My experience getting a book printed by Blurb

Discussion in 'Photography' started by madhobbit.geo, Nov 30, 2006.

  1. I just received my first custom photo book order from Blurb, and
    thought others might be interested in my experience / review. (If
    nothing else, Google Groups can archive this for the next person
    researching photo book printing...)

    This was my first photo book - a photo journal of a trip to the Rocky
    Mountains. I decided to make it as a Christmas present for my sister,
    who took the trip with me. (She doesn't read photo newsgroups, as far
    as I know.) Blurb was the third self-publisher I tried out. The first
    was I actually put together a 40-page book with their
    software, and it was ready to go, but was a little reluctant to
    actually place the order. I wasn't 100% pleased with the book I had
    assembled; I found their pre-defined page layouts a little restrictive,
    and I wasn't a huge fan of the cover style. There were a few other
    things that didn't sit right with me, and while at one point I had
    actually typed in my credit card number and was ready to hit "Order", I
    decided to check out my other options.

    I looked at Viovio next, primarily because they allow you to upload a
    PDF to print. I liked that idea, but when I actually tried my hand at
    page layout, I was terrible at it, and it was a lot of work. I didn't
    have the time to learn page layout software, so I dropped that plan. I
    didn't like Viovio's other printing option (automatic layout, with
    little or no text), so I ended up at Blurb.

    I've been very pleased with both Blurb's software and their support - I
    think all my questions were responded to within 24 hours. Their product
    range is limited, but their 10x8 hardcover (with dust jacket) was
    almost exactly what I was looking for.

    Books are assembled using their BookSmart software. It's fast and
    simple, but you don't have full creative control. Pick a style/theme,
    pick templates for the dust jacket and individual pages, and drop text
    and pictures into the predefined text/image area. There were a few
    cases where I couldn't find a layout that exactly had what I wanted,
    but for the most part, I liked their selection. They seemed a little
    more varied and flexible than MyPublisher's.

    The templates are very nicely designed, and look quite professional. By
    biggest problem with them is that the front and back flaps, front and
    back cover, and spine, are all linked as a single template. There are
    only a few dust cover templates available, so I had to make a
    compromise: I wanted a full-bleed image on the front cover, and this
    prevented me from getting the back cover I liked. I ended up leaving
    the back cover blank (the template has a full-bleed image on it, but I
    didn't put anything there).

    Blurb adds a small bar code to the lower-right corner of the back
    cover, and this is not visible in the layout software. It looks like
    it's possible to accidentally end up with this bar code covering an
    important part of your cover. Also, the last page cannot be changed: it
    has another bar code, and a small Blurb logo. Every other page can be
    changed, including the one that's automatically added at the beginning
    with text declaring that the page layouts are copyrighted by Blurb,

    I divided my book into four chapters (one for each day of the trip).
    The software automatically propogated the book title, chapter title,
    and page numbers onto every page (though you can remove this if you
    want). The templates are smart enough to -not- put any of this
    information on pages with full-bleed photos.

    Blurb's pricing is different than most other places I looked into. Most
    places charge a flat rate for the first 40 pages (or whatever), and
    then a price per page after that. Blurb charges in blocks: a book
    anywhere from 20 t0 40 pages is one price, then 41 to 80 pages is
    another price, etc. This is actually nice; my book ended up a little
    over 60 pages long, and it's nice to know that adding a couple blank
    pages, or tossing in one extra picture, is free.

    Print quality is...about what I expected. It's book-quality, really.
    Not as nice as prints, but way cheaper. Viewed from normal reading
    distance, the pictures look fine. If you look closely, the individual
    dots are visible quickly enough. The text (which is solid-colour, white
    in my case) is of excellent print quality. To my eye, the front cover
    image (on the dust cover) is a little lower-quality than the interior
    of the book.

    Blurb does not do any colour manipulation. This was a first for me -
    I've always had prints made at labs that do automatic colour
    correction, and have never requested otherwise. However, I have a
    calibrated monitor. My RAW files were all developed in the sRGB colour
    space, which Blurb assured me was perfect. Some of the pictures seem a
    -touch- darker than I expected (again, the dust cover seems worst), but
    on the whole, no complaints.

    The paper feels good quality. However, the pages and back cover of my
    book are black, and they pick up fingerprints very easily. Not a
    problem with Blurb, but something to consider when designing a book.

    A few notes on shipping: I shipped to Canada via UPS Ground. I thought
    I was going to be hit with large customs brokerage fees, but the
    declared value of the package was $6, so there were no fees. I checked
    the packing slip, and the books have been declared as $3 each. I'm not
    sure if this is the value of the raw materials or what. (Or, as someone
    suggested, they looked at the pictures and decided "Yeah, this is worth
    about three bucks.") Either way, it saved me from the hassle of doing
    my own brokerage to avoid UPS's fees.

    The books (I ordered two) were individually shrink-wrapped, and packed
    in a flat cardboard mailer. They arrived in excellent condition. The
    package shipped from (in Seattle), not Blurb. I don't know if
    these companies are affiliated in any way, or if Blurb simply
    outsources their printing.

    Overall, I'm quite pleased. I'm sure I'll have more books printed in
    the future, and unless I want full control over page layout, I see no
    reason not to go with Blurb. My 66-page books cost $35 USD each, which
    I consider quite reasonable. A friend that used to work in the printing
    industry has suggested that I might be able to get a small local print
    shop to make a similar book for the same price (of course, that would
    require doing my own layout).

    And whether you go with Blurb or not, I heartily recommend getting a
    book printed, just for the experience of opening the package and seeing
    your name printed on the spine. My biggest disappointed right now is
    that I'm running out of people to show it to...

    - Darryl
    madhobbit.geo, Nov 30, 2006
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  2. madhobbit.geo

    Billy Boy Guest

    Thanks for your post. Looks interesting. I'm writing a book for my two grandsons and this
    will be great.

    Thanks again.


    Billy Boy

    To reply correct [at] and [dot]
    Billy Boy, Nov 30, 2006
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  3. madhobbit.geo

    Al Monte Guest

    Wow, someone who had to resort to a vanity press going on and on and on--have
    you no shame? So boring and so sad.
    Al Monte, Dec 1, 2006
  4. madhobbit.geo

    Mark² Guest

    What the crap, Al???
    I, for one, was glad to read it. I print all my own stuff...from 4x6 up to
    17"x48" panos, but I've been curious about these book services. To
    "madhobbit"...thanks for the detailed info/impressions.

    Mark², Dec 1, 2006
  5. madhobbit.geo

    RPN Guest

    I don't think I would ever feel the need to publish a book, but I also
    found it very interesting, and a lot more constructive than a lot of
    other posts. It certainly could be a useful post to those who might be
    thinking of such a project. My thanks to the OP for taking the time to
    share his experience.
    RPN, Dec 1, 2006
  6. madhobbit.geo

    Frank ess Guest

    So Al so clueless and so needy and so gone ...
    Frank ess, Dec 1, 2006
  7. madhobbit.geo

    Stan Beck Guest

    Thanks for the review.

    There are many reasons why someone might self-publish other than for vanity.
    It is always good to know some publishers who do a decent job.

    You can take good photos with a bad camera, and horrible photos with a good

    Stan Beck > From New Orleans to Brandon MS
    To reply, remove 101 from address.
    Stan Beck, Dec 1, 2006
  8. madhobbit.geo

    Kinon O'Cann Guest

    Uh, why? I use them all the time, and for a lot of good reasons! Here's an
    example of why Blurb can be very useful:

    1. Shoot a bunch of pictures of the local school football team
    2. Create a "yearbook" of all the pictures on Blurb.
    3. Provide the link to the now public book so the parents can order if and
    when they want.

    Want another example? How about a family vacation where you want a quick,
    easy, and relatively cheap way to give everyone a set of pix? How about that
    holiday gathering? I really don't get your reply!
    Kinon O'Cann, Dec 1, 2006
  9. madhobbit.geo

    G.T. Guest

    I get it. He's a pathetic troll who doesn't have a single person to
    give a book to.

    G.T., Dec 1, 2006
  10. madhobbit.geo

    George K Guest

    You might want to engage your brain before posting.

    Self publishing is not always an ego trip.

    My nephew self-publishes travel guides he authors the text, does the
    photography and artwork for the books. He has a national distributor
    with books being carried in national chain stores and U.S. National
    Parks. More than one association thought one of the guides was deserved
    an award. So far he has 3 books out and finishing the fourth. No
    publisher wanted to publish his first book, so he established his own
    publishing firm and found a printer.
    George K, Dec 1, 2006
  11. madhobbit.geo

    Stan Beck Guest

    Who publishes yours?

    You can take good photos with a bad camera, and horrible photos with a good

    Stan Beck > From New Orleans to Brandon MS
    To reply, remove 101 from address.
    Stan Beck, Dec 1, 2006
  12. madhobbit.geo

    Rich Guest

    Has everyone seen (at the large book dealers) the massive tomes
    sporting $20.00 price tags, all printed in China, ready for the coffee
    table? Don't forget the shipping costs on such items, the book
    production must be dirt cheap.
    Rich, Dec 1, 2006
  13. madhobbit.geo

    Matt Clara Guest

    Don't think of it as "publishing a book". Think of it as printing off an
    album of photos. In the past you pasted your photos in a book you bought at
    Kmart, now you send them to (and do check them out, they
    can do up to a 40 page book, double or single sided, with full page bleeds),
    and they print them into a book.
    (Another system to check out is iPhoto.)
    Matt Clara, Dec 2, 2006
  14. That's exactly what this was - an album. It's just a much nicer and
    more polished format than a typical photo album (though the photos
    aren't as high quality as you'd get with proper prints). A lot of the
    photos in this book aren't anything that I'd show off, but they're
    meaningful to me, because they're my vacation. It's somewhere between a
    photo album, a scrapbook, and a travel journal (some pages have a few
    paragraphs of text, others are just photos). I printed two copies, and
    don't expect to ever print another.

    By the way, when I was looking for a printer for this book, I read high
    recommendations for iPhoto, and then learned that Apple uses for the actual printing. I can't confirm this, having
    used neither.

    - Darryl
    madhobbit.geo, Dec 2, 2006
  15. madhobbit.geo

    Mark² Guest

    Mark², Dec 2, 2006
  16. madhobbit.geo

    Matt Clara Guest

    That's very cool, George.
    Matt Clara, Dec 2, 2006
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