General Interest

Locked Very disappointed.

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First I think that I need to start by saying that I work at a Ritz camera.

I received my first book today and I have to say that there are a lot of things that disappoint me.

The Good:

I ordered my book [an 80 page 7×7 soft cover] on the 4<sup>th</sup> of October and it shipped just three days later on the 7<sup>th</sup>. It was a lot faster then I had anticipated and it made me excited. I received the book today, the 10<sup>th</sup> of October. So it was 6 days. Not bad by any means.

I think that the only other saving grace that I found was some of the black and whites. [but not all].

The Bad:

The photos on the cover are extremely dark. A lot darker then if I printed them at home, or at work. And that in itself is disappointing. But I can deal with darker then usual pictures. What I really don’t like is the fact that my photos come out worse then if they were printed on a home inkjet, and considerably worse then if I printed them at work.

What I mean by this is, how is it that a small square picture doesn’t come out clear when I can print the same picture in an 8×10 or even a 20×30 and have it come out sharp and clear.

Not only are the pictures not sharp, but the cover has some white sticky string stuff that isn’t coming off, not to mention the fact that there is a scratch on the cover.

 

I was really hoping for something that was better quality, but I have to say that I am sorely disappointed. I wanted to make my mom a hardbound 8×10 book with considerably more pages for Christmas, but after this, I don’t think that I am willing to put money down for something of the quality that I received.

 

//Stephanie

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Posted by
zxiako
Oct 10, 2007 3:28pm PDT
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zxiako
 

Yikes! I read one post about how gorgeous their book is.. I get all relaxed again… and then one about how bad it is like in this post.

Has anyone had several books printed via blurb and had them ALL come out well? Or, are stories like this the norm?

Would like to know before I start publishing more books. Doesnt’ seem to be much consistency if you go merely from this forum. And to think.. potential customers are reading these posts as well and potentially hurting us all. 

I do know comparing off-set printing to inkjet is not fair. Inkjets spread the ink out and do tricks to give the illusion of quality. But a scratch on the cover? White stringy stuff? Maybe blurb needs to start shopping for a different provider who’s a bit more consistent.

Where are the U.S. books being printed anyway? Mexico? China? India? Southeast Asia? 

Posted by
skiphunt
Oct 10, 2007 3:44pm PDT
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skiphunt
 

Stephanie, You have my sympathy. I suspect you have one of those bad runs that get reported here all the time. I would complain directly with Customer Service to get the issue resolved. But if I were you I would consider your first copy as a proof. Unfortunately you state take you made a 7×7 book but really want a 8×10. Should really use the same format for your proof copy. If your monitor is not calibrated try to get that done. You will find more information else where in the Forum. In fact check out as much of the Technical Forums as you can. There are are lot of questions and answers that will help you through the process. Don’t give up publishing a book is much more complicated than sending digital files to be printed by a photo printer.

I personally have had 3 books printed and have been very satisfied with the printing. In all cases I used the 8×10 photo book. I would not mix the 7×7 book with the 8×10. If you want really great quality the HP Indigo 5000 is what you want your book printed on. The iGen3 is great but personally I think it lacks the quality of the liquid toner used by the Indigo press. I worked on the Indigo process in my prior life and can vouch for its surperb quality (When under good process control.) I should point out that if your book was too dark it will probably be too dark in the 8×10 format. The quality difference between the iGen3 and Indigo can be very subtle having to do with the more transparant thinner ink layers of the indigo and thicker dry toner and heat fusing of the iGen3.

 My guess is that Blurb uses many printers around the US, at least for US production. Check  the UPS tracking information for your book on line. It will at least give you the starting point for your shipment.  In most cases it will not be from SF (the home office for Blurb) which is the mailing address listed on your package. May be if the starting point is provided for these printing disasters more pressure can be put on the printers for better quality control. Also are the problems random or caused by one or two poor providers. I’m sure Blurb knows the answers but will consider that (rightly so) as propriety busines information. But as a user, although I’ve been happy with the quality/service I’m wondering if I’ve just been lucky.

Posted by
lcarreira
Oct 10, 2007 6:07pm PDT
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lcarreira
 

I hope I’m one of the lucky ones… I haven’t even tried to push my book and have already sold two before I’ve got mine. I’m crossing my fingers it looks as good as some of you say… for me AND those who’ve already ordered my book. I’ve got 3 more books I want to do once I confirm everything works cool with this first one.

Will definitely post when I get it, if it looks of decent quality, etc. I know at least one of my first sales went to a friend of mine who’s also in the design business. She’ll definitely let me know if she’s disappointed or not. ;-)

 

Posted by
skiphunt
Oct 10, 2007 8:10pm PDT
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skiphunt
 

lcarreria,

Thank you for the information that you have provided me. I have been thinking about it and looking it over and I guess that maybe its not fair to compair the printing to what we do at Ritz, I just thought it would look better. sigh Its still disappointing but perhaps I will give it another try. Maybe I just had my hopes up to high?

Ah, and about the 8×10. It was not that I wanted to do an 8×10 and not a 7×7. I wanted to test the 7×7 because I thought that they would make nice little gifts. And then I was thinking to make my mom a 8×10. So I really did want the 7×7 not the 8×10 to begin with.

 Anyway. How would I go about getting the better printer for my book? Is it just ordering an 8×10? Or do I request it?

Posted by
zxiako
Oct 10, 2007 8:49pm PDT
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zxiako
 

Ya know… I read some of the bad experiencesd and assume blurb didn’t deliver. But, then I look to see the book online and either don’t see a preview… or, if I do… the photos just look like they weren’t processed correctly. As if the publisher was doing their edtiing in RGB mode… then I read that blurb says sRGB is best. If you take a file you’re editing in RGB and print on a system optimized for sRGB.. the images will look dull, unsaturated, and dark.

I wonder if this is where the problem lay? That still doesn’t explain the scatched cover or white stringy stuff. What’s up with that? 

Posted by
skiphunt
Oct 10, 2007 9:05pm PDT
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skiphunt
 

Skiphunt,

 Ah, I suppose that I should set mine so that you can see the preview. :D I fancy myself a decent photographer. I beginner, but still decent, and like I said I work at Ritz and we color correct there. I still need some work, but when I print my images, the color is beautiful. shrug We use chemical processing though, so I guess its not a fair comparison.

And yeah. I don’t know what the white stuff or the scratch is… sigh Upon further inspection, the white stuff will come off if scratched with a fingernail, I tried it one part, but I have to say it didn’t look good once I got some off so I didn’t touch the rest of it.

Posted by
zxiako
Oct 10, 2007 10:47pm PDT
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zxiako
 

Are the machines you’re used to working with calibrated for RBG? or sRGB? It makes a difference. Most electronic printers who print onto photographic paper likw Ritz.. usually prefer RGB. Most stock agencies prefer files sent for resale save in RGB colorspace. Blurg says they prefer files as sRGB. Perhaps this is the difference you’re seeing? If your printer at Ritz is calibrated for a certain color space and you’re using that as a reference.. the kind of printing is completely different. Blurb is doing digital off-set. I’ll bet NOT the same kind of printing you’re doing at Ritz. The printing at Ritz is more for one-offs. Not good for mass-produced and economically viable unit costs. If you’re using your printer at Ritz for comparison.. it’s not that it’s "not fair" as you say… it’s not even the same thing. You’re not comparing apples to apples.

When I prepare an image, I do it completely different for off-set, than I do for HD, different for newsprint, different for a 300dpi magazine run, and yet different still for stock sales. If I were to prepare an image to be run out of one of those economical quick-print units they have at Ritz… I’d edit the file different still.

I have no idea what works best for blurb until I get my first books. But, from what I’ve read.. sounds like bumping up the saturation, nearly crushing the blacks, and pumping up the mid-tones after converting to sRGB might be best. I can just bet you that whatever DOES work best at blurb is almost certainly going to be different that how you edit an image for printing at your local Ritz camera shop. It’s just a horse of a different color so to speak. ;-) 

Posted by
skiphunt
Oct 10, 2007 11:05pm PDT
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skiphunt
 

Stephanie,

 I looked at your proof… it’s hard to tell from a pdf low-res proof… and without seeing your book.. it’s just speculation. Your images don’t look like they should print poorly though. They do all look soft to me, but I thought that was a creative choice. They all look a bit too contrasty and washed out as well. But that too could be a creative choice. 

I honestly don’t expect my first book to come out perfect. I believe they’ll be close since I’m sure Apple uses a similar printing process for their books and I used the same images I prepared for a book I printed with them that came out quite acceptable. But if I end up having to re-edit the images to print their best with blurb or anyone else.. it won’t come as a surprise.

It would be nice it there were a cheaper proofing process at blurb though… like just being able to print one page or two as a proof. Though, I’ve done 4-color process out of state and the pdf I usually get as a proof usually matches very closely what I get in print. So it seems blurb could offer a better proofing test than ordering a whole book IMO

Posted by
skiphunt
Oct 10, 2007 11:22pm PDT
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skiphunt
 

I’m not sure that I understand exactly what you are saying. I am sure that you are on to something, but I don’t know the difference between RGB and sRGB. I do get, however, that the two printers are not the same kind at all. I am not quite sure that we have a specified ‘preference’ at Ritz, but I don’t know. Wow. You know? This could all just be my fault.

But the thing that really just bugged me, is why do some of my images look pixelated and/or not sharp [for lack of better words]? It looks like it was run off a really bad quick print machine. We have a Kodak machine that prints in seconds at work, for those people that don’t want to wait for us to color correct and such, and some of the prints in the book look like they were printed off of one of those.

I don’t know. Gah. I really want to like blurb and have them work out for me, but I just can’t see how a file that I can print a really nice 20×30 off of comes out pixelated and just gross in this book.

 And because I didn’t say it before: Thank you for all your help.

Posted by
zxiako
Oct 10, 2007 11:23pm PDT
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zxiako
 

I think that it is the online version in low res that makes the photos looks soft, because they are actually a little on the sharp side. Or perhaps that’s just later in the book. I can’t remember at the moment, but yes, they are high on the contrast side. I am still trying to figure out my favorite post processing techniques.. ahaha… yeah…

 I also agree that they should have a better proofing test. I mean, I spent 25 dollars [ which isn’t bad… but if I edit anything I would have to order another and that just adds up] just to see if I liked blurb.

Posted by
zxiako
Oct 10, 2007 11:27pm PDT
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zxiako
 

What is the resolution of one of the photos that’s printing "pixelated" and soft? Can you send email me a jpeg of one of your images? I’m not going to steal it. :-) I’ve been taking photos for about 28 years and I’ve got plenty of my own work to use here:

http://www.skiphuntphotography.com 

That’s not saying blurb didn’t get it wrong… you might have just got a bad run. But based on how easy it is to produce a book from blurb, and how little specific info on image prep is on this site (or I just haven’t found it yet) and that blurb lets you just flow a blog into a book.. I’m betting that more often then not… the images people are getting poor results with are likely not prepared properly for digital off-set printing. 

Posted by
skiphunt
Oct 10, 2007 11:31pm PDT
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skiphunt
 

Stephanie,

I looked at some of your photos on your flickr page that you are also using in your book. I can tell your images have depth and good color. Not like in your book preview. Did you re-edit these for your book? Did you use print resolution? Or, web resolution? If you’re using web resolution and RGB color space this would explain soft images.

I noticed some of my images look great in RBG in Photoshop… but looked a bit dull in the booksmart preview. I converted some of my images to sRGB and re-edited them to compensate for what I was getting in the preview. I’m sure your source images are just fine… it’s probably just a matter of proper set-up. That is.. unless you actually DID do everything right and blurb gave you a bad run. It’s really hard to tell without seeing your source image and the actual book. 

I hope any of that helps. 

Posted by
skiphunt
Oct 10, 2007 11:42pm PDT
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skiphunt
 

I don’t know if this will work for you, but I am being lazy. Its not that I fear you stealing my work, lol. It just easier for me to give you this link. It gives all the information on the photo.

http://www.flickr.com/photo_exif.gne?id=1413544413

That’s the data. Here’s the picture.

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/promise/1413544413/" title="Photo Sharing"><img src="http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1158/1413544413_1741c9c09b_b.jpg" width="681" height="1024" alt="Cellphone play" /></a>

I don’t know if that’s gonna work. I hope it does.

Let me know if that works.

The picture in the book printed like this:

 http://www.flickr.com/photos/promise/1539495855/

There were quite a few like this. This is just the best representation that I can show through the internet.

Posted by
zxiako
Oct 10, 2007 11:44pm PDT
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zxiako
 

Sorry that the link to the large photo didn’t work.

And about the res. I used the largest file sizes I have. The same that I would upload to flickr, and I didn’t edit any different, except for taking some yellow out of the faces of some of the kids. But they ended up coming out more yellow then I have ever seen.

Posted by
zxiako
Oct 10, 2007 11:46pm PDT
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zxiako
 

The first image your pointed me to: src="http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1158/1413544413_1741c9c09b_b.jpg" width="681" height="1024" alt="Cellphone play" /></a>

If too low res for good printing. You need to change the dpi to 300dpi in photoshop and take a look at what size it changes to. That image would only print well at about 2×3inches I’m guessing you printed it larger than that in your book? If so… that might be part of your problem.

The first link you sent tells me your source image was plenty hi-res enough for one of these books, but if you used the third link I re-posted above… you’re using a re-sized for web resolution instead of the hi-rez original. You don’t need to convert to RGB because your camera is using the sRBG color space already. Just make sure photoshop is setup for an sRGB workspace and not RGB if you’re going to edit it. Or, if the image comes out of the camera looking good… just import that straight into booksmart and you should get better results.

Are you sure that kitty didn’t scratch the cover accidentally? ;-) If not, and if you’ve got stringy white stuff on it.. then that sounds like glue and poor packaging. If that’s the case, I would think blurb owes you a reprint. Have you contacted them yet? 

Posted by
skiphunt
Oct 10, 2007 11:54pm PDT
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skiphunt
 

From your exif info in your first link.. your original image off the camera is 3000×2000, plenty of res for a blurb book. HOWEVER, it looks like you’re managing your images with MicroSoft Windows Photo Gallery. I’m guessing that MicroSoft Windows Photo gallery is resizing your images for web and email use. NOT for print. The larger image you sent is not as large as your original. It’s been down-sized and not big enough to print well at any size over 2×3inches.

Posted by
skiphunt
Oct 10, 2007 11:59pm PDT
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skiphunt
 

Oh, I’m sorry. Perhaps I don’t know what I am looking at. I used my original file for the book, not a small file. Gah, I’m not so great about this explaining stuff. Oye.

And no, my baby kitties didn’t get anywhere near my book. It was on it when it was still in its plastic wrapping. And no I haven’t contacted them yet. It will be the first thing on my list tomorrow morning.

Posted by
zxiako
Oct 10, 2007 11:59pm PDT
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zxiako
 

Also, Microsoft Window gallery isnt’ the best app to be doing any image editing in. Do you use photoshop? Try opening the original file directly into Photoshop instead of your Microsoft gallery version. Did you safe the originals? There’s a setting in the Microsoft gallery to NOT resize your images automatically. Dont’ ask me where it is because I use a Mac. But, I have a Windows machine too and my wife kept wondering why her digiphotos kept coming out "pixely".. I saw that the Windows Photo app was set to auto-resize images to be web and email friendly. Do you think this is what’s happening? Do you have the original image files that came off the camera and not the ones Windows Photo Gallery apparently down-sized automatically for you?

Posted by
skiphunt
Oct 11, 2007 12:04am PDT
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skiphunt
 

It shouldn’t be downsizing my images, or else I wouldn’t be able to print anything even remotely large. [like I said before 20×30s] So that would mean it isn’t right?

 I just went to the file to look at its properties and it is:

Width: 2000 pixels

Height: 3008

Horizontal rez: 300dpi

Vertical rez: 300dpi

Does that help?

Posted by
zxiako
Oct 11, 2007 12:09am PDT
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zxiako
 

okie dokie… gotta go to bed. If you did in fact import the FULL resolution images off the camera and NOT from your Windows app.. then yes.. they should have printed better. Your color space is correct in-camera, your source D50 resolution is high enough for print, and I can see there is good color from your flicker page. BUT, your exif info your referenced says you managed this file with the Windows App. If that’s the case, you might have "thought" you were using the original resolution, but were actually using an auto-downsized version from the Microsoft Photo app.

Posted by
skiphunt
Oct 11, 2007 12:09am PDT
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skiphunt
 

Sleep well then. Thank you for all your help.

Posted by
zxiako
Oct 11, 2007 12:11am PDT
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zxiako
 

I don’t doubt your original image from the camera will print fine in various sizes. But since you sent me the "source" image on flickr.. that image has been downsized. And your exif data says your used this app that tends to have auto-resizing set as it’s default. Is it possible you grabbed the image from that Windows Photo management app instead of the original? It likely would have the same name.

Take your booksmart app, reimport your photo into your book…. booksmart will reimport the photo without getting rid of the first one you imported.. you might give the 2000×3008 version a different name so you don’t get them mixed up…. make sure it’s the one that says 2000×3008…. go to the page where the kitty is in your book… put newly imported photo onto the opposite page and compare the two in preview mode. If I’m correct, they’ll look different. The 2000×3008 version will look sharper with better color. If I’m wrong… then they’ll both look exactly the same, and there’s either something wrong with booksmart, or something went wrong in the printing.

Posted by
skiphunt
Oct 11, 2007 12:18am PDT
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skiphunt
 

hey Stephanie, you should definitely request a reprint. File a report with customer service.

I was also quite disappointed with the 7×7 book I received as well. Ugly banding issues like an inkjet in need of cleaning, heavy posterization – especially in the shadow areas, greenish overtones, muddy colors, etc. 

After much research I found out that blurb uses a different printer for all its softcovers and 7×7 hardcovers. A much better printer is used for 8×10 hardcovers and up, which began to explain the discrepency I saw with the rave reviews (almost always on the larger hardcovers) and the complaints about poor printing and colors. The dust jacket uses yet another printer.

My plan is to try again and make one of the larger hardcover books, and make tweaks based on the CMYK gamut preview in photoshop using the ICC profile for their better printer. 

Hopefully I’ll be able to rave about my next blurb book too.  

But yeah, I feel your disappointment.

Posted by
brokendreams
Oct 11, 2007 1:26am PDT
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brokendreams
 

MY plan is to not use blurb anymore.

 I’m switching to MyPublisher for my needs from now on.  This company obviously doesn’t care about its customers.  Too many have had problems with absolutely no answers from blurb and I’m not going to tolerate it anymore.

MyPublisher might be a bit more expensive, but the paper quality is much better and the downloaded program actually works. It doesn’t have quite as many options as booksmart had (when I could actually get it to run), but I can still produce a very nice piece of work with it.

THANKS FOR NOTHING, BLURB! 

Posted by
bluemax2
Oct 11, 2007 2:56am PDT
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bluemax2
 

bluemax2,

How about doing that and getting back to us in 2-3 months with your experience with MyPublisher. 

Thanks. 

Posted by
lcarreira
Oct 11, 2007 9:58am PDT
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lcarreira
 
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Skiphunt, 

I checked up on a few of the photos and did as you said, and they look exactly the same. I even checked in Windows photo gallery, and all the files that I would possibly have used (IE the picture of the cat) are all the same size, the 2000×3008, shrug 


So, do you think I should try an 8×10 hardbound with just a few pages in it as a test? Cause from what I am hearing the 8×10s are being printed with a better printer. I just find it somewhat hard to comprehend that Blurb would print with a lower quality printer. I mean, I know that it isn’t all that expensive for an 80 page softbound 7×7, but that doesn’t mean that they should treat it differently from an 8×10. But I guess that’s just the way it goes, nay?

Brokendreams,

"I was also quite disappointed with the 7×7 book I received as well. Ugly banding issues like an inkjet in need of cleaning, heavy posterization – especially in the shadow areas, greenish overtones, muddy colors, etc. "

Yes, that is exactly what I was seeing in mine as well. I am going to go put in a report, at least just to see if the 7×7 are just not well made or are printed with a lesser printer.

What’s your take on giving it one more try, as an 8×10 hardbound this time?

Thank you for your reply here. :D

Bluemax2,

Let me know how that works out. After talking in the thread, I am thinking of giving Blurb one more try and seeing what they say when I file a report. If the 8×10 comes out nice like some people are saying then they might remdeem themselves.

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Posted by
zxiako
Oct 11, 2007 1:49pm PDT
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zxiako
 

Stephanie,

Hard to say until I see my own product. I too got the 7×7 and from the posts its sounding like the printing isn’t as good. I’m not familiar with the iGen printer they’re using for the 7×7s. I am familiar with the indigo they say they’re now using for the larger sizes and I know it to be generally good.

I’ll post my findings after I get my own product in a few days. I’m hoping it’s good, but based on several of the posts and your samples… I’m not that hopeful. If it turns out the 7×7 products aren’t up to snuff, I’ll likely just move to the larger size. Pitty, because the price for 7×7s is very good with room for profit. Moving up to the larger size puts your book on par with pricing in a bookstore. Add a little profit, and your 8×10 book is going to be too expensive for the casual buyer who doesn’t know you.

That being said.. I put together a book for my sister last Christmas through the Apple Store. I did the 8.5×11 hardcover with linen cover, about  46 pages and 100 photos or so. That book cost me nearly $80 with shipping. The same book from Blurb would have only cost me about $40 with shipping. AND, I could have gone up to 80 pages with no increase. So, the pricing even the larger size seems fairly good.. just not as much room for profit. 

Based on everything I’ve read so far.. my familiarity with the indigo press… and the reasonable pricing compared to other outfits… I’d have to say "yes", redo your book in the 10×8 size for your next publishing. That’s likely what I’ll do until I learn blurb has moved the 7×7 to the indigo press. 

Posted by
skiphunt
Oct 11, 2007 2:10pm PDT
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skiphunt
 

Sounds good. I look forward to knowing how your book came out. And I agree, if you try to make profit off of an 8×10 some people may not be willing to purchase it. My hopes are that your book comes out well. fingers crossed

I sent a report to Blurb earlier about it, hoping to hear back from them soon. :D I basically asked about what I saw in my book and the like.

And I think that I agree. Everything that I have read points to the fact that perhaps the 8×10 and larger sizes are better made. sigh I think I will go put something together while I wait for Blurb to get back to me.

Thank you so much for all your help.

Posted by
zxiako
Oct 11, 2007 4:04pm PDT
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zxiako
 

Yep, sounds like a plan. Although…. I haven’t got a handle on it yet, but it sounds like the hardcover 7×7 might be better or possibly printed on the indigo? Not sure, but if that’s the case… I could still do the 7×7 version but ONLY make the hardcover available forsale.

Did you get a hard and soft cover 7×7 version? Was there a difference? Has anyone else compared the print quality between the hard and softcover 7×7 versions? 

I ordered one of each of my book, will let you know if the problem exhists at all for me.. or, if it’s isolated to the softcover 7×7 version. 

Posted by
skiphunt
Oct 11, 2007 4:43pm PDT
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skiphunt
 

sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the 7×7 hard and soft use the same printer for the inside pages. I’ve seen a 7×7 hc and it has the same banding, posterization and muddy issues. Especially there you have a gradation of tone, the "i’m an inkjet running out of ink" style banding can get pretty nasty. On a positive note, the dust jacket prints very nicely

http://forums.blurb.com/forums/1/topics/621

Posted by
brokendreams
Oct 11, 2007 5:52pm PDT
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brokendreams
 

Hi:

Skiphunt, here in Mexico we have hi quality print houses, your comment it´s very grovel.

Posted by
oculo
Dec 17, 2007 11:05am PDT
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oculo
 

Mexico produces some of the most beautifull art books in the world. Americans would’nt know that simply because those books are rarely exported. But the thing is, printing costs tend to be higher here than in the U.S.A., But anyway….Viva Mexico!!!!

Posted by
cantudoit2
Dec 17, 2007 1:01pm PDT
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cantudoit2
 

Just wanted to let Stephanie know the quality of the bigger books are better, but maybe the processing is getting better now, too.  I have done 7 books.  The colors on the bigger books were better, but I have been learning on the editing, too.   I did find the black backgrounds work in some places, but work against the photo in other areas.  My ‘Zoo’ book was an experiment in colored backgrounds and to see if the background colors in Blurb really did match my photo colors – pretty good, but would stay away from bright colors in the future.  I have done 6 books on My Publisher and have found the quality to be the same – even the thickness of the pages.  Just be careful of the edges and the inside – use the 1/8" rule for that.  All together I am wonderully pleased with Blurb and the price can’t be beat – the covers are absolutely stunning!  Try a bigger book and good luck!

Posted by
wjukich
Dec 19, 2007 10:09pm PDT
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wjukich