Digital World: Making your own history

Fame and fortune in the book business - one or the other, at least - can be yours.

October 17, 2006 08:48
lupa books 88 298

lupa books 88 298. (photo credit: Courtesy Photo)


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Fame and fortune in the book business - one or the other, at least - can be yours. And a lot faster than you thought. Ask Ziv Koren ( The missiles had barely stopped falling on northern Israel as the UN-sponsored cease-fire took effect in August after six weeks of war between Israel and Hizbullah terrorists when Ziv, a noted photographer, published the first photographic account of the war. IDF troops were still ensconced in positions throughout southern Lebanon when the war became, for all practical purposes "history." But thanks to a new generation of publishing options on the Web - some of them with nearly instant turnaround times (except for shipping) - you basically can write a history book in the afternoon about an event that happened in the morning. Of course, only "history" will judge if your version of what happened turns out to be accurate in the long run - but, as I like to say, there's no history like first-person history. And for the first time in history, Web services and applications like Shutterfly ( and iPhoto (, among many others, will let you publish your own history - personal or otherwise - in photos. Shutterfly, one of the bigger services that do this, is typical in terms of method and costs; you upload your photos to the site, use their wizard to specify layout, product type, binding, etc. and pay up. They, in turn, will send you a lovely printed book, personalized with your photos and text - the perfect gift for parents' anniversaries, college graduations, eighteenth birthdays - any event celebrating a personal historic milestone with enough history behind it to provide enough perspective - I wouldn't consider it for a wedding (we're looking towards the future, not the past) or a bar-mitzvah (not enough history yet). By printed, of course, I mean "published," similar to books you would buy in a book store. In fact, these books are even better - with glossy photos, thicker stock paper and hard cover binding, you could call the more expensive ones "coffee table books." Now, Israelis have the opportunity to order such printed memories from Lupa (, which will provide you with wizard software and a range of printing options, including soft and hard cover books, color and/or black and white printing and various binding types. Usually, you expect things like these to be more expensive than similar services available abroad, but Lupa's prices - for example, you can get a 40 page color/b&w hardcover book for NIS 199 - work out very comparably per page (about $1.25) to Shutterfly, iPhoto or the rest of them, which all charge in the same general range. Print time is a matter of days, and the company will even hand deliver your book anywhere in Israel if it's a rush job. Lupa is how Ziv Koren got his Lebanon war photo book out to the public in such a short time - making his the first book published on the subject. The one drawback for people like us is that the Lupa software and Web site are strictly in Hebrew. And, unlike the majority of American and UK sites offering book printing services, Lupa does not offer other items like mugs, calendars, pennants, etc. and it's not clear if they are planning to, based on conversations I had with some Lupa people. Lupa is, without question, a very convenient way to get your photos into book form for the benefit of posterity - but it, along with the other photo book services available, raises a raft of questions. Like, what if I wanted to print a regular book - not necessarily with pictures? It stands to reason that if the Web offers instant four-color photo printing, it wouldn't be too big of an accomplishment to offer plain old text printing. And then there's the idea of sending my photos out to a Web service for publication; might there not be some privacy issues involved? Is there a way to print something of similar quality off my own laser or inkjet printer? Last answer, first; yes, there is a way to print out your own "book," and even bind it, given the right materials and techniques. Epson USA offers a kit that will allow you to print out a 10-page photo book from your own inkjet printer (Epson preferred, but others are reported to work). The Epson Storyteller Photo Book Creator ( includes high-quality, glossy paper, an already-bound spine to which you attach your pages, and a glossy cover you can print out as well. sells the 5 by 7 inch Epson kit - which contains 10 pages - for $20, pegging the cost at $2 per page. You have to use your own ink, of course, but you can fit a substantial number of photos on each page and you do retain your privacy since everything is done, literally, "in-house." I was unable to determine if Epson Israel sells this product. An even cheaper way to go is to buy your own photo stock of whatever size and bind the pages yourself using, or These methods actually work best for e-books on regular stock paper, but there's no reason you couldn't apply them to photo books as well. The last link (a completely visual presentation of the process) makes it seem easy and, if saving money is paramount, you can produce a nice gift for friends or family for the price of some paper or photo stock, along with some glue or string. Services like Lupa and products like the Epson Photo Book Creator, or the personally printed and bound method of publishing, are appropriate for a family project - but the cost is prohibitive if you want to commercially distribute your work. Even if you could insert text on your 40 pages, it's hard to imagine someone paying over $35 for a copy of your tome - not including shipping, of course. If you've got something to say but don't want to lay out thousands of dollars with a "vanity" or "subsidy" publisher, Lulu ( can be a good friend. Lulu is a pay as you go publishing service - also known as a POD, or print on delivery publisher - which means they will take your formatted book and print out one or more copies at a time (full-length books can be printed and shipped for less than $10, on average, according to the site). If you know how to do Web promotion and can competently sell your work via blogs, newsgroups or other means (Lulu has many tips on how to use these and other methods to market), you can have Lulu print copies of your book (to your specifications, of course) one at a time and ship them to each individual customer. The difference between publishing and selling on your own, as opposed to using a legitimate subsidy publisher, is that you have to do the legwork (or rather web-work) of marketing yourself. It's a lot cheaper in the short term, though - and in the long-term you keep more money for yourself. The idea, of course, would be to use Lulu to build up a following so you have a better chance of snagging a contract with a "real" publisher, as makes clear, is essential. See you on the best-seller list (Yes, I'm working on my own little self-publishing project!)

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