2004 is always only ever available at the whims of Google. So there is a lot be said for being able to read this material in a separate context not beholden to Google or to anyone else. While a printed edition hardly counts as a viable back-up, there is something (non-logically) reassuring about having my complete blog in one discrete container in my shelf.

While doing some work-related research into ebook publishing at the end of last year I became intrigued with the idea of this blog existing as an ebook. After that initial idea took hold, a cloud of unanswered questions occurred to me. What different characteristics might my blog exhibit when reconfigured within a book format? (Even as the person most familiar with this blog, I still find it challenging to comprehensively conceive of its remit, scope, and what I can only think of as its overall shape.) Would a hard copy make that shape more comprehensible and apparent to me? Would my writing read any differently when presented on paper as opposed to on screen? Was there any overarching narrative themes to my writing over the years? And would those themes become more apparent when presented in a traditional oldest-to-newest chronology? (Blogger presents posts in a reversed chronology, with the latest posts first and older material progressively further downstream.)

What started out as a seemingly uncomplicated idea – producing a hard copy archive of what I had written on this blog – took on a life of its own and my little side-project hobby gradually expanded its scope.

The ‘minimal viable product’ approach would have been just to re-purpose this blog as an electronic book for my Kindle. After considering the amount of work involved in producing an ebook, it seemed to be only a short distance from doing that to creating a physical on-demand printed version. In retrospect, I was very very wrong about that.

To make the book, I had to take on the roles of sub-editor, designer, typesetter, and proof-reader. As a result of taking that one-man-band approach, completing this book needed precisely zero meetings, emails, phone calls , or other mechanisms of coordination. Obviously then, any and all errors of comprehension, argument, logic, reasoning, referencing, attribution, spelling and typography are solely my own responsibility.

Firstly, I needed to correct the assorted typos and grammatical errors that I uncovered. As I originally intended the print-on-demand edition to be an accurate archive of the online version, I made all of those corrections within the Blogger CMS. I did not want to fork the content and end up with an alternative improved version on my own bookshelf and the less polished version representing me online.

For various reasons, above and beyond the fact of an unreasonable page count, I ultimately decided that I needed to edit out all of the posts which did not logically or usefully translate across to a printed edition. However, I left in as much material as possible. So this is definitely not an edited-highlights version of my blog. It still includes plenty of examples of my early writing that personally I find somewhat challenging to re-read.

Admittedly, most of the free time I would normally have spent writing new blog posts this year has been absorbed with all those inter-related tasks involved in putting together a book. That is my explanation for the paucity of all-new posts that I have published so far this year. So there was a definite opportunity cost in pursuing this project. Arguably, producing this book may not have been the optimal use of my spare cycles. But, in counterpoint to that, I wanted to create a tangible realisation of my existing writing. I thought that having the book would being me some joy and a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

My initial reaction to having the physical object since yesterday is that – even though I might be tending towards being ‘Mr. Digital’ these days – I have to admit that holding a printed copy of your own book in your hands is very satisfying.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I made this book for myself. Now having my own hard copy sitting on my bookshelf realises my original intention. That said, I have published this book using Lulu.com which means it is also available to order print-on-demand for anyone else who is interested in having their own copy. Print and delivery took just under two weeks for my copy.

You can purchase copies of Thinking Out Loud here.

Everything included in the print on-demand version will always remain available online here. This blog will still be the canonical version, due to it being both pointable-at and deep-linkable-to. The print on-demand version is a snapshot in time.