Book Printing

Locked Why Blurb needs to shut down its Australian operation

My experience with Blurb began two years ago. I didn’t want to use the photo "kiosk" services from department stores in Australia as they were expensive and I had heard unfavourable things about their quality. I was very happy with the products I got from Blurb, and recommended them to many people including some professional photographers. Many of these people had previously dismissed using services like Blurb, but were very impressed with what they saw. Over the last couple of years I ordered 118 books for myself (and many for others) from the US plant. Of those 118 books, only three had printing faults and needed to be reprinted (less than 3%).


But early this year Blurb, in its wisdom, began using an Australian plant for its Australian customers. One consequence is that we began paying GST, which we don’t have to pay on imported goods up to $1000 in value. But the irony for me was that the plant that Blurb uses in Australia is the very plant that handles the bulk of the photo "kiosk" services for Australian department stores that I had deliberately avoided. This plant uses much of the same equipment as other Blurb facilities, but not quite all. As I pointed out in another thread the dust jackets of the photo books are printed using different equipment, on thinner paper that curls up.


I’d like to be patriotic and support my fellow Australians, really I would, but as I expected, the quality control at the Australian facility, in my experience, has been shocking. Five out of the six books (83%) I have received have needed to be done again, two of these twice. In June, Mike from Blurb’s staff said in another thread: "Our Australian print partner is new to the Blurb production process and working to continually improve their workflow and reduce defects." How much longer are they going to give excuses?


Thankfully I’ve never had a problem getting Blurb to replace a faulty book. It happens swiftly without an argument. But this can’t go on forever. It means that whenever I order a book I need to make sure that I’m around for several months to receive it and allow for one or two reprints, especially now the books arrive by untraceable standard mail and are simply left on the doorstep.


The chief reason I use Blurb is to make books of overseas trips. I do three or four trips each year, usually in organised tour groups. The second last trip I did, late 2011, everyone in the group ordered a book on their return. But on the latest trip I told people that I had experienced major quality control issues with recent orders. Only two people on that trip ordered books.


There was a long period when I used to get quite excited whenever I opened a package from Blurb. Those days are gone. Now it’s rather a stressful experience as I wonder how far into the book I’ll get before I discover the first printing problems and go through the ritual of getting the camera out and lodging another reprint request. I’d dearly love to go elsewhere, but haven’t found a print-on-demand service that offers the flexibility of using InDesign. When things go right, Blurb is the best option for me, and the quality is excellent.


But things are not going right often enough for us down under. Time for Blurb to admit that opening operations in Australia was a dumb idea, and to go back to the way things were. It would only take a few mouse clicks by the right person.

Posted by
Maharg
Aug 15, 2012 4:22pm PDT
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Maharg
 

That is all very worrying, I hoped that things would be sorted by now…

I will have to postpone ordering books for a while longer then or go somewhere else, what a pity.

Let’s hope Blurb does something about this soon.

 

Posted by
MattieBaljet
Aug 23, 2012 5:32pm PDT
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MattieBaljet
 

I hope so, too. I received my replacement book last week, again from the Australian plant, and it was almost perfect. (It was a reprint of an earlier book with a dust jacket, and the dust jackets are still not up to the US standard. I’ve decided with regret to design any new books with image wrap.) No banding, pages correctly aligned (so that horizons in two-page spreads correspond), trimmed correctly, solours accurate, and packed much better than six months ago. But I’ve been lulled into a false sense of security before.

In the meantime I’ve dug a little deeper and have found that there are a few other services that accept PDFs from InDesign, so it might be time to give one or two a try. A pity, because Blurb’s new InDesign workflow is nice and slick, and familiarity breeds trust. It’s a pity there aren’t any quality comparative reviews in magazines of various print-on-demand (POD) companies. (If there are, I haven’t found them.)

It would be ironic if I switched to a different POD company only to find that they use the same Australian plant. Nothing would surprise me …

Posted by
Maharg
Sep 2, 2012 4:02pm PDT
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Maharg
 

Since I spent a lot of work creating the book, I decided still to order it and hope for the best…

The book just arrived and I am very disappointed. Banding is horrible on most pages and alignment is wrong on all pages.  

The book fell almost out of the package when it was handed to my by the post(wo)man and the plastic wrapping was damaged.

I will contact Blurb shortly.

Posted by
MattieBaljet
Sep 2, 2012 9:10pm PDT
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MattieBaljet
 

After contacting Blurb they arranged for a reprint immediately.

The reprint was much better, banding almost gone and what remained veryacceptable and aligment perfect. Only the trim was still off, a few mm difference in amount of white space between top and bottom (and left and right).

Because of this I got another reprint which has that problem (almost) solved, at least hardly noticable anymore.

Posted by
MattieBaljet
Sep 13, 2012 9:20pm PDT
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MattieBaljet