State of the Blog: eBooks, Donations

At the top of the blog header, I’ve added a new tab called “My eBooks”. It represents something completely new on the blog because, well, I’ve never done it before. Some time ago, I was thinking about gathering up the entries I liked the most during the year. I’d hesitate to say that it is a “Best Of” compilation, so I went with the phrase “Selected Entries” for the cover language. This weekend, I went about arranging and formatting them in Open Office, exporting the resulting document into a PDF, converting the PDF to both MOBI and EPUB formats using Calibre, uploaded them to a publicly shared folder on Google Documents, and linking to them from the new tab. The file formats should allow it to be read on every current ereader on the market.

The only problem I had was during the conversion process from PDF to the other two formats. My original table of contents kept getting every line turned into its own page, leaving one sentence with the page number at the top of each resulting page. I couldn’t find a good remedy for this, so I ended up just making the table of contents an image. This stopped the page problem, but it may make the formatting seem like it jumps in size from the table of contents to the first entry. It’s an acceptable solution for me.

I also had some minor formatting issues within the original document itself, so I hope my editing helped. I tested out resultant PDFs on my iPad to see how it looked. So, at least it looks alright on the iPad.

I made the cover art using Inkscape. The resulting design was just something that popped into my head, a compass with the blog’s initials plus the year represented. Nothing fancy, really.

I decided to make it a free download to whoever wants it for two reasons. First, I’m really an open source kind of guy. I like being able to give away stuff like my thoughts and ideas to people who can use it. There are people who can testify to this fact when they get a Facebook message or email out of the blue where I rattle off an idea or concept I have. Personally, I feel that ideas are things that you should give away. They are too valuable to be kept to oneself, especially when it can help out someone else.

Second, I’m not indifferent to the vanity nature of the project. I’ve created a product for which there is no discernable market desire; I’ve just created it for myself as a way to carry around some of my favorite entries on my iPad. It would seem a bit silly to charge for that, especially when all of the entries can be found on the blog for free.

On the flip side of this thought, I have considered the self-publishing route on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Lulu (which would cover the iBookstore). The purpose of placing the ebooks online for money is to raise funds to offset costs in attending conferences. I’ve been exploring ways to raise money for this specific use for some time and I’d like to utilize any medium possible. While the ebooks would be available on the blog for free, for those who wanted to actually pay for a copy there would be an option. It’s the idea that people will pay for things that they find valuable (for example, libraries). I’ll have to check in to the details of self publishing on those platforms, but in the meantime, it’s available for free here.

I had been considering a PayPal donate button as another option. I’d rather not go with ads, but I know that people have debated this issue on other blogs. Thoughts? How would you feel about it for your own webspace?