Addicted to novelty since 2001

PrintMyBlog: Not Dumb, Just Not Quite Right

Via Blogosphere Radio, we find the Business 2.0 blog talking about the ‘dumbest idea of the week’. They’re referring to PrintMyBlog, a service that enables you to print your weblog in a ‘booklet’:

Bloggers! Put your archives to work. Give your visitors the ability to read your entire blog offline and earn publishing revenue for your hard work.

I had a similar idea along these lines a while back. It had a different focus, though, which I think would work better. It was inspired by my friend Sam’s business, Echo Memoirs. They make incredible-looking, one-off memoir books about weddings, businesses, pets, personal histories, etc. They’re-one-of-a-kind, involve a ton of work, and aren’t cheap. Like, CAN $2500 not cheap. That said, her business is doing great.

Here’s what PrintMyBlog doesn’t get: nobody wants to buy your blog but you.

My idea was to enable bloggers to create a nice-looking book (not Echo Memoirs quality, of course, but something soft-cover and attractive) as a personal keepsake. They submit an XML version of their archives, chose a template they like, maybe choose or submit an image for their cover, and we print their book. They might sell them on their site, but that would definitely be secondary and their business.

The idea would be predicated on the automated capture and generation of the text. You’d need some developer to build you a system that could suck in the XML archives and convert them into acceptably laid-out pages of text. This is certainly doable–we built a very simple XML-to-PDF Web service at Cape Clear. Still, it’s a thorny technical challenge.

The automation is important because it’s the labour that drives up the production costs. Ideally, the blogger submits their archives, we automagically generate a PDF, have the user review it, make changes, get it printed and send it back to the blogger. These things might start at, I don’t know, CAN $100 for a hundred page book? That’s a total shot in the dark on price.

Maybe somebody’s doing this already? I think it’s a viable business model. Don’t underestimate the value of a physical artifact, especially when that artifact has only existed virtually.

Clearly these guys don’t know much about search engine optimization or the blogosphere. Their entire site is built out of images, and they don’t have a weblog of their own. The images thing is particularly foolish, because if they want other bloggers to talk about them, they ought to provide some text that’s easy to excerpt. They’re going to lose some word-of-mouth because people are too lazy to retype their shtick.

Also, there are no photos of the books. Why would I place and order if I can’t see what they look like? The owner does have a weblog elsewhere, incidentally.

9 Responses to “PrintMyBlog: Not Dumb, Just Not Quite Right”

  1. Jeff

    Tony Pierce is selling his blog – or at least notable excerpts, in book form, through Cafe-Press.
    With his fan base – he will likely sell hundreds of copies.

  2. Jes

    My favorite part? Demanding that you buy HIS blog booklet as a sample.

    Imagine going to the BMW dealer to look at the 2005 models and having the dealer say, “I’m sorry sir, but you can’t even see the 2005 model until you buy this used VW Jetta. Oh, but I’ll give you this voucher for 50% off the Jetta.”

    For someone who claims to be a great entrepreneur, he seems to have a profound lack of business sense.

  3. Ray

    Sounds like the ultimate blogger vanity plate. Even I wouldn’t buy my own archives.


    But hey, didn’t someone just shell out $28,000 for a moldy old bit of toast on EBay?

  4. Kyle

    Seems a little odd to me… what’s a blog once you’ve stripped it of links? Useless, in my opinion.

    I imagine someone might want a copy of their own online journal and for decent writers they might even be able to flog them onto others, and various photologs would make nice coffee table books. But an actual blog (like this one) would be pretty meaningless in paper form.

  5. Darren

    Kyle: Well, I’d say that photo blogs and online diaries are ‘actual blogs’ too. But yeah, I can’t see doing it for myself. On the other hand, I could see it appealing to the online diary crowd.

  6. Dan Sherman

    It’s interesting reading other people’s take on an idea of your own creation.

    Let me address some of your reader’s comments as well as some things you bring up in this post.

    First, the site. Essentially, we’re in a very early stages of testing the system we’re building to automate the process of extracting the XML of a blog into a format for printing. As you stated, this is crucial for cost control. So, the site I posted is essentially a bookmark just so when people hear about it, and go to the site, they don’t get “under construction”. The final site will actually be a blog about printing blogs. So, please be patient on that end. :-)

    I take GREAT issue with your statement of “the only person who would want to read your blog offline is yourself.” If you have a blog that is actually creating content and not just linking to other people, what’s the difference between that information and a full fledged book? (I believe people are still buying those artifacts, right?)

    Here’s the key to whether you can predict success with selling your blog in print. Look at the time people spend at your blog. If the average visit is more than 30 minutes, YOU NEED TO BE SELLING IT IN PRINTOUT FORMAT. This means you actually have content that people are wanting to read. There are several blogs of which I would absolutely love to sit in bed before going to sleep and read. Seth Godin is one. He actually writes information… he doesn’t regurgitate it like so many blogs do. (Not that there’s anything wrong with regurgitation and quoting/linking… etc. It’s just that that type of blog is not a good candidate for printmyblog service because it’s typically dated material that loses it’s luster after the news is old.)

    Bottom line… is there a market? If people buy them, there’s a market. We’ve proven there is for the right blog. My blog specifically. I had the printmyblog link up on my blog posts during one test for about a month or so. I got 20 orders for the print version of my blog. Now, that might not seem like much, but I only get about 200 unique visitors a day on average.

    If you can monetize your work, in ANY way, why not do it? If you just sell 3 a month, that’s better than nothing a month.

    There is a comment here about the value of a print of a blog if the links are stripped out of it. This person has evidently not visited the website and gotten the proper info. The printouts of your blog INCLUDE all links. Now, of course, if the link interests you enough to follow it, you do have to go to your computer to access it. We make it very easy to access. There’s a number next to the word or phrase that is hyperlinked. You use that to access the link itself. It makes it quite easy to follow any links.

    This is another reason blogs that do a lot of linking to deliver the gist of their content is not a good candidate for selling a print version of their blog. Again, take my blog for instance. I write actual content. Content that can be read and understood, for the most part, in complete context without following any of the links I refer to. The linking I do is secondary information that if needed, can be followed at a later time, without interrupting the flow of the content.

    One more thing… I know it was said based on what little you know about me. But I am an extremely astute business person. I make a very large sum of money on the internet, through various channels. I’m an entrepreneur, through and through.

    An idea not pursued is an idea without even 1% chance of becoming great. I think this one warrants a little higher chance than the 1%, so I’m a happy camper. That’s all one can hope for. :-)

    Hope that explains things for everyone. We’re still doing the building of the system and testing… etc. So, keep an open mind, shall we?


  7. Darren

    Thanks for your comments, Dan.

    I still think there’s a much bigger market for ‘personal keepsake’ books for the bloggers themselves than published booklets of other peoples’ blogs. You cite some good examples, but I only see a portion of the very top end of the blogosphere’s long tail being marketable. For example, people might want Andrew Sullivan’s work, but would they want the timely blurbs that Slashdot or BoingBoing offers? Unlikely. Would they want an offline version of my site? No way.

    On the other hand, a keepsake model encompasses the entire blogosphere. Whether you’ve got 1 reader or 10,000, you might want an offline version for yourself.

    I’d be very surprised if more than 1% of blogosphere readers are on a given site for more than 10 minutes, let alone 30.

    Still, if you want to prove me wrong, I’m up for it. Set me up with a PrintMyBlog button and I’ll post it on my site sidebar (over there below the moose) for a couple of months. We’ll see if I sell any.

  8. Kyle

    Most people do lump blogs, online journals and photologs together indeed, Darren. I just like keeping them distinguished for the sake of clarity. When I say “blog” I mean a blog in the purist sense (like metafilter, memepool, everlasting blort, etc.) as opposed to online journal, or photolog or other such. Of course, there’s also all kinds of grey area between each, too.

  9. Malcom Reynolds

    I wonder if I have missed the blog boat. I do not see the appeal. I know my sister blogs, and has all sorts of nonsense on there, from pictures to recipes to journal-like entries. Am I just uncool?

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