Musings on Photography

Blurb results

Posted in book design, books, Print On Demand by Paul Butzi on May 14, 2008

I got my Blurb proof book back yesterday afternoon. For those who haven’t been following along, that means that I ordered the book on Friday, May 9. The book shipped on Monday, May 12. I received the book on Tuesday, May 13. It’s difficult to imagine how turnaround could be much improved. I will point out, however, that the book only had to travel about 15 miles to get to my home.

On the whole the book looks pretty good. It looks good enough, in fact, that it took about an hour for the ‘Wow. This is a book. It has my words in it! It has my photos in it! I made this! And it’s a BOOK!” to wear off and for me to start to notice problems.

The first problem is that Blurb adds a barcode block to the back cover of the book. Actually, they say that they do that sometimes, and don’t do it sometimes. So you can’t really know. This barcode area is a white patch, about .5″ x 2.25″, with the little barcode in it. Annoyingly, this barcode patch is positioned so that it runs into the text “A SoFoBoMo 2008 Book” on the back cover of my book.

Now, if I had known about about the barcode in advance, I’d not be so damn annoyed. But in fact Blurb’s famous BookSmart software doesn’t warn you. I don’t recall being warned about this barcode at all. I had to go searching for barcode stuff on Blurb’s help system to find out about it. Even more annoying, the help page on the bar code stuff indicates a position on the back cover, and if the bar code patch were actually located in that spot, I’d have no damn overlap. Fooey. Bad Blurb. No biscuit.

That’s the really bad news.

Next issue: because I really didn’t understand about trimming, the page numbers are set a bit closer to the actual edge of the physical page than I expected. That’s my bad. I realized my error after submitting the order.

Next issue: book size. I picked the size that the BookSmart software listed as “8×10 inches, 20x25cm”. The actual measured size of the book is 8 inches (20.3cm) by 9.5″ (24.1cm). Maybe this is a matter of expectation. I had rather imagined that when they said 8×10 inches/20×25 cm, the book would be trimmed to that size. Or at least closer than this. It’s not a big issue, although if you’re critical about margin widths, it would be nice to know what size they were actually going to make.

Finally, print quality. I don’t have anything, really, to compare against. It seems pretty good, although there are some photos where the print quality, especially in larger areas that are smooth tone, seems a bit grainy. But not too bad, really. The rendering of detail meets my (admittedly modest) expectations.. The color looks pretty good – I prepped all my images in sRGB space. I didn’t soft-proof against the available Blurb profile, but all of the images in my book fit into a modest gamut so a) this book looks about as I expected, and b) it’s probably not a rigorous test. Highlights and shadow detail came out matching my calibrated screen closely enough that to see how big the difference is, I’ll have to go through the images one by one on screen with the book in my hand. I don’t see an obvious color cast or anything like that.

Overall, I’m pleased. The reward of getting that “Wow. It’s a book!” moment far outweighs the defects in the physical book (largely a matter of expectation management) and is plenty rich enough to make it worth going thru the headbanging to get a book printed. I really can’t overstate the head rush I got from opening up that package and taking out the book that read “A Good Walk/Paul Butzi” on the front cover.

I know that POD is, in the parlance of A Princess Bride, a Fire Swamp with Lightning Sand infested with Rodents of Unusual Size. But if you have managed to crank out a SoFoBoMo book, you should at least take a look at using some POD publisher to produce a physical book. It’s more rewarding that I expected, and I had pretty high expectations.

And besides – the Fire Swamp bits make a popping noise, so you can avoid those. And after reading my blog posts, you’ll know what the Lightning Sand looks like, so you can avoid that, too. As for the Rodents of Unusual Size – I don’t think they exist.

3 Responses

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  1. Gordon McGregor said, on May 14, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Would this have helped ?

    Please insert barn door/horse bolted analogy here. The blurb blog is quite good for hints and tips, with the obvious next question of why this stuff isn’t more obviously available on the main site/ book set-up pages etc.

    I was lucky enough to have decent InDesign templates for blurb so had a good idea of where the bleed and safe zones were, along with the potential trim areas (again stuff that the booksmart software kindly ‘hides’ the complexity of)

  2. Gordon McGregor said, on May 14, 2008 at 11:57 am

    Oh and congrats on making the book 🙂 Having the hard copy is far, far cooler than having the PDF – like you said that WOW factor makes it quite a worthwhile struggle.

  3. Dennis Allshouse said, on May 14, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    If you haven’t already, you might want to check out this guy’s blog:

    He has a couple of articles about several different publishers that he has taken for a test drive.

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