#024 | Top 4 Quality Choices to Print Your Family History Book

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PRUDENCE: Are you struggling to decide the best way to produce your family history book or heritage keepsake?

Would you love a rundown on the top four production methods and tips on how to decide which one is right for your project? If the answer is yes, then keep listening.

INTRODUCTION: If this is your first time here, hello, I’m Prudence, The Creative Family Historian. I’m a graphic designer who helps genealogists — like you — bring their family history to life by converting research into stories and beautiful heritage keepsakes.

On this channel, I provide tips on family history productivity, organisation, writing and design, as well as sharing my current journey as I undertake a genealogy reset.

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PRUDENCE: I’m excited to be chatting to you about one of my favourite topics today — print and production.

If your ancestral stories and photos are the stars of your family history book, then print and production have locked in the supporting roles. So for the stars to really stand out, you need to make the right decisions about what will be supporting them — print quality, paper stock, page size, binding options and a few other things as well.

I won’t be going into detail about binding today as there is an entire episode on that topic coming soon. However, I will mention the binding types best suited for each print option as it’s one of the critical considerations for your final decision.

Prework and Planning

And we’ll get to all of that in a few minutes, but first, you’ll start with prework and planning. Yes, I said the P-word. Planning is the first step in every process because you need to clarify what you want to create before deciding how to make it happen.

These aren’t decisions about content, templates or layout, as that’s a separate conversation and one that requires a little more time than we have in this video. However, it’s a topic I talk about in detail in the Family History Book Blueprint Masterclass. You can find out more about that via the link in the description.

When it comes to printing and producing your book, you have seven questions to answer before investigating how to create the final physical copy to share with your family. You will need to have completed the artwork file first, though.

Let’s run through those questions.

Question 1: How many internal pages are there?

Question 2: Do you want to print in full colour or black/greyscale?

Question 3: What are the dimensions of the page?

Question 4: How many copies do you need?

Question 5: Will you print single or double-sided?

Question 6: What type of binding do you prefer?

Question 7: Do you want a hard or softcover?

Now you have all the information to review your options and choose the best print and production method for your family history book. Of course, there are a few more questions to answer as you consider each option, but we’ll cover those as we go.

Family history book print and production

In my experience, the options I’m about to discuss are the top four because they are available in most areas, are budget-friendly, and provide good print quality.

These won’t be listed in a specific order as I don’t think one option is necessarily superior to another. None of the methods I’m discussing will suit every purpose, but one will be the perfect fit for the heritage keepsake you want to create. And you clarified what that keepsake will look like when you answered the seven planning questions I asked earlier. Clever, huh?

I’ll run through each option and discuss the four key categories — binding, highlights, cost and limitations.

Are you ready? Let’s go.

1. Print-At-Home

I’ll start with the most obvious choice, and the one you probably think is the most budget-friendly – Print-At-Home.

Unless you have a swish home office setup or are a master bookbinder, printing at home only suits one binding option — ring binders.

The most notable advantage to binding your document this way is that you can replace or add sections. That means you can build this type of heritage keepsake over time rather than having to finish it before you hit print.

Another thing to love is the option to easily add — and move — tab dividers to separate sections, thus improving navigation and the reader experience.

Cost-wise, this is only budget-friendly for minimal quantities, and small page counts. Ink for home printers can be expensive, and full-colour printing takes quite a lot. However, printing at home is ideal if you want to build your book over time and print a draft copy for personal use. The costs will quickly add up if you have to print multiple copies and hundreds of pages in one hit. There is a better option which we’ll discuss soon.

Most of the other limitations will be because of the model of the printer you have. These can include but aren’t limited to:

  • Slow print speed
  • No duplex functionality
  • Limited paper tray capacity
  • Only able to comfortably handle general copy paper.

And if you choose to build your book a few pages or a chapter at a time, you won’t have a single file to share or print at the end. Something to keep in mind if you need to make additional copies later.

2. Office Supply Store

Next up, let’s talk about printing at an office supply store.

Stores such as Staples, Office Depot and Officeworks, to name only a few, provide document printing for businesses and individuals. And it doesn’t matter if you don’t live near one of these or any office supply store; you can place your order online and opt for delivery.

With this method, your binding choices increase exponentially. Ring binders are still on the table, but now you can consider spiral, wire, and comb binding as well. All great options, especially if you are creating a heritage recipe book.

When it comes to paper stock, you’ll also have more options. Usually, you’ll have at least two weight choices, sometimes more, depending on the store. This choice is essential if your artwork includes many large, full-colour images that may cause shadowing on the regular stock. And having different weights of paper means you can use the heavier card for dividers and the cover.

This method is also relatively cost-effective. You can print larger runs and longer books with a consistent print quality throughout. There is also the option to have non-standard page sizes. However, you need to consider the binding when making that decision.

If you need to opt for delivery, check the shipping costs first, as these can add significantly to the overall price. Printing and production time will vary from store to store depending on their overall workload, so it’s worth checking with them before ordering.

3. Local Print Shops

Next up, I want to talk about local print shops and the value they can bring to printing your family history book.

This option is limited to people living in or near a reasonably sized town. There are a couple of franchise print shops around, but this varies significantly from country to country; you’ll usually be looking for an individually owned business. Some small-town newspapers will also offer printing services, so it can be worth checking those as well.

Binding choices will typically include hole punching (for binders), spiral, wire and comb, saddle-stitch and perfect bound documents.

Your paper stock choices and the print quality will also be significantly more impressive than the other methods we’ve looked at. However, the cost will also be higher. Paper is expensive, and the more premium choices will add to the overall price of your book. But your paper choice can also create a luxurious look and feel to the document, which adds to the reader’s experience and the impression your book makes. Sometimes you’re making a book; sometimes, you’re making a family heirloom.

This production method is the most expensive, though the more copies you print, the lower the price per item. And you can also expect excellent customer service and guidance, so it’s a good option if you have a lot of questions. And if you want to have the most flexibility and choice in what your book looks like.

Allow a longer turnaround for local print shops, as they may need to outsource specific components to other businesses.

4. Photo Book Specialists

Now let’s chat about the method you’ve probably been waiting to hear about — online print services that specialise in photo books.

Photo books are a popular and cost-effective way for people to create a physical memento of their lives. And they aren’t just for photos. You can design your pages however you like in the software of your choice, convert them to JPG or PNG and upload them for inclusion in a photo book.

Your binding choices will be limited to perfect bound with a hard or soft cover. However, some businesses also offer lay-flat binding or slipcases for storing your family history book.

Companies like Blurb are on the higher end of the production scale. They offer multiple sizes, different paper stocks and cover options. Their products are of high quality, and they also provide services to sell your book for you. So, you can share a link with loved ones to order as many copies as they want.

Other popular quality photo book printers include Shutterfly, Snapfish and Vistaprint. That’s just scratching the surface, though, so it’s worth a quick google search to see what’s good in your area.

Photo books are popular for a reason, particularly case bound or hardcover ones. They look great, make good gifts, and stand up well over time.

That doesn’t mean that they don’t have limitations. The page count, size and book orientation can vary considerably from company to company, so carefully check what’s offered before committing to one. You don’t want to be stuck with a 120-page limit if your book has a lot more than that.

Allow a long turnaround time for photo book production of 2 to 4 weeks. It may be longer if ordering around a peak holiday season and if your book is exceptionally long.

Let’s keep the conversation going.

And there you have it — the four most popular options for printing and producing family history books.

  • Print at home – great for ring binders and small print runs
  • Office supply stores – perfect for larger quantities, spiral, wire or comb binding
  • Local print shops – suitable for custom keepsakes when you’re looking for something extra special, guidance and have a little flexibility in the budget.
  • Photobook services – the traditional choice for budget-friendly self-designed family history or memory books.

Now I’d love to hear you, so let’s keep the conversation going in the comments. What are your thoughts on these four options for printing heritage keepsakes? And do you now feel inspired and confident to create family history books that suit your stories and budget?

And if you have a question on family history organisation, writing or design that you’d like me to answer, head to the submission form and let you know. You’ll find a link to that in the description box.

That’s it from me, so I’ll see you in the next video. Until then, happy storytelling!

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Top 4 Quality Choices to Print Your Family History Book

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