Musings on Photography

Blurb B3

Posted in book design, books by Paul Butzi on December 11, 2008

Yesterday I had lunch and a print review with my friend Alex. Good stuff, as always.

Of particular interest was Alex’s copy of a book he’d done using Blurb’s new/upcoming B3 service. The book was really impressive – monochrome images that were VERY neutral, unlike every other monochrome POD book I’ve seen.

The key is that for books done using the B3 service, Blurb is using a color managed workflow. You can download an ICC profile to soft proof the images, and that’s what you’ll get. The only defect Alex mentioned is that although all the pages are done using a color managed printer, the cover is not (at least, not yet).

Anyway, I was impressed mightily, not only by Alex’s great photos but also by the really high quality of the Blurb book – printing, binding, and so on.

It turns out the B3 service is currently a ‘by invitation only’ thing. I’ve gone to and applied. If they accept my gracious petition, I’ll be making a larger format (13″ x 11″) copy of my SoFoBoMo book.

7 Responses

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  1. Alexandre said, on December 11, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Very interesting. I’ve finally finished my own photobook (though too late for this SoFoBoMo) and got a copy through To say that the quality was disappointing would be a huge understatement. I was thinking of trying blurb, but I need to change all the dimensions, unfortunately.

    B3 sounds great, it’s just a shame that it’s only open at professionals. Many amateurs (that would include me) are as serious about the quality they aim for than pros.

  2. Gordon McGregor said, on December 11, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    I’ve been quite impressed with the B3 version of my Blurb book too, it worked out quite well. I subsequently ordered a ‘non colour managed’ version of the book. Pretty much identical results, side by side.

    At least when I did it, everything still had to go through sRGB for the final import to blurb, so I saw questionable advantage for the additional cost.

    What they do provide is some level of guarantee of using the same printer each time, which isn’t true for the non-custom workflow. I remember in general feeling it was more of a gimmick than a true implementation of the more normal colour managed workflows I’ve used with some of the higher end printers around.

  3. forkboy1965 said, on December 11, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    How odd….I’ve been having something of a minor stroke today over the issue of printing at home (and the troubles it brings) vs. using a lab. AND I was considering creating my own book at Blurb to record what I felt were my best images from this, my first year of amateur dSLR photography.

    I’ve been reading a lot about profiles, etc. and the need to use them through one’s work flow and printing. But I also just read at how he’s all about shot and process in sRGB, send to your printer and you’ll be happy.

    I’m so confused…..

  4. Douglas Stockdale said, on December 11, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    As a B3 member, the color managed workflow was a big benefit with the 7×7″ book when the default normal printing was on the Xerox Gen3, allowing the use of the HP printer. Now everything from Blurb is on the HP Indgo 5000.

    I have a copy of Beth Dow’s “In the Garden”, which I believe was not printed with the color managed workflow and there is some purpleish bronzing in the shadow areas of her dark gray & whites (plantinum prints).

    What seems to make a big difference is using the new Blurb premium 100lb luster paper, it just seems to give color photographs some much needed life, otherwise some of the colors appear a little too flat, such as greens for foliage.

  5. Gareth Hancock said, on December 12, 2008 at 11:16 am

    Hi all,

    Great discussion. B3 is still a fairly new service so we’re very much looking for feedback. We are hearing that the B3 custom ICC profile is helpful for soft proofing and that the Custom Workflow printing option is delivering slightly better results (more neutral b&w, generally more accurate color translations, slightly better shadow detail). As suggested above, it’s not a dramatic difference because Blurb’s standard approach works well too. Ordering via Custom Workflow does ensure the custom profiled Indigos are used where standard orders flow across all the print devices.
    I’ve just cleared the queues so if you signed up for a B3 membership you should have received an invitation to enroll in the past few minutes. Others can sign up here: Again, definitely looking for feedback to help us make the color managed workflow meet your specifications, so once you’re a member I invite you to find the suggestions form and write to us.

    B3 Program Manager

  6. Alex Brikoff said, on December 13, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    One additional comment to make about the Blurb B3 process which I found out after talking to “Maggie” at Blurb. The books that I printed were the softcover version. It turns out that the printer they use to print the softcovers is a different printer than the one used to print the inside pages. It is not color managed. Consequently, the cover photo MAY not be as neutral (for BW images) as the inside photos. The work around is to order hard cover books where the cover photo is IS color managed (so says Blurb). By the way, hard cover books are also more expensive. Hmm… I told Maggie that Blurb should seriously consider color managing their soft cover printing process as well. It lead to happier customers AND a better, overall softcover book.

  7. PrintBunny said, on January 1, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    Different printers for softcover/hardcover, one size over another – it’s a nightmare. Lulu has the same problem, you can never tell where the book’s going to be printed. Allow informed users to choose the type of printer and location of printer!

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