Saturday, September 19, 2009

Gift idea!

Stuck for a Christmas gift? Books are always good! But what if there aren't any editions out there that you can afford that are gift-worthy?

Here's a solution!

There are hundreds of books in the public domain out there, and many are online. Texts can be obtained easily from Project Gutenberg, and some illustrated editions are available from Google Books and Internet Archive. Also, sometimes a Google search can turn up illustrations.

If you have software that can format books, you're good to go! Just a bit of know-how can create good-looking editions of books.

Be sure that you aren't just creating a print-out of the book's text. Although it will require a bit of work, try fixing the paragraph margins for the book. They're done quite differently from webpages in a book. Make sure your text looks decent, and add a title page. (You can also try adding a table of contents.)

If you want to save your work as a PDF, the free software Open Office supports PDF creation, which many print-on-demand publishers will accept.

Try to keep a small page size (as in inches) when formatting your book. Smaller books are easier to wrap and more portable. You may want to visit some of the sites described in the next paragraph to determine a good size for your book.

Now, upload your finished file to a print-on-demand publishing site. is a good source for this. You will usually have to create a cover separate from the book, and Lulu offers a cover designer.

If everything you used is clearly legal, you can even use the site to sell copies of the book. (Remember, copies you buy will be at cost.)

I must remind you: be sure the text and any images and other material you use is public domain where you live. What is public domain in one country may not be elsewhere. If not, if the copyright owners find out, you could be in serious trouble, especially if you try to sell copies of your edition.

Although I mentioned Google Books and, not every piece of material has been cleared for use commercially. If they discovered you used their material, you could also be in trouble. Using these would probably be all right if you're printing up a copy for a gift, but if you're trying to sell it, make sure the version you have does not prohibit commercial use. Having warned you, if you get in trouble for this, I take no responsibility. People worked to get those online for everyone to enjoy. If they don't want you to profit from their work, that is their choice.

Also, if you're using illustrations you found online, be sure that they're okay to use in print. Just because it's online, does not mean it's free to use.

So, with a little bit of care, you could have a nice book to give to someone special!

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