Formatting for Tablets

My family has discovered the joys of tablets – which has given me an easy and effective way to share our family stories. Thanks to platforms like Scribd and it’s associated mobile apps, along with apps like Documents by Readdle, I’m discovering that I can create some amazing publications full of text and graphics to share with my family. It’s all a matter of formatting. My two favorite apps for…

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Formatting for Tablets

My family has discovered the joys of tablets – which has given me an easy and effective way to share our family stories. Thanks to platforms like Scribd and it’s associated mobile apps, along with apps like Documents by Readdle, I’m discovering that I can create some amazing publications full of text and graphics to share with my family. It’s all a matter of formatting.

My two favorite apps for these projects are Apple’s Keynote presentation app and Pages, the word-processing app. I am using the older version of Pages (v 4.3) because it has the layout capabilities not available in the version 5 app. Windows users can use Word and PowerPoint to do the same things. Keynote is my app of choice for publications heavy on photos and graphics. With it I can create scrapbooks, picture books and even photo documentaries – and all will fit comfortably on a tablet’s screen in landscape view. For text-heavy publications, I use Pages. I’ve created a template with a page size of 6″ x 8″ and ½” margins on all side. Combine that with a 12pt font size and I’ve got a very comfortable read in portrait view and a readable two-page spread in landscape view.

While most of us have used presentation and word-processing software for years, few of us use the features that will make a family history project extra special. Learning to use features such as styles, table of contents generation, image placement and metadata will take some time, but that investment will result in a better quality publication with less effort. If you have used a scrapbooking app to layer papers and graphic elements on a page, you’ll find that you can do many of those same things with your presentation software – it’s just the commands are different.

The Future of Memories at Scribd.
The Future of Memories created in Pages and published at Scribd.

Once a project is finished, it’s exported to PDF format and posted on Scribd. My family can use the free Scribd app to read it there or download it and read it with the app of their choice. Using apps like Documents [iOS -free], family members can read all kinds of files and move files between a number of popular cloud storage systems. I have also set up a shared folder to make my storybooks easily accessible to those who prefer that method.

One last note . . . Scribd is not only an impressive publication-sharing platform, it also has a bookstore and subscription service so you can make publications available for sale through it. I’ve found it a great place to publish my Moultrie Guides series of how to books. The 80% earnings per sale is very nice too.

The Portable Research Library

eReaders and tablets have become a must-have tool for genealogical research. We can now carry our genealogy databases with us to the research library, read while we sit in the waiting room and scan documents wherever we find them. They also give us the ability to keep a research library with us wherever we are.

What do these devices provide that makes them so useful to family research? First, every ebook is fully searchable. You can quickly find things that never show up in the index of a print book. You can load a device with hundreds of books so you can carry an entire reference library with you at all times–without breaking your back. Even if you have limited storage on your tablet, you can keep your library in an easily-accessible cloud storage account. Many devices and apps offer the ability to highlight and annotate your books. Some even let you share your notes with others. Speaking of sharing, a growing number of ebook sellers let you lend your purchased books to others, and many public libraries have subscribed to the OverDrive service so they can offer ebook lending, too.

These tablets and readers can also read PDF documents. I’ve spent a lot of time and effort scanning family documents, genealogical and historical society periodicals and other useful documents into searchable PDFs and I can now read them on my iPad. Since they’re searchable, I can quickly get right to the passage I need using my reader app’s search function.

How does all of this put me into a “better place” as far as my research goes? First of all, I have the books and documents I frequently use on my iPad as either an ebook or a PDF. They are with me at the research library, the Family History Center and on a research trip. I’ve moved my magazine subscriptions to digital whenever possible and although they aren’t as search-friendly as other publications, I can maintain my collection of back issues with little effort and no guilt. I’ve been digitizing the society journals that don’t yet offer electronic versions of their pubs–and frequently reminding them how much money they would save if they did offer digital editions. My workspace clutter is slowly beginning to disappear and I’m finding it easier to put my fingers on the information I need thanks to my computer’s search box.

There has been another unexpected–and very pleasant–result of my move to a more digital library. There are a number of public domain digital libraries that are digitizing dozens of new books every day. Many offer news feeds announcing each new book added to the collection. You’ll be amazed at the number of local histories, personal memoirs, regimental histories and published genealogies that are being digitized. Then there are the 19th century periodicals like Harper’s and The Atlantic along with a growing number of alumni magazines from universities and even medical and scientific journals. All of these can provide some amazing research jewels.

Where do you find these nuggets of genealogical goodness? Here’s a list of digital libraries to get you started:

  • Internet Archives. This is a truly amazing organization dedicated to digitizing not only books but audio, video, web sites and more. In the Texts section you can browse the many libraries and collections or search for specific content. They offer an RSS feed announcing their latest additions. A quick look at the collections included in the American Libraries section shows some familiar names–Allen County Public Library, New York Public Library, The Library of Congress and the Georgia Historical Society. The site has a web-based reader so you can navigate and read books right in your browser, and they offer downloads in formats for just about any e-reader.
  • Google Books. Google has been digitizing books for years. The collection includes both public domain and copyrighted publications. They also provide a web-based reader and downloadable files. And, being Google, it has amazing search functionality. You can create a personal library in your Google profile to keep the useful books within easy reach, or download copies in several formats.
  • Project Gutenberg. This is the oldest and largest library of digital books. Since 1971, volunteers have been digitizing books and making them available to all. It’s not the best platform to browse, but does have a very good search engine. You might also check out the various bookshelves (topics) for books related to specific historical events or geographical locations. Books can be read online or downloaded in a number of formats.
  • ManyBooks is a much smaller library but has two things that make it very useful–RSS feeds by category and a very pleasant browsing experience. Titles often include nice descriptions and there is a facility for readers to add their own reviews. It also offers a large number of download formats. Although I use this library more often to find pleasure reads, the RSS feeds have delivered several histories that have provided useful tidbits for my family research.

The efforts by these groups–and many others–to digitize historical books and publications are quickly becoming yet another research asset for the family historian. You can access any of these resources right from your desktop, but as your library grows you may well want to add an e-reader or tablet to your digital toolbox.

Build your own family history distribution system

If your family is like mine, there’s a growing number of Kindle owners among your relations. Have you considered what a fabulous family history opportunity those devices provide? Take advantage of Amazon’s Personal Document Service and its related Send to Kindle feature to build your own family history distribution system. The first step in building your system is getting the email address of each relative’s Kindle device and having them include your email address as an authorized distributor. Then you need to create your family stories in a format that’s easily read on their devices.

Attached is a Word document formatted to fit the small Kindle e-ink screen with custom styles set to appropriate fonts for easy reading on those devices. Follow the simple instructions included in the document to create and deliver your stories to your family Kindles.

KindleDoc01.jpg
Personal document template for Kindle.

While this document is designed for the e-ink Kindle devices, it will also work quite well on the NOOK e-ink readers along with Kindle, NOOK and iPad tablets. On the tablets, you should be able to read it in landscape view as a two-page spread. Go ahead and include color images in your projects. The tablets will display them beautifully and the e-ink devices will automatically convert them to grayscale.

This template file is a Word document, but can be opened in Apple’s Pages word processing app as well. Either way, the final document should be sent to the Kindle as a PDF file for best results.

>> eReader Template Download