After the publication of my book last week I've had a number of questions about how I went about getting it published. I'm using a print on demand service - therefore the book is only printed when ordered and no stock is held. This is great for smaller projects such as my Travel Photography book however the print cost per copy is higher as you cannot benefit from economies of scale. There are two major players in the print on demand market, Lulu and Blurb.
Lulu offers a number of print on demand products including books, calendars, photo books and cook books. What Lulu provided over Blurb was a free ISBN number meaning that people could buy your book through shops such as Waterstones, WH Smiths and Amazon.
My problems with Lulu started when trying to upload my book. I had designed it using Apple's Pages application however Lulu did not support PDF's created this way (as far as I'm aware Lulu won't accept any PDF's created through Quartz based applications - even if the PDF is created through Adobe's Acrobat distiller, it is something to do with the way fonts are embedded into the PDF). I ended up uploading a 1.8 gig postscript file rather than a 300mb PDF to be able to print through Lulu.
When the proof arrived the print quality was poor, some parts were my fault for not adding images at a high enough resolution however ultimately it looked like it had been printed through an ink jet printer on the draft settings. Lulu do have another service just for photo book printing however this was a lot more expensive.
I was originally recommended Blurb over Lulu because of the print quality issues however the extra options (such as an ISBN number) provided by Lulu were enough to convince me to try them first. Blurb have created their own book creation software called Book Smart however there was no easy way to import between Apple's Pages and Book Smart so I ended up recreating the book using this software. This was good in many ways as it solved many of the resolution/DPI issues I had with Lulu. Book Smart also handles all of the conversion/uploading when it comes to publishing the book.
Blurb like Lulu allows you to set your own price for selling a book however they offer no free ISBN number and no way to sell your book as an eBook. Annoyingly there is no way to print from Book Smart without Blurbs 'this is a proof copy' message all over the PDF. Therefore for the eBook version I sell on ImAFish I've had to go back to my original copy created in Apple's Pages.
Prices between Lulu and Blurb are very similar, my book costs almost the same between Lulu and Blurb (though the Blurb book is a couple of cm smaller). Both allow for sales in UK Pounds, Euros and US Dollars and ship worldwide.
If you are creating a text heavy book such as a novel then Lulu's extra features such as an ISBN number are a clear winner. If you are creating a portfolio or photography book then Blurb's superior print quality is much better however if you are like me stuck in the middle between creating a photo heavy based book targeted at a wide audience then its a simple decision between quality and audience - I chose quality.
AAIB, the specialist insurance brokers, has commissioned Shrewsbury web developers The Web Orchard to create the worlds first online travel insurance site specifically for travel to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Designed for people visiting Iraq or Afghanistan for business or personal reasons, the new website enables travellers to get an instant quotation which exactly matches their needs. The variables that can be chosen from include duration of stay, purpose of visit, the amount of personal accident and medical evacuation cover required.
Managed by AAIB Insurance Brokers, the travel policy is 'A' rated and essential baggage cover is included in the price. Varying levels of cover are available as well as the option to add more specialist types of cover if required.
Peter White, Web Architect at The Web Orchard, said: “We are delighted to have been able to contribute to this first ever travel insurance site for travel to Iraq and Afghanistan. From a technical perspective, the main challenges were to create a web-enabled copy of AAIB’s risk calculation database, and then to offer users the chance to go from quote to payment in one seamless transaction.”
Additional refinements in the site are the ability to receive an email quotation with PDF attachment, and for customers to download a PDF copy of their policy whenever required from anywhere in the world.
William Wakeham, AAIB’s CEO Insurance is delighted with the outcome. “The Web Orchard created a very elegant front end for our quotation database. Now travellers only have to answer eight drop down questions in order to receive an instant travel insurance quote, which is linked to a secure card payment screen if they want to pay for immediate cover. Compared to other more complex insurance quotation sites, the single page quotation form that The Web Orchard provided is incredibly simple to use.”
The Web Orchard have a five year track record of creating sophisticated e-commerce web presences. They are based in Shrewsbury, near Birmingham, in the United Kingdom and work for an international client base.
My Raspberry Pi arrived a few days ago and I've been busy experimenting ever since. I initially tried Debian “squeeze” as recommended on the Raspberry Pi website. The distro was fairly easy to setup using the dd command in OS X Terminal to copy the Debian image file to the SD card (the instructions on the Raspberry Pi Wiki are fairly comprehensive).
The Raspberry Pi.
I was using a fairly cheap SD card that kept getting locked every time I slid it into my MacBook Pro so I ended up taping the lock into the off position (might help someone if they keep getting permission denied when trying to write via dd).
The device booted in sub 30 seconds and once logged in you can start the window manager by typing 'startx'. It was unable to detect the correct resolution of my HD TV but otherwise worked without a problem. I enabled SSH through the command line and played around with some of the pre-installed applications.
My aim for the Raspberry Pi was a media center with the overall goal of having one in the living room, kitchen and bedroom meaning that wherever I am in the house I can stream my media. I was led to Raspbmc, a Debian based OS running XBMC.
The software is in early beta (as with a lot of software surrounding the Pi) but has a downloadable image and a similar setup process to Debian "squeeze".
Raspbmc streaming Digitally Imported Trance Channel.
On booting for the first time Raspbmc downloads and installs all the necessary files for XBMC, a process taking about 15mins. I was then able to set the correct resolution for my TV and install plugins for Internet Radio and BBC iPlayer (I installed this from a flash drive). SMB didn't work for file sharing (and crashed the Pi) but I'm sure this will be fixed in a later version.
More to come on the Pi soon...
When I was writing the April Fools editorial in bed at 8.30 yesterday morning it didn't cross my mind that it would be the best day ever on the site. We over doubled our previous visits record, 5 times the average good days traffic and even got mentioned on local radio.
What was really interesting about the day was how quickly the article went viral and how quickly it started to bring visitors to the site. I published the article at 9.09, I immediately shared this on the Love Shrewsbury Facebook Page (with an audience of 877 likes), I then reshared to my personal Facebook friends (an audience of about 500). I then shared on my personal Twitter (knowing that the Love Shrewsbury Twitter would be tweeted automatically from IFTTT).
Almost instantly people started to click through to the website. Between 9.09 and 12pm traffic was fairly consistently showing 20-25 people reading the article. Just after 12 we broke the sites previous hits record (set sometime last year), by 9pm we had doubled this amount.
What was also interesting is the number of people that used the Facebook like button within the page, as I write this post it has 163 likes, given we struggle to get comments on the site its good to see people interacting in this way.
We've put a lot of work into developing our social media channels and days like yesterday so how effective they can be in distributing content and bringing traffic to the site.
The big challenge is continuing to develop content, the 1st of April only comes round once a year and this sort of article wouldn't work any other time.
Today we have a great photographic piece about the closed Shrewsbury prison that I was hoping would be the big article of the week however something tells me it won't cause as big a stir!
The Web Orchard a Shropshire based web-development company has announced today a joint venture with the purchase of an international news website.
The Iraq Business News website originally launched in February 2010 has grown to become the leading news service for all who are interested in the business development in Iraq. Offering a unique and in-depth perspective, the website aims to highlight Iraq and the modern economy which is being brought into place.
Iraq Business News and its sister site Libya Business News give site visitors a wide variety of informative news coverage – receiving approximately 300,000 page visits per month, demonstrating the demand and interest in their respective countries for new economic opportunities in the commercial sector.
Speaking of the recent acquisition in part of the company, Pete White of The Web Orchard said “We have been managing the website for a number of years and knew what a fantastic opportunity it was to become part of the current team. We can really bring our expertise to the site starting with a content delivery network that serves the site to viewers from their most geographically local server. This will speed up access and better serve the ever growing readership. It is always positive when we are able to make our expertise known internationally – and we are looking forward to seeing the Iraq Business News website evolve in the future.”
The Web Orchard brings Iraq Business News into their increasingly diverse portfolio of sites which also includes the Love Shrewsbury website.
For further information on other projects which The Web Orchard have been working on recently, take a look at http://www.theweborchard.com/