One of the more interesting opportunities to come along recently in the photographic world is the advent of ‘do it yourself’ books.
There are a whole slew of print-on-demand book publishers on the WWW now, including www.lulu.com , www.mypublisher.com, and a host of others. The deal is this: you put together a book. The print on demand publisher has a machine into which the data representing your book, along with paper, toner, etc. are fed; out the other end, out pops a book. Unlike conventional book printing, books can be printed in onesies, and the general rule is that when your customer orders the book, the publisher prints it and ships it to them. Every outfit has different pricing models, different capabilities, and offers different tools, so it’s wise to check around.
I’ve handled several photo books done on lulu.com; the results range from quite good to not really very good. Frustratingly, the results vary from order to order, because the way lulu.com apparently works is that they sub-contract the printing out to a variety of print shops (and the lulu.com orders fill the dead time the print shop would otherwise experience). Since which exact print shop will print your next order varies., it’s very hard to know exactly what sort of color balance, etc. you’re going to get. Process control is not very tight. In general, this seems to be the issue doing photo books this way. Because no process controls are given, there’s no way to know exactly what you (or your customer) are going to get.
Process control issues aside, though, it seems like a great deal. Through www.lulu.com, you can format your book to your heart’s content, upload it to their server as a PDF file, and not only will they help you get an ISBN, barcode, etc. but they’ll actually make an entry for the book on www.amazon.com, and customers all over the world can order it directly through Amazon. Sweet.
Right now, this technology is where inkjet printing was five years ago – wicked metamerism, no color management, no process control, and results all over the map. In time, though, all that stuff will be brought under control, and photographers will be cranking out books ranging from little books of personal projects all the way through 50 year retrospectives.