My daughter Henrietta turned 18 last New Year’s Eve. I wanted to do something pretty special for her birthday and give her a gift that she would treasure for the rest of her life. For years, I had been making her a very simple scrapbook album. On a double page spread, I filled the left side with photos (ones I’d actually printed off from a USB stick at Kmart- oh my, so old school!) and the right side with dot point vignettes of her life and experiences that year. This was up-to-date only to her 12th year and to be honest, with the explosion of technology and what you can now do with photographs and text, my handwritten scrapbook looked pretty scruffy in comparison. I remembered my friend Naomi had created a number of books documenting her family’s travels (Barcelona during the World Cup soccer, and a week long bicycle tour in Western Australia) as part of her quest to preserve their history for her children. She had researched a number of print book options before deciding upon the on-line book creation service, Blurb, as it offered her the most freedom to create her visions in hard cover. Her books were a delight and so I decided to transfer the work I had done in scrapbook form into a hard-cover book that could be treasured by Henri forever.
First thing I did was to download Booksmart from Blurb. And launched a book project. It was as simple as clicking a button.
First up, you choose your book size. I chose a hardcover book in standard portrait size measuring 8 x 10 inches, or 20 x 25 cm, with an image wrap. The image wrap means your photo or illustrations are bound to the book, unlike a dust jacket which is loose and comes away from the book. Dust jackets drive me crazy so the image wrap was perfect. I figured a standard portrait book was probably the most portable and easy to manage size that would also fit on your favourite bookshelf. Much as I love coffee table books, I always have trouble storing them and I wanted this book to be accessible to Henri whenever she wanted to look at it, or show friends, or simply take it with her.
Straight up you can also work out your pricing so you know whether it is feasible to proceed. Blurb books aren’t necessarily cheap (this size starts at $22 for a softcover or $36 with image wrap for 20 pages) but for a special project, I think they are worth the investment. If you decide yes, you then choose your starter layout. The layouts are able to be customised and are really easy to work with, and there are plenty of tutorials to help out if you get stuck along the way.
You then pull in your photos to a folder within Blurb- from your hard-drive or i-photo (mac), or from your photo sharing site such as flickr or photobucket. Then it’s time to choose a theme and customise your backgrounds, your colours, your fonts, your photo and text layouts and your accessories. It is as simple as following the set-up wizard and doing what you are told. It is a step-by-step process and really easy to follow. (Quick tip: I had to customise my font American Typewriter on every page but I’m sure there must be a way to set your book up to make this automatic. I think I missed this step!)
The challenge with my book was that the photos from Henrietta’s first 13 odd years were only in hard copy, not stored on any computer so I had to scan in every single picture. This took time and a bit of effort (pulling apart photo boards to retrieve a treasured pic was a little painstaking!) but I had a lovely week or so reminiscing about her life, remembering the big adventures and the everyday moments. Once scanned, I just popped them into the blurb folder and continued on as normal.
With so many photos and years to categorise, I made a plan to colour-code the backgrounds. This actually was a big help and when the book arrived on my doorstep, one of the first things I noticed was this lovely rainbow look of the pages in the binding.
I added the photos first, and strived to put them in order of the event and/or her age. It was easy to do this in with the photos of her early years but more challenging when she grew older. Thank goodness for date stamps I say. Once the photos were in place, I then wrote the details of her life story, year by year. I was helped to do this by the dot points of her history from my old scrapbook (so grateful for this!), and guided by the memories of the photos too. I aimed to fill a page for each yearly reflection but some years were two or three pages long. Reflecting on our trip around Australia when Henri was 3 took up three pages of writing. I also added scans of postcards, and tickets or brochures. You can see above an example of both of these.
When you think you are done, you can preview your book. Be sure to check that your font is consistent all the way through, check your spelling, be sure that your words and pictures are not too close to the edge of the paper (watch this on the template) and then ask a friend to have a look over it too. It is amazing what you can miss when you’ve spent so much time looking at it on a screen. Once you are satisfied with your work, push the button to order it. My books cost me $70 dollars a piece (I bought 3 in one go) but that is 140 odd pages of full colour photos and backgrounds, and super fast delivery as I was running to a very tight schedule and needed it back between Christmas and New Year. (It arrived three days after I placed my order- great service!)
I bought a copy for myself and my parents as well as for Henri, but I should have asked who else in the family wanted a copy too. My aunty ordered one in February and it cost me $15 more than if I’d ordered an extra one in the original order.
Henri LOVED her book, but I think that every other family member, and friends I’ve shown it too, have loved it just as much. Many friends and family have voiced that they wish their mother/father/parent had made one for them too. I’m hearing what a gift it is to give someone their history and heritage, forever laid down on paper for all to see. I love it too, and I’m also ecstatic to have a compilation of ALL of the best pictures of Henri’s life all in one book, and preserved on-line if ever you need it too. As someone with an almost pathological need for order and organisation, and no clutter, this book makes me super happy!
A few weeks ago, I finally got my i-photo collection sorted out after it was compromised by a bug in the system. I created an album of all the good pictures of Ned from birth to age 5, and I’m planning on creating a book like this for him soon too. I definitely won’t wait until he is 18 to put it all together!
Tomorrow, I’ll be back with some other great ideas for your memories and photo books. But in the meantime, tell me your thoughts.