If you are interested in family history and haven’t yet discovered the Family History Expo, we recommend the experience highly. We had a chance this past weekend in Loveland, Colorado, to speak with many people like ourselves who are interested in family history, and more specifically, how to present that history in a book.
As presenters at the expo, the time limit forces us to generalize about subjects that are actually fairly complex and often a matter of choice and creative license. For example, many people ask us about the organization of the book, and the obvious answer is to provide them with a chronological method that makes sense of all that research.
However, who says that you must place every element within that framework in chronological order? For the sake of telling an engaging, dramatic story, some literary devices might improve your book. A chapter or section might benefit from a reflective introduction. Told from your point of view in the present looking back, for instance, a first person introduction allows us to explore the consequences of those events long ago and sets the stage for the reader’s journey into the past.
There are also technical book-making ideas that I never get enough time to explore at length when I speak with friends at the expo. For example, there is a problem that is unique to illustrated books. You may have wonderful images, yet if they are very detailed, you can’t see the details as well as you would like. We’ve all become wonderfully spoiled with the computer’s ability to “zoom in”, so that books seem inadequate in comparison.
The solution? Maybe some day down the road it will be to produce an ebook. Ebooks have so many multimedia capabilities that books do not. However, they have significant downsides. All digital media are fragile and in a state of rapid evolution – remember BetaMax, and all your cassette tapes?
There is a good compromise, in the meantime, as we wait for something better and more reliable that the book to come along. (Not in my lifetime, I’ll bet.) Just have your book designer create a companion CD, and affix it to the rear cover of the book. You can supplement the book with high resolution images (this is why it is so essential to have your scans done correctly) and audio, if you are fortunate enough to have recordings. You can even design the CD with a linked table of contents or an index that will align the contents of the book with the contents of the CD. This allows your reader to go directly to the source, and to zoom in (or set the volume) as they wish.
I’m still thinking some of the other threads I left dangling at the Expo. That’s the benefit of talking with interesting people; it opens up more ideas for exploration. Don’t you think?