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what software is best to write and publish a local history book?
I'm not sure that there's one best program, or even a best method. It depends on your personal work style, the project requirements and the type of publishing you had in mind (internet, printing house, laser printer, on-line service, etc.)
Here are a few thoughts and examples though:
Most of the professional writers I've worked with over the years have considered writing and publishing to be two completely separate activities. They don't want to be distracted by fonts and layout considerations while they are writing so they use basic, fast, text editors to do their writing and then import the result into a suitable desktop publishing program.
People who create restaurant menus or sales pamphlets usually take the opposite approach, using a desktop publisher or graphics-based program so that they can see the overall appearance as they work.
I'm somewhere in the middle. I've been working on a historical/biographical project (off and on) for the last few years. I'm doing it all in Word 2003, simply because,
-I already have it on all my computers,
-it easily generates a Table of Contents,
-it manages end notes and citations,
-it allows insertion of graphics as I progress with the project, and
-most of my source information can be scanned and pasted into the file (as appendices) for quick reference.
Exotic layout formatting is not as easily accomplished with Word as it is with the more graphics-oriented programs, but I don't need anything exotic for my purposes. Since the document is long and I expect to make less than 25 copies, I'll probably "publish" it via laser printer, directly from Word.
Other word processors and other versions of Word would have similar but slightly different strengths and weaknesses. High-end desktop publishers (not MS-Publisher) can do all that and more but I haven't had the need. Maybe someone else can make recommendations along those lines.
Hope that helps.
Thank you for your advice we are working on a book which we hope to sell as a fundraiser for the towns 150th birthday.
We will send it out somewhere to be printed.
Eno gave some good advice on the difference between writing and laying out a book. For writing, a simple word processing program is best. For laying out you will want something like a desk top publishing program.
Lately, with the ability for people to write a book and then upload it straight to something like Lulu.com, I've seen some really awful looking books. The writing was fine, but they looked so bad, I didn't want to read them. So, it is important to pay attention to the look of the book as well as the writing quality. I also have heard t hat Amazon has some option where they will lay out and print your book for you, but it is expensive per copy. It would be less expensive to hire a designer and send it out to another printer, if you are going to be printing in any kind of volume.
If you are sending it out to be printed, will the printing company do the layout? If not, this will fall to you. I personally have use PagePlus for many many years, and like it as an inexpensive desk top publishing program. It also has an active and friendly user community that will quickly answer questions, as well as tech support.
If you are doing your own layout, learning to do this is a real project. For those who enjoy it, like me, it may be the most fun part of any writing project... but for those who don't.... well find someone else to do it.
You might also just want to look around for a designer who can do that part for you, if no one at your organization has the skills or desire to learn them.
Hope that helps,
www.FundRaiserBasic.comVolunteer TechSoup Moderator