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IDEA #48A – Printed Volumes Of Your Online Reading

Avid Techquila Shots reader (and commenter! hint, hint) Colin Dowling had an idea that spurred from my Personalized Printed Magazines and Catalogs idea.

(FYI – This is what I always hope for when I make these idea posts — that it spurs thought in you as a reader and you get some other new idea. Feel free to email them to me and if I like them, I’ll post them with full credit back to you. Note: Your idea may then spur another idea by someone — and the chain keeps going, spurring new thoughts and ideas by all.)

His idea:

What about a printed book/volume that was published regularly for a subscriber (monthly, quarterly, annually, etc.) that was a compilation of all the text and image web content they had consumed. What if you could install software or a widget or a browser plug-in that tracked the pages you visited and extracted the text and images and saved them. Then, at the appropriate time, it printed them like a book complete with table of contents and index and mailed it to the user.

The user could even filter which sites he/she wanted tracked. So, I could choose to track Techquila Shots, TechCrunch, and Mashable and at the end of the year, get a big phone-book sized book with all the stories I’d read online printed in it, complete with pictures/images. While bookmarking and tagging solves this online, it doesn’t do much for accessing material offline without committing hard drive space to it. Furthermore, some files get purged from servers as time passes so more and more bookmarked links would become broken or the content would disappear all together. Having a printed archive would allow someone to say, “Honey, go grab the ‘web archive’ from 2007…I need to see what Steve said about rating videos because I know it was good but I can’t remember…”

I’ve been using bookmarks ( for referencing anything I read online, but I’m sure there are still people that like having hard copies. Particularly to ensure they never lose that content — which could happen if any of those websites go away. I know there are offline browsers, but maybe there’s also room for a service that does copy webpages you read to your own online storage unit — basically, your browser history is saved somewhere so that you can always go back and refer to any webpage you need to. Someone could create this service using Amazon S3 storage, which users would then have their own account with and pay for their own storage/bandwidth.

Per Eric Nagel‘s comment on the last post, it sounds like this print/ship process could somehow be automated via an API with FedEx/Kinko’s. Does anyone know of any other companies that you can send a PDF to, they’ll print it, and ship it to you (using an automated API)?

  • Colin Dowling

    Ahhhh….love the idea about indexing a complete browser history and storing it somewhere like S3. The service could “stamp” pages with all kinds of data automatically like day, month, year, etc. Then, it could mash the tags/labels from and/or Technorati to give the user more search terms and categorizations. Very cool idea.

  • Josh

    This idea is appealing, though… perhaps not feasible.

    Do you know how much TechCrunch and Mashable post in a year? Pete and Mike are up to about 20 posts per day between them… you might be looking at a 10,000 page, full-color book by year’s end for just those two blogs! Without some editorial review to pare that waaay down to a “best of” this would be very, very expensive and probably not something most people would pay for.

    That said, I hate reading long documents online, and do like the idea of consuming blogs in written form.

    One of my favorite resource is … I’ve used them to print out many a PDF book (like my copy of ‘Getting Real’ before 37Signals offered a print version via Lulu). :)

  • Steve Poland

    @Josh — right, you’d have your own account for this, so you could pare down what you’d be printing. It wouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all book for printing.

    Once again, advertisers/sponsors could pay to be dispersed throughout the pages of these personalized “books”. I’m sure there’d be issues with that though [from publisher stand points].

  • Colin Dowling

    I agree the book would be LONG. Perhaps just having it for certain selected sites?

    Or perhaps we’re looking at it the wrong way: push the software to sites/blogs interested in publishing their content in book form. So TechCrunch (the example you gave) could sell a book 4 times a year with all of their material in it in chronological order or grouped by category. The site could then place an “Order last year’s TechCrunch book” button on their site, set the price, and then as someone purchases it, the backend would print it on demand and ship it out…

  • Josh

    One way to pare down on the fly is to have a browser tool bar associated with that that allowed you to “greenlight” content you wanted in your book as you came across it. So whenever you come across a good article or blog post (anywhere, not just on blogs you normally read/track) you just press the button on you browser toolbar and it automatically gets added to your year-in-review book. Then come year’s end, you could edit it down further if you wanted to cut costs/pages.

    Question: Would you guys want all the comments too? Add on another 30,000 pages. 😉

    @Steve: Yeah, ads on other people’s content might not be such a good idea, unless you get permission from the content creator and cut a deal with them to share in the riches.

  • Colin Dowling

    Comments would be in the appendix, LOL.

    I like your idea about the Greenlight button.

  • James D Kirk

    Isn’t the “real” question here, would you ever really use this book? I love the idea, in theory, I do. It also conjures up the memories of my invitation, and ultimate inclusion in the “Who’s Who of High School Students” my family paid for (way back 😉 )

    Just don’t know that people are going to want another tome lying around. Now if it were printed out on over sized glossy paper, with a rich, hardbound cover to proudly be displayed on the coffee table…

  • Colin Dowling

    James, good points. The internet is still “young” enough that a lot of consideration hasn’t been given in my opinion to what happens to old content. In many cases, the content is removed from servers and can only be found in cached pages after a detailed search. Expanding further from the idea of printing everything that the user reads, or printing everything from a topic, what about a “clip service” by subject style book. Say you’re a fan of the Texas Longhorns football team. You read a lot of great commentary last year as the team played and won the national championship. What if there were a way to order a book of all that content you had read in a bound-form, so you could put it up for posterity and pull it out from time to time to remember a fun time in your life? Or print a book covering the election of a new President? Or a book covering the history of the Mars rover?

    A compilation of news/info sources that are not centrally located could have enormous value in printed form.

  • Leddo

    In a bit of a twist to this idea, I’ve seen a company called Ink Out Loud ( that takes magazine articles, and turns them into customized audio. So you can turn your magazine subscriptions into downloadable MP3’s.

    Don’t know about you, but I subscribe to all these magazines, but never get the time to read them all. Having them as audio so I can listen to them in the car/train/plane is very, very, neat.


  • Steve Poland

    People could create their own “collections” of content, which others could then download — or assemble. Maybe you download a macro, which then goes out at that moment and grabs all the content from a user collection that they published [i.e. the Texas Longhorns football comments — say Colin “bookmarked” 35 different posts, articles, comments across the web] … the user would grab the macro, it’d go out and grab those 35 articles, then assemble them in the order the macro says, and then a PDF is created that the user could download/print, or send to a printer to be printed.

    That way, the business offering this overall service isn’t storing all of these materials on their own website — which could cause problems with content owners saying you’re storing their information on your servers.

  • Kevin

    I would love to be able to “greenlight” longer reading that I don’t have time or don’t want to use my computer and then have those show up on my door step each month.

    I read a lot of academic papers, but doing so online is bothersome.

    Design would be key… If I chose a TechCrunch post, I’d want it delivered with the TechCrunch template.

    Copyright concerns would probably prohibit this, though.

  • James D Kirk

    I’ll bet it would be pretty easy to set up some sort of revenue sharing that would cover the copyright concerns. I mean if you think about it, other than page view ad impression revenue op’s how else would that post be able to generate income for the sites owner/operators.

    Of course, if AndyBeard(.eu) is listening, he’d likely chime in that we get to the question of who owns the comments (if these are to be included) and based upon that factor, do the comment owners get paid. This would be a great legal case to see happen!

  • Kevin

    Agreeing to revenue sharing with every site on the net is never going to happy. Even trying to secure rights with every site greenlighted would be a Herculean task.

    The commenters would own the IPR to their writings, but since most comments are so short, enforcing strict copyright on them over a fair use defense would be unlikely.

    Other question: how would we go about allowing the reader of the printed material to interact easily? The cool thing about the net is commenting and posting your own thoughts… this has to be supported easily.

  • The Other Kevin

    What if instead of a ginormous hardbound book, there was a monthly “magazine” that you could subscribe to? I definitely like the greenlight idea, or an option to just get the 30-40 most popular tech (or entertainment or politically) blog posts each month. That’d give a good mix of new stuff and classic posts you’ve already read in a format that you could easily take on a plane and throw away when you’re finished reading. No offense to Mike or Pete or Steve, I love TC, but don’t really see the need to keep every post in case I’m hard up for reading in 30 years.

  • James D Kirk

    I guess my take on the revenue sharing angle was such that there would be a plugin or widget the site owner would install that would “make it okay” for you, me anyone else to be able to extract that content for reprint purposes. I do agree with you, Kevin, however, that it’s a Herculean task, and that was really the overriding message I was attempting, albeit poorly, to express.

    My attempt to answer your “other question” is that interaction wouldn’t be the foremost purpose with this product, would it? I think the real tack is marketing it as a “memorabilia” type of device.

  • Colin Dowling

    Agree on the plugin. A small icon or button on a post (near the “Sphere it” tag or “Digg This” button, for example) that posted the story to the readers account woulf suffice.

    I would imagine that this would work best with blogs wherein the blog admin can add the button/widget/code-snippet. Getting the code would mean agreeing to a TOS that said it was okay to pull the content in exchange for “X” amount of revenue per story reprinted.

    Going further, the TOS for the widget could also include the need to change the affected blog’s TOS to include that IP of comments is surrendered for the purposes of reprinting. This way, the blog admin can do the heavy lifting of getting people who post comments to allow them to be reprinted.

    Since blogs are traditionally hard to monetize if you don’t have a ton of readers, such a plugin could be an added, real revenue stream. As such, this kind of option would likely appeal to a fantastically large number of bloggers.

  • Kevin

    I like what we’ve worked out.

    @ James DK – I hadn’t thought of it as memorabilia, but I imagine that would be a popular use. I’d like it to read when I don’t have access to a computer or don’t want to read a screen.

    (I feel like an old man saying that and I haven’t even finished high school…)

  • Timothy Chen

    It seems that if TechCrunch issues their own magazines, it should be a profitable business. A little bit digression. 😉

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