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Tech Trends: From digital to tangible
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Everything is digital now. Your camera is digital: images stored on hard drives and viewed on computer screens. Your books are digital: thousands of e-Books are stored on devices like Kindles. Movies and TV shows are digital: streamed from online services like Netflix or iTunes.

The Internet age has ushered in a whole new way of buying and consuming media. It's pretty much all digital, and therefore it's all instantly obtainable. I love it. When I go out to take photographs with my digital camera, I can then go back to my computer and instantly see the results on my computer. If I want to watch a movie, I don't need to drive to the store to buy it; I'll just stream it from Netflix. Or if I want to read a magazine or a book, I can just read it on my iPad.

However, there are times when I want a physical, tangible item, but not necessarily of something someone else created. What if it's something I created? There are online services now that allow you to create things like your own professional-quality photo book, or even your own magazine.

For example, I recently got back from a trip to Acadia National Park in Maine. One of the big things I focused on while there was photography, particularly landscape photography. It was an amazing trip, and I have a lot of great pictures. As I went through all my shots on my computer, picking out my favorite shots and editing them, I realized that it would be nice to see these photos beyond the computer screen. Sometimes the laptop screen just doesn't do a photo justice. It would be cool to see some of these photos printed. There's one particular long panorama shot that simply can't be appreciated on a computer screen.

This web service lets anyone, with varying design skill levels, create a wide variety of different books. From travel photography coffee table books and wedding albums to cookbooks and even photo books of your Instagram photos, Blurb offers something for everyone.

There are multiple ways to design a book from Blurb. There are template-based layouts for photo books that can be designed using their website, or you can get more advanced using their own design program that you download to your computer. There's even an option for professionals that use Adobe InDesign. You get to design everything - the layout, the size of the book, whether you want a hardback or paperback book, and even the type of paper that's used.

The prices also seem reasonable. The smallest book is a 5x8 inch size and starts at $3.95. The largest 12x12 inch coffee table book starts at around $50. The interesting thing about Blurb is that they also function as a self-publishing service. You can create your own book, and then offer it for sale through their online bookstore. You keep 100 percent of the markup on the price of your book. So, make a book for yourself, make a handful as gifts or offer it up as a print-on-demand book and make some money. Neat.

OK, we've talked about books, but what about magazines. Turns out there's a service for this too. Do you have a cool one-off idea or subject that would lend itself to be a magazine, but don't have the resources or the publishing company to create it? Try MagCloud, from Hewlett-Packard. It let's you design the magazine as you want using their guidelines and tips, and then offer it for sale. MagCloud provides the marketplace and prints each copy on-demand whenever someone buys a copy. It's simple and they do all the hard work. &

Just because you have a digital camera now instead of a film one doesn't mean you can't enjoy a nice print. There are a multitude of photo printing services out there, but here are two examples - one service that I've used and another that I've heard rave reviews about.

The first up is Co-founded by a friend of mine, this company makes it extremely simple to quick upload, print and ship photo prints to your doorstep or your friends and family. The process is super easy: 1) upload photos, 2) choose what size prints you want, and 3) tell it where to ship the photos. Done. They initially started with just 4x6 prints, but they recently expanded to include 5x7 and 8x10 prints.

The service is bare bones, but the simplicity is nice thing. The prints come on nice professional, matte photo paper and the images look great. And that's about it. No need to worry about what and if you want frames or other special mounts or finishes. Simply send in a small batch of photos (say about 10 or so), and PicPlum does the rest. You'll have a package of photos in the mail in about a week.

Another choice for prints is These guys are a more traditional photo printing lab, but I've heard good things. They offer a wide variety of sizes, mounting and framing options, and a quick turnaround time. I will be looking at these guys for some of my Maine photos for sure.


William Brawley is the Electronic Media Producer for The Covington News. If you have any tech issues or other questions email him at