How To Display Website Urls In A Print Book

One of the issues I had to deal with when I was assembling my self-published book, “The RESP Book” was how to deal with links. I wanted to include links to about a dozen sites.

The way I put the links in the book was to display them as they are.

Link example

 

Right away you can see that one issue for the reader is that they have to type in that entire crazy url (accurately) in order to access the page.

What a pain!

For my second edition, I decided to try and improve on how I display the url links for various resources. Here are two good options for displaying link urls.

1 Using “tiny” urls

One idea is to use one of those url shortener sites like “tinyurl” or “bitly” to shorten a long urn into a much shorter one. They can also be customized so that the “root” url is more recognizable.

I got the “tiny” url idea from JD Roth, who used it in his excellent money book “Your Money:The Missing Manual“.

I asked JD if he received any negative feedback about the tiny urls and this is what he said:

Generally speaking, TinyURLs provide a quick, meaningful way to supply shortened URLs in print media, and I recommend them. But they shouldn’t be used when the URL is already easy to type (like for a root domain).

By “root domain”, JD is referring to a basic web address such as vanguard.com.  There isn’t much point in making a tiny url out of such a simple address.

2 Using a “link” page

What I decided to do instead, was to create a link page on my blog.

Here is the link page for The RESP Book:

http://www.moneysmartsblog.com/resp-book-links/

The way it works is that inside the book, I write the following when I want to link to a resource:

How it looks in the book (minus the underlining)

Once the reader calls up the link page, they just have to locate the proper header (in alphabetical order) and then click on the link provided.

Section of my RESP Book links page

The benefits of a link page

  • Typing in the link page url is generally easier than typing in a long url and it only has to be done once. The reader can bookmark the url or even just use the browser history to avoid retyping the link page url.
  • I can keep the links up to date. When I was working on the second edition, I realized that two of my resource links had changed and no longer worked. For some reason government website administrators haven’t heard of redirects I guess.
  • It’s a more trusted source than a “tiny url” or some other masked url. You could argue that some two bit author’s blog is hardly a trusted source, but if someone has bought the book – I don’t think it’s a stretch for them to trust the author’s blog.

I created the link page on my main blog.  You could also put a link page on an author blog ie MikeHolman.com or on a website dedicated to a specific book ie TheRESPBook.com.

What do you think of these methods? Would you use one of them or do you prefer some other method?

4 Responses to “How To Display Website Urls In A Print Book”

  1. Echo says:

    I’ve seen both approaches, and you’re right about the bit.ly or tinyurl links appearing to be less trusted.

    I like the landing page idea more so for tracking purposes. And driving them to your own site’s resource page is perfect. Ideally you’d like to measure your results somehow from print to web to see if it was even worth the effort to place the links in the book.

    In my job, we promote specific games or events, and if we drop off 1,000 postcards in the dorms we would use a microsite landing page for the promotion to help with tracking and to make it easy for students to remember the site.

    So rather than yourteamname/menshockey/outdoorgame/blahblahblah, we would use something that was easy to remember and easy for us to measure our promotional efforts.

    This one’s a bit long, but you get the idea: http://www.thebigchillatthebighouse.com/

  2. Mike Holman says:

    @Echo – I’ll definitely check out the stats on my link page to see if anyone is using it. It has occurred to me that putting any links in a book might be a waste of time.

    Neat idea about using microsite landing page for promotional tracking.

  3. Have you ever thought about using a QR code for your link landing page. All you would need is one QR code that takes people to a digital page online.

  4. Shane Ryans says:

    I agree with Nicole a QR code would solve a lot of problems and most people are able to do these scans easily. I don’t like the TinyURL because people don’t really know where they are going.