Creating a Memory Book

 |  Aug 18th 2009  |   14 Contributions


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Recently, we commemorated the birthday of a dearly departed cat, my husband's Balinese, Junior. Junior passed away nearly five years ago, and my husband was so consumed with grief over Junior's death that he still cannot look at photos of Junior or talk about him. One of these years he'll come around, and when he does, we can go through the memory book I created shortly after Junior left us.

I know how easy it is for memories to fade, so I put together a memory book that told Junior's story in words and pictures. It wasn't fancy, but it captured our life with Junior and will help us recall what a little clown he was, and how indelibly he left his mark on our hearts.

Why Create a Memory Book?

A memory book preserves your pet's history in a keepsake format. Five years later, there are things I read in Junior's book that I had already forgotten. As I thumb through his book, a little bit of him comes to life and comforts me.

It's easy, when stricken with grief, to put off making a memory book of a departed pet. The days and months pass, and other priorities come into play, and before you know it, it's buried under the pile of projects that never seems to get done. It need not be an onerous project, however. I'll cover a couple of options that will practically create your book for you.

Where Do You Start?

If your cat has a blog or a Catster diary, that's a purrfect place to start. You've got text and images to populate your book. There's no better reason to start a cat blog or a Catster diary than to document your cat's adventures for posterity. Imagine if your cat lives to be 20, what an amazing legacy she'll leave behind!

So, with a little foresight and planning, it can be a quick and easy project that produces a stunning coffee table book. I've produced books using both Shutterfly and Blurb's BookSmart software, and I'll give you an overview of each.

Shutterfly

Shutterfly is geared more toward photo books. So if you want a photo scrapbook with captions, you might prefer this option -- especially if you already have albums online at Shutterfly. They over a full range of choices from small informal flip-books to high end large-format leather-bound books.

Here's a look at their interface:

shutterfly

You import your photos into the application, then drag the photos into the template. You pick your layout, backgrounds, and edges on the left. It's fairly easy to use, but performance bogs down on big books. Shutterfly also offers the option of auto-filling the book, which will automate the process for you.

Blurb

Blurb produces stunning coffee-table books, with full-color dust jackets. The thing I love about Blurb is that you can import the contents of a blog (including photos) into the software, and it will populate the book with that content, then let you manipulate it as you desire.

blurb

The interface is shown above -- it's very similar to the Shutterfly layout. In the left panel, you have a menu of page layouts from which to choose. Below it are your photos and blog entries. The main pane displays the book as you are designing it. You can view in both edit or preview modes. Thumbnails of the pages of the book appear at the bottom below the main pane.

The biggest downside to Blurb is that it is desktop client software. So if you start your book on one computer -- say, your desktop, you can't log in and edit it from your laptop (theoretically you can transfer the files over, but it's a hack that doesn't work very well). Shutterfly's application is web-based, so you can log in from any computer in the world to edit your book.

If you have a large blog (Skeezix has nearly 2000 posts on his blog), the import maxes out at about 400 posts, so you need to do a workaround.

Like Shutterfly, the Blurb application bogs down and gets buggy when the book exceeds about 70 or 80 pages. It will crash frequently, but it does save all the work when you crash. It's frustrating, but you don't lose any work.

Which Should I Use?

If you are importing from a blog, or will be incorporating a lot of text-based content, Blurb is a better choice. If you want the flexibility of editing your book from any computer and your content is mainly photographs, Shutterfly's a better option for you.

Pricing

Both offer a full range of pricing options from budget-friendly to heirloom-quality. Blurb's prices start at $4.95, and Shutterfly's start at $12.99. Shutterfly's PhotoBooks are now 20% off through September 1st.

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