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Monday, 02 March 2015


We just got our second Blurb book, and I've been pleased with both of them. The first was my wife's 365 project, and the second was a journal of our Long Trail hike last summer (that's a 275-mile hiking trail in Vermont). I get the more expensive paper, which looks and feels wonderful, and I'm careful with the design and proofing. Color is generally excellent and the photos look very good. The books are expensive, though.

I do need to try Bookwright. I did both books in Lightroom, which was pretty close to a horrible experience. Considering how incredibly great the Print module is in Lightroom, the Book module is a serious disappointment.

If I were printing an art book by/for myself, I'd use Blurb without hesitation.

It is really good to hear someone who knows what they are talking about say this. The market has so many players.

I second Rodger's experience with Blurb. I've done four books with them and have been very happy with the results. I never put an image in a book that I have not printed myself. Once I'm happy with my print, I upload an sRGB profiled high-res JPEG file, sized for the image box in the book, and I'm happy with the result. In my earliest books, I had a couple of production problems, i.e. bad trim, inverted contents, but they rapidly fixed them at no charge. To date, I've used BookSmart, however I sent in a book today that I designed using the Book module in Lightroom 5. I'll find out next week how it comes out.

Kudo's to Rodger for his stunning book, and I'd encourage others to give Blurb a try,

I've been using Photobook for a few years now and I'm very happy. I add that I wouldn't call myself a print expert. I'll just say I get on the page what I saw on the screen, mostly.
* Good choice of papers, although you can only see them once you've had a book printed, of course.
* Nice choice of cover materials, or Image Wrap
* Hard or soft covers
* Good printing (to my eye)
* Option of Proofbooks and Professional Series (higher paper, print and binding qualities etc)
* Fast service - about a week from upload to delivery
* Really good prices if you take advantage of their specials - A$48 (US$36) for a 40 page 15"x11" landscape hard cover with debossed image. Extra pages are not cheap, though.
* Large range of sizes and cover choices
* Takes any kind of images - jpg, tiff, bmp etc.
* Easy rearrangement of pages.
* Allows you to output tiffs of full pages (if you wanted to, you could print and bind your own book from these, but I priced it. The paper alone would cost well over $100)
* Also allows output to a multi page PDF file.
* Provides dropped shadows, which I like.

* I've had one book that looked a tad green to me, but I don't think anyone else picked it.
* The software is a bit crude, but it works.
* No page numbering (you have to do it by hand - make sure you leave that until last!)
* The software auto saves every few minutes and takes a full 6 seconds to do so, and you can't change it.
* You can't make and save text styles. (I just do a few words in the style I like, then copy and paste that to every page in advance. Repeat for different styles.)

I tried Blurb (BookWright) a few days ago and abandoned it immediately:
* Jpegs only
* Expensive books, too high for me.
* BookWright, although a bit more modern, doesn't seem to offer anything for me.
* No dropped shadows! I emailed them about this about three years ago and they said they had no plans to add it. Obviously they haven't. Goodbye Blurb, for me.

I've done eight Photobooks so far and although I find their software a bit crude, I've become used to it. It's stable. I'll stick with them.

Same experience and opinion here (excellent printing quality/high price). Though I must say I find BookSmart unnecessary complicated and not quite logical when it comes to making personal adjustments.
What pleasantly amazed me was the black&white printing in my last book, '64,9 - een grensgeval' ('64.9 - crossing a borderline'), as Blurb uses full colour printers for everything. I had feared that it would show, as the eye is fooled with a mix of coloured dots in such a way that it (hopefully) perceives the end result as shades of grey (much like b&w films made for development in C-40 colour machines). But it worked. Only when viewed through a strong magnifying glass do the greys resolve into tiny colored dots. I had a show recently consisting entirely of the contents of my last book, with all the true b&w pictures (and the texts - in Dutch) on the wall and a copy of the book on the table, making for an easy comparison, but nobody noticed a difference. I even sold a few copies of the (expensive, see above) book.

Mike, I have been well pleased by Blurb's printing of my book "Georgia: A Backroads Portrait." I had several copies printed, which are currently making the rounds of publishing houses. I would greatly appreciate it if you would take a look at it online at http://blur.by/1gg1SMt

Rodger, thanks so much for your response. I have seen their ads but getting a real world experience from someone like you seals it for me. I will definitely have to try them!

All the best,

I can also recommend MyPublisher, with one, possibly two reservations.

I have done four books with them, using their software. One creates the book locally, sets up the order, then it uploads the images, prints and sends it to me.

The quality of the printed images is outstanding, very similar to what I see on screen. I've had many people comment on the quality and none say anything negative about it. They have many choices along the way. Their heavier paper is a sensuous pleasure to leaf through.

The lay flat pages option is outstanding. I don't have to worry any longer about part of the image disappearing into the gutter. It also allows great two page spreads of panoramas, with only a very thin, dark break in the middle.

I swore I would never do those when encountering them in photo books, but like them with the lay flat pages. There is an option in the software to create panoramas.

There is something very special about holding, watching others go through, giving to others, a book that I have made myself. The process itself, selecting, preparing, selecting order, and so on has quite a different quality than printing up a bunch of images. It becomes a specific project, beginning with a goal/plan, process and end, with a tangible finished creation.

As to the reservations:

1. When I first used their software several years ago, I had trouble with portrait format images, getting them to exactly fit the height of the page without the software resizing them. I don't want unknown software messing with my carefully made images.

I found out the actual pixel size of their pages and created full page sized images before pulling them into the program. This works perfectly for me. The software has been updated several times since then, and improved a lot. So I imagine that problem may well have been corrected. I just don't know, because I'm working the way I know for sure works.

2. Their pricing is silly, with a high/low model. List Prices are high, it seems to me, although perhaps not higher than Blurb and others. Then I receive at least one special offer a week with various discounts, two for one offers, special reprint prices, etc. Waiting for and taking advantage of them does keep my average cost down. With patience, I've found it possible to get a roughly 8.5 x 11" book with 100 images, premium paper, glossy printing, lay-flat pages, etc. for about $60, plus shipping.

They don't seem to be as well organized as Blurb to facilitate sales to others through them. It's possible, of course. I've not tried either myself. I have so far made books for myself, family and friends.

We've been using Blurb for the PDML Photo Annual (http://www.robertstech.com/pdmlbook/index.htm) ever since we started producing it in 2009 and we've had consistently good (if expensive) results every time.

I'll second Rodger's statement that you should expect to go through one or two proof copies before you get your images looking just the way you want them – Blurb's workflow isn't color-managed at their end so even if yours is, and you use a good profile, it will take a while to make your photos look just right.

I prefer the flexibility and control of a professional quality page layout program but wouldn't recommend it to anyone without extensive experience with such software. Blurb's software is perfectly serviceable and will probably yield better results with less effort for newbies to page layout and design.

I have seen Blurb and My Publisher books and found the MP quality to be much higher quality to Blurb. They have improved greatly in the last few years. Their b & w printing is virtually neutral, no color casts. The heavy, glossy, archival paper looks fantastic, and the lay flat pages work perfectly especially for panos. I've done more than 20 large format books with them. If there is ever a problem with anything, they reprint the order at no cost to you. They are expensive, but always have at least a 50% discount offer going on.
Highly recommended.
David Aschkenas

Forgot to add, I always layout my pages in photoshop, and just drop it onto the "single photo" option in the MP layout. By doing that, I control size and borders and placement exactly, never any surprises.
David Aschkenas

I come into this a little late but...

Blurb was tossed out by me four years ago, along with other cheaper book makers due to printing issues. Eventually I settled on two manufacturers who only printed what I sent them. Nothing was added to the printed book by them. The size I wanted lead me to go with Bay Photo, and I have stuck with them.

My approach to designing the pages is to do it in Photoshop with layers. I can create any effect I want across the canvas. Then when finished I save it as a PDF should design changes be needed. Then I output the flattened page as both a tiff and a maximum sized JPG. At the submission stage each page is sent in as a JPG.

The color and B&W look nice and clean. Plus the boards they use are heavy and have never curled. The only design feature I want that is not offered, is to be able to print panoramic photos on the endpapers.

The book from 2013 eventually had 20 made and about 10 of them sold for $150 each.

I like Blurb books - easy to make, not cheap, but not back breaking prices, and non-horrible software. Plus, the Lightroom integration makes putting together a simple album easy. AdoramaPix's books are more custom bound albums - they really are gorgeous, but they're not really books to me - the stiff pages, which is why I love them for personal albums, isn't easy to peruse as a book.

I still wish there was a cheaper way to print a short run of glossy magazines - I love magazines - something along the lines of an early 90's fashion mag or when Wired was thick, and topical.

I've used Blurb to create wedding/travel albums for family and friends. Proofing is definitely necessary, so it is only really worthwhile if multiple copies are to be made. Unlike others, I happily mix colour and B&W in the same book (but not not the same double page). I've had no trouble at all with B&W toning. I don't have the intertube speed to upload .tiff, even if I wanted to; but have had no resolution/quality issues with .jpg.

If a one-off book is needed, I don't bother with publishing, I use an old-fashioned paper album with either stick downs or photo corners, and use inkjet prints.

Thanks for the link to your book, Ann. It's a really cool example of what a trip book can look like! I especially liked having end-notes!

I've made a few books using Blurb now and while the photo reproduction and so forth is fine for my own use, and to hand round as an example of layout to others, I couldn't bring myself to actually sell them for profit.

The binding doesn't instil confidence in me that it will hold up - I'm sure repeated wide opening will prove fatal. By the time a mark up is added the prices are higher than many 'real' books - which they don't match for overall quality and handling experience.

I would suggest making a proof copy using the cheapest paper and binding option (maybe with reduced page count) before making the finished article with high grade options.

I do at least one Blurb book a year. I find that the process of curating the pictures I have made during the year helps me "re-see" my photographs (and to separate the wheat from the considerable chaff). The standard I use for choosing the pictures is this: "what would I like to preserve if the hard-drive-di-tutti-hard-drives crashed/crunched/crackled?" Some years the book is just a collection of that year's best photographs of my kids. The "kid" book gets ordered in quintiplicate: one for each grandmother, one for me, and one for each of the kids. When the kids leave home, they will each have a set. Call it photo-patrimony. Call it a record of when-and-where in their busy lives. Call it the scaffolding of future memory.

I seem to remember Ctien writing thoughtfully on these e-pages about the survivable nature of easily copy-able data as compared to that of a small number of paper copies. Notwithstanding his cogent arguments, in my case, I trust paper more than my back-up regimen. Also, I like the idea of the kids having each year's "greatest hits" -- saves them from having to curate the multitude of images after I have shuffled off.

I have only ever had one issue with Blurb's production quality -- the color balance on the book of my brother's wedding was all off. All the guests looked like their skin was the color of Silly Putty. Blurb did resolve the issue after some focused conversation with their customer service folks. Other than that, I have been a happy customer.

One note: Although Blurb allows you to purchase a PDF copy of a book after purchasing one hard copy, one thing that Blurb doesn't do (not surprisingly) is a PDF-only book. I have used the open-source Scribus to play around with this: creation of a PDF-only book for distribution to friends etc. Scribus is powerful, but has quite a steep learning curve compared to Blurb's software and is not all that user-friendly if you are not familiar with desktop publishing. Still, for those who would like to develop a template to help curate their own work by separating out your best 50 images a year (or 20 or 10 on a theme), I would recommend giving it a look. Brooks Jensen wrote at one point about putting together a chap-book for a similar purpose. I think a pdf book can serve as well.

I make books of my work so I can now start to dump years of negatives and files. I have found books to be the ideal way to store and look at my pictures and making them, using Blurb, is a pleasure.
I have used Blurb for 12 books and have no complaints what so ever. I used to find their text handling poor but this has now improved. I like being able to design my own page layouts. I do not offer all my books for public inspection in Blurb's bookstore. I certainly do not see Blurb as a way of selling my books; for me photography is purely a pastime so I am not concerned to sell my work. However Blurb does allow my friends to look at my books in 'preview' and I look at theirs and some times they or I buy a copy. Go to 'Ian Castle' to see a few of my efforts.
I have also used LuLu which is OK and perhaps slightly cheaper than Blurb. I like the German firm 'myphotobook' their quality is very good but they seem expensive. Being in the UK my books from Blurb are printed in the Netherlands and always arrive within 7 days.
I have now realised that you can get a local printer to make your books; you provide the book in pdf format and they do the rest. If you need say 10 copies a small local printer can be economic especially if you can get one of their staff interested in what you are doing.

I taught some photobook creation classes to middle schoolers for a few years, and we used Aperture, which I found better than Blurb's BookWright. The kids learned it easily too. Alas, Aperture is going away, so I hope Lightroom 6, coming soon, sees some bookmaking improvements (it uses Blurb).

For my own books I've used both Blurb and Mypublisher with good results, at least until I tried the best quality paper with the best glossy coating (Mypublisher). That book came out overly saturated. You have to learn your options like you learn home printing with new paper, some trial and error.

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