Christmas From A to Z: eBook

Today I did my first attempt at an interactive eBook. The links below should take you to a pdf of the book. I kept it pretty simple with just a link on each page to jump to the page with the entire tree to search for the symbols of Christmas. I think it is sized for viewing on an iPad so let me know how it works on that or other devices you try it on.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas this week!

A to Z eBook

A to Z eBook


step one: decide with the DOABLE Approach to Telling Your Family’s Tales

Step One: Decide

If you have made it this far there is a good chance that you have decided that now is the time to commit to doing a story project. If you are still on the fence keep reading and hopefully you will be inspired to take on the challenge.

So how do you go about deciding just what this story project is going to be about? There are many ways to get there but we will help you through the process. You could be lucky enough to already have a person and/or project in mind. If so skip down to decide on a focus. If you already know what you want your story project to be about you can probably skip to Narrow the scope. Be careful about skipping all they way down to Pick a Medium because if your story project is too broad you might get discourage and give up before it is complete.


A good starting spot is to ask yourself why you want to do a story project? From the BYUtv series called The Generations Project they asked these questions to help people find their why:

  • What do you spend a lot of time thinking about?
  • What do you hope will happen to you in the next year or two?
  • Tell us a story about a life changing experience.
  • What is the biggest challenge you’re facing in your life now?

It is good to let these question percolate in your mind for a few days. Make notes and notice where your thoughts go. Listen to your intuition on what story project you want to do now.

Try looking at your family tree or start listing names of people in your family.  Here are some more questions that might help you decided on your story project:

  • Is there someone you are drawn to?
  • Is there a time in history that you are interested in?
  • Do you know an ancestor from that time period?
  • Is there a place in your family’s past you would like to learn more about?
  • Have you considered doing a story about your own life?

Again it might take you sometime to settle on a person or place or time that you want your story project to be about. Being thoughtful during this step will reap big rewards later on.


At this point you have probably come up with several possibilities for story projects. If one has come to the forefront then you are ready to move on. If not ask yourself more questions until you feel good about one. File your notes away for future projects. Just because you don’t decide on that project now doesn’t mean you can’t do it in the future. Chances are the project you have in mind is still rather broad in its scope and too big to tackle in a reasonable amount of time. Now is the time to narrow it down. Let’s say you picked a person. Now is not the time to take on telling their whole life story. Unless you are different from most of us you don’t have time or the experience to succeed in that kind of project. Instead pick a time frame to work on first. If you really do want to do that life history then keep that in mind and design this project to become part of that big future project. It is easy to think we can eat the whole elephant or maybe just one of his legs. A huge key to success in learning and sharing about our family stories is to break them down into palatable pieces.  Don’t try to write “War and Peace” here. A short story is more what we are after. Down the road if you want to you can combine lots of story projects into your “War and Peace”.


The next step is to bring focus to your story project. Go back to your “why” and how it relates to this project and what you want to do. Can this project be broken down into smaller pieces? You want to have a very tight focus on what this project is and how to accomplish it. I have a tendency to dream up the most elaborate projects but it is important to keep them from getting out of hand and grow into something that is difficult to get done and might not really carry out your purpose any better in the end. Now is the time to be honest about your available time and resources. It is better to break it up into several smaller project. You gain a sense of accomplishment which the completion of each story project.

Make notes and write a good description of what you want your story project to be. Give it some time and some serious thought. Always keep in mind who you plan to share your story project with.


Finally you want to pick a medium for your story project. Is it a book, an eBook, a video, a slide show, an audio, a song or something else altogether? There are lots and lots of possibilities. For many story projects once the first project is done it could easily be shared in another format. For example a book can be converted to an eBook. It might also be the basis for a video or slide show. Start with just one medium but keep in mind that other projects could spin-off from the original story project. Browse through our project ideas for some inspiration on the possibilities.

Are you still with me? Then it is time to move on to step two!

Enhanced Ebooks

I love the idea of the ability to embed media like video in the context of a book. Ebooks have that potential. In the next few years I believe that we will see the power of ebooks come into their own. I can’t wait to explore to learn the skill and explore the possibilities of this medium.

image from Robert Leslie’s book Stormbelt

I found an interview with Robert Leslie, a photographer know for his photographic journeys, about a resent project he calls Stormbelt. You can find the interview here on Blurberati Blog. I’m intrigued with the idea of having both a print and digital version of a book. It is an interesting project that I think you will enjoy.

Stormbelt Book Preview

Stormbelt Ebook Preview

Publishing Your Story – Traditional vs. eBook

I came across and interesting post a few weeks ago on the FamilySearch Blog about traditional publishing vs. eBook publishing and was very interested in James Tanner’s view on this subject with the continued improvements and use of eBooks. You can read the post here.

Publishing Your Genealogy – Traditional vs. eBook

He shared an outline of how books were published in the past that was interesting.

  • Writing
  • Editing
  • Table of Contents and Indexing
  • Inserting Illustrations
  • Formatting for Printing (book layout, fonts)
  • Proof Reading
  • Typesetting
  • Application for ISBN/Copyright
  • Proof Print
  • Printing Pages
  • Binding
  • Distribution and/or Sales

Having only done self-publishing through print on demand I hadn’t ever thought of all these steps in publishing a book. It is wonderful that through modern technology we have other options to print just a few copies of a book or even just one at a very reasonable price. Traditional printing methods were not cost-effective unless you printed a large number of books. And face it, most of the stories we want to share just don’t have that wide of an appeal but that doesn’t make them any less important to us or our family and friends.

James Tanner points out that today all the above steps can now be done by the writer but we can still contract out any of these steps to someone else, including writing the book. I have one issue with his information about print on demand. He wrote:

Today, there are book publishing machines that will publish one book or a hundred. The cost of the first book is very reasonable. The major drawback for those wanting legacy materials is that the binding is limited to softcover perfect (glued) binding.

It might be true that some on-line printers only offer softcover perfect bound books, but I know that Blurb’s softcover books are perfect bound or glued. They also have hardcover books and their website says “our Hardcover books feature library binding.” This got me curious so I dug deeper and found some information to suggest that blurb hardcover books less than 120 pages our stitched from the side but their large hardcover books are glued or perfect bound. This seems to be mostly true. I checked the blurb books that I have here. The 440 page Europe! is not stitched it is glued. While the 9 7×7 books between 40 and 80 pages are all stitched except 1. So that was some interesting research. I’ll have to see if I can find out more.

Here is what James Tanner had to say about eBooks:

With the popularity of eBook readers such as the Kindle and the Apple iPad, publishing a book electronically is more than a fad. If you look at the New York Times Best Sellers List, you may be surprised to find that many of the best selling books are now available only in eBook format. One advantage of publishing a book in eBook format is that it can be updated at any time and distributed in a variety of formats. EBook publishing is exactly like traditional publishing except for the final printing and binding. There is still a need for good writing skills and the book files have to be adapted for a variety of electronic book readers.

Just as with more traditional publishing you can do these steps yourself even to the “printing” on your own computer. One simple option is to publish in a PDF format and distribute that to family and friends. May eReaders can read PDF documents but in my experience their are challenges with the small size of the screen and PDF documents that letter size. The text can be difficult or impossible to read with the entire page on the screen or you have to do lots of scrolling around to read the text.

If the book is just text there are simple enough ways to export it for eBooks using a word processor. But for me the images are at least as important as the words. And I’m not sure how you design for the fluidity of an eReader with images. There is new software that helps with formatting for eBooks so maybe it isn’t as hard as it seems to me. I love the idea of eBooks with embedded media but have yet to see how it works for projects like sharing family stories.

I agree with James Tanners basic assessment:

Whether you publish your book on paper or electronically, you will find that it takes considerable time and effort. Electronic publishing may cut out some of the steps necessary for a paper publication, but the quality and readability of the book has to be adapted for online or eBook reading.

It will be interesting to see how eBooks effect self publishing in the future. I believe that the best way may be to use both mediums so that we reach a broader audience and greater likelihood that our stories will be safe for the future to enjoy. Hopefully there are ways to make this as painless as possible.