Telling Stories with Keynote and Scribd

My favorite layout tool is Keynote – Apple’s presentation graphics app. It gives me the flexibility to build publications that are part story and part scrapbook – my favorite format. Keynote is not a writing tool and it doesn’t handle the linked text boxes that flow from one page to another like Pages – Apple’s word processing app. It does make it easy to place and arrange photos and other graphical elements and I can create some interesting text effects. In this particular publication, most of the stories come from blog articles I’ve written over the years, so I’m taking that “finished” text and styling it with layout, fonts, graphic effects and photos to get the look I want.

The Scribd online library and publishing platform makes it possible to publish my stories in this unconventional format, letting others read it online or even download a PDF if I choose to make that feature available. The built-in revision system makes it easy to upload a new version when I have more stories to add. One of my family history projects, Behind the Alligator Farm, is posted at Scribd. You can view it via the embed below. Like most family histories, this is a work in progress. As new stories are completed, a new version replaces the previous edition. Currently, you are looking at the second edition.

Update: Both Lulu and Smashwords support distribution to Scribd’s membership service where members can read as many books as they want for a single monthly fee. Author/publishers earn royalties for each time their book is read by a member.

A Letter Archive Option

From the Gazette archives . . .

A while back there was an interesting discussion in the Technology for Genealogy group on Facebook about handling letters – scanning, transcribing and displaying them. It’s a great discussion and full of useful suggestions. Since I’m also working on a collection of letters, it’s been very helpful.

Grandpa’s letters.

My project is a collection of letters my grandfather sent my grandmother before they got married. She came to the tiny Holland, Georgia, community to teach school in 1908. There, she met my grandfather. She was only there for one year before moving on to teach at other rural schools around Georgia. For the next five years, they corresponded – and met occasionally – until he finally convinced her to marry him in 1913. He died in 1921 so these letters and a few photos are our only connection to him.

I’m slowly scanning and transcribing the letters using Keynote, Apple’s presentation graphics app, as my publishing tool. As you can see here, each page of the letter gets its own slide with both the page’s image and its transcription. I chose Keynote because it is a very flexible platform. Each slide can be treated as a separate entity to be quickly reordered or even pulled out of one presentation file and inserted into another. Slides can be duplicated for use in other projects. I can quickly export a presentation as a PDF document, an HTML slideshow or a video. I even have the ability to export each slide as an individual image file.

Currently I’m building each letter as a separate presentation file, but as this archive grows, so do my options for creating things from them. For example, I can pull out an individual slide as a graphic image to include it as a figure in another document. I can combine several letter files – like those he sent discussing a trip to Lookout Mountain – with new and old photos to build a slideshow documentary. Add some narration and that slideshow can become a video documentary.

Keynote is my presentation app of choice, but PowerPoint, Presentations (from the WordPerfect suite) and Impress (from OpenOffice) all have much the same capabilities and would all work well for this type of project. And, if you’re looking for an online archive platform for these project files, Scribd will store and display them quite nicely. You won’t get the multimedia capabilities of the online slide-sharing platforms, but your transcriptions will be searchable.

Take another look at your presentation software. You may find it has many uses for presenting your family’s history.

Scrapshot: Once upon a time

Once upon a time

This is the opening page from my on-going Behind the Alligator Farm project – a collection of family stories from my childhood. The page was created using iWork’s Keynote app [Mac & iOS]. The photo frame is one of the standard frames available in Keynote. The script title and the stylized leaves are from paislee press. Liz’s minimalist designs add style to the page while allowing the story to remain the focus.

The project format is best described as a text-heavy scrapbook and is a compilation of individual stories rather than a single narrative. I’ve published it via Scribd by first converting the presentation file to PDF then uploading it to my Scribd profile. It’s a “living history” so when I add new stories to the project, I just upload the updated file as a revision. The book can be read online or downloaded as a PDF. Since most of my family now have some kind of tablet – all of which support PDF documents – this page layout fits beautifully on their screens.

Digital Storytelling with MagCloud

MagCloud is Hewlett-Packard’s self-publishing platform. What is interesting about MagCloud is that it isn’t a book publishing business. Instead, its focus is on magazine-style publications. MagCloud not only supports magazines, it’s a great place to produce and publish quarterly journals, reunion souvenir booklets, brochures, flyers, catalogs and just about anything else your imagination can create. In addition, there’s a digital option where your publications can also be offered as high-quality PDFs. And, there’s even an iPad app.

For family organizations and genealogical societies, MagCloud will not only print your publication for you, but they can even send them directly to your members. And, by offering a digital edition in addition to the print one, you may be surprised to see how many members choose it – reducing your costs even more. You can also generate additional revenue by selling back issues through your MagCloud storefront without the expense and effort of storing and shipping them yourself.

There are a growing number of templates available including 8.5 x 11 standard, 8.5 x 8.5 square, 5.5 x 8.5 digest and 8.5 x 5.5 digest. The two digest options would work well for digital editions to be read on an e-reader or tablet. Prices for full-color printed publications start at 16¢/page for the digest format publications. The saddle-stitch binding option costs nothing, but the perfect binding is an additional $1.00. Check the price calculator to see what the actual cost of your publication will be. You have several options with the digital edition: free, free with print edition or paid. If you set a price for your digital publications, 30% goes to MagCloud and you keep 70% of it. There are no upfront costs and no cost to maintain your online storefront.

Creating a MagCloud publication is really quite simple. There are template packages with instructions for each size publication and several different apps. Apps include Microsoft Word [Win & Mac], Microsoft Publisher, Apple’s Pages and Adobe’s InDesign. Download the package and start creating your own publication.

MagCloud is a good solution when you want to create a more graphical publication. And, by choosing one of the digest options as your template, you’ll only need to create your publication once to offer it as both print and digital editions. The smaller size of the digest makes it much easier to read the resulting PDF on tablets and e-readers. And, with the digital edition, your hyperlinks will function so you can include links to outside sources like your society’s web site, the article author’s site or even back to your MagCloud storefront to grab another publication.

If you have a storytelling project full of photos, fonts and fixed layouts, MagCloud offers the flexibility to do just about anything you want and you don’t need to learn a new app just to build your story project.

Scrapping Keynote: A Living History

Not long after I got my iPad, I spent a whopping $27 for an electronic book titled Digging into WordPress, the blog software I use to run the Gazette. Why would I spend this much money on an ebook? Because the authors promised a free updated copy of the book each time WordPress released a major upgrade. Since I purchased it I’ve downloaded four updated versions. In a world where printed tech…

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