Musings on Photography

POD confusions/frustrations/abrasions/contusions

Posted in book design, books, Solo Photo Book Month by Paul Butzi on May 7, 2008

Much of the photo time I’ve put in this week has been lost to the mind-bending whirl of POD options. Too many places to go to get books printed, too many size options, too many different ways to turn my InDesign book layout into whatever bolus of data each publisher wants uploaded to make the book.

And, naturally, although in my memory I was QUITE careful to pick a page size that matched the trim size of at least one of the options, it’s now abundantly clear that I screwed that bit up royally. And there are no common sizes switching from one outfit to another, at least as far as I can tell.

So now I am faced with adjusting the layout in ways both subtle and not so, to fit the page sizes available in various places, so that I can give each of of them a try. Or at least, right now I want to give several different places a try. Much more of this headbanging and I will surely just punt the entire enterprise and take up collecting the skeletons of small mammals that suffered from rabies instead.

And, as if it wasn’t enough hassle to go and adjust the page size and layout, when I switch to a different page size, I have to go through and generate new versions of the images. So I went through, and added a keyword to every PSD file. It took a long time, because Bridge is a horrible, slow, memory hogging nasty bit of software. And it’s hard to use, too. It’s slow and hard to use on a four core 3GHz Xeon machine with 8 GB of memory. I hate it. It’s slow and I hate it.

Anyway, the reason I was tagging all these files with keywords was to make it easy to generate new versions of the images, scaled to fit various book sizes. Sheesh.

I had this idyllic book printing fantasy thing going on, where I just sort of tweaked a few things, and in a few minutes I had a new version of the book in a different page size. Ha! Shattered dreams. Shattered into a million little jaggy pieces, all of them. Also included in this shattered fantasy thing I had going also included just uploading the PDF and not generating lots of jpgs and loading them into POD software that’s different for each POD vendor.


9 Responses

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  1. Martin Doonan said, on May 7, 2008 at 11:38 pm

    This was my frustration even before I started the SoFoBoMo thing. I looked around at a lot of options to try and pick a format and size for my book in advance and found exactly this problem. I sympathise.

    My biggest bubear is the custom software each of these places uses. Why can’t they just take a nicely sized pdf and print that? OK, have the web software for the technophobes but please (please, please) have a colour managed pdf option, too.

  2. wesjo said, on May 8, 2008 at 1:17 am

    I am not sure which POD service you have chosen, the nightmare might start after you send them the files. Quite a few of them do not have good color management and so-so paper/binding quality.

    I checked out various forums about PODs last year for a wedding book that didn’t materialize and it turns out that probably has one of the best reputation in the business. They are not cheap but they do deliver. Btw, I don’t work for them.


  3. Rosie Perera said, on May 8, 2008 at 1:33 am

    It looks like any printer who uses Pageflex Storefront Web-to-Print software would be able to allow customers to upload PDFs and print photo books from those.

    RJ Communications in New York seems to do POD from PDF files. (Skip all the stuff on that page about DIY Book Layout in Microsoft Word and get right down to the bottom line: “Save your final PDF file to a CD and send to RJ Communications for printing.”)

  4. Gordon McGregor said, on May 8, 2008 at 5:38 am

    It has been an frequently frustrating process doing the POD thing. My finished book arrived yesterday. It does look particularly fine, though the colours are maybe a shade warm. Looking back at the soft proofs I can see that now, though the adjusted versions without softproofing look closer to what is printed than with soft proofing on.

    I think that is mainly a lack of experience in the whole proofing process on my part. Doing that and then having to re-insert proofed images into the layout was probably the most annoying part of the whole thing.

    I did start with templates for the book I was planning on using and designed it all along for that size. That worked out quite well.

    Print quality other than that is really pretty good. The text print quality is sharp (InDesign pages, converted to JPEGs and dropped in as full bleed pages at 300dpi) and the binding and everything seems fine so far.

  5. Frank Armstrong said, on May 8, 2008 at 5:38 am


    Now you know why I have opted to print my own books on my littl’ ol’ Epson printer. Maybe I’m just a control freak….


  6. Erik DeBill said, on May 8, 2008 at 7:28 am

    I had a similar experience. I looked around and could swear I found lots of places supporting 8.25×8.25. Then I went to go try and print and could only find one.

    So far is the only place I’ve found that takes PDFs. All the others seem to want me to use their proprietary software to make the book again, which seems like a waste of time that just buys them better lock-in.

  7. Amy Sakurai said, on May 8, 2008 at 8:47 am

    @Erik #6:
    So far is the only place I’ve found that takes PDFs. All the others seem to want me to use their proprietary software to make the book again, which seems like a waste of time that just buys them better lock-in.

    Erik, Viovio takes PDFs and also does a 8.5″ x 8.5″ book. I’ve heard wildly varying reports about print quality ranging from poor to quite good — but they are very cost competitive.

  8. Anita Jesse said, on May 8, 2008 at 9:54 am

    And, who’s the joker who got all of us into this book making madness? That guy needs a good talking to. I know about misery loving company, but this has gone pretty far. Just so that joker knows he has plenty of company, I started on the soft-proofing business and was a blithering idiot after one afternoon of fighting to get all the colors in gamut and still have something I cared to print. I haven’t yet completed that frustrating part of the process. And, besides all that, this Gordon fellow is a child prodigy and just loves showing the rest of us up. It’s totally perverse to have so much fun suffering this way.

  9. Jon Fitch said, on May 9, 2008 at 5:25 am

    I was using just started and is supposed to be good. They do dust jackets too.

    I just started printing at home on my printer, cutting and using covers from Unibind. Their hardback covers come in some nice sizes (8×8, 12×12 and soon an A3 landscape book). The covers are a bit thin and you’ll have to figure out a way to do a dustjacket, but you control everything and the printing will be nicer than any POD service. Unibind’s Photobinder ($100) is just as good as the $400 model.

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