2 Books, Lessons Learned
I just received my first two Blurb books-<del>one 11×13" hardbound, and a second book in two formats</del>-medium-sized hardbound, and same size softbound.
I have been an offset lithographer/printer for 22 years, as well as a photographer for 35 years. So, I think I am fair and balanced, but critical and perceptive when it comes to quality.
My overall reaction-<del>I think the hardbound copies meet my pretty high expectations. The binding isn’t world-class or high-end by any stretch, but fair and reasonable given the price. The softbound copy leaves more to be desired</del>-for one thing, it is a very thin (20 page) book. It looks more like a thin brochure than a book. In addition, the paper grain is not the best it could be on the cover-<del>the fibers/grain run with the width of the book, laterally. This means that when the book absorbs moisture or experiences temperature changes, the cover curls laterally, and the top and bottom righthand corner on the front cover curl toward the reader. Not a good way to go. I hope they can address that.
Color: again, all things considered, is very good when it comes to the photographs. Compared to my very carefully calibrated monitor, the images tend to be more saturated and slightly darker</del>-though not objectionably so. I was somewhat disappointed in the background gray color-<del>usually on digital printed projects, the density of the background color is very consistent</del>-not so with my Blurb book. In a photographic book, especially, I would strongly recommend not printing a colored background if consistency is important.
You can’t-<del>I repeat</del>-you can’t be careful enough in preparing your files and checking and re-checking them. I did not print the pages out ahead of time-<del>big mistake. Somehow, some of the photos picked up black outlines along the way</del>-I thought I had eliminated them, but turns out I hadn’t. Printing out the book before submitting it also allows you to get a feel for the relative scale of the type and imagery-<del>my captions were way too big (14 pt.), and should have been 10 or 11 pt. maximum. Blurb’s spell-check is weak at best, so have someone proof and reproof and reproof your work. You’ll avoid producing a flawed book.
My books were all printed by Blurb’s printer partner on the West Coast. I really wonder how they decide which print shop prints the books you order, and more, what differences there are from printer to printer. I am sure they manage this closely, but it would be interesting to know how, if at all, the results vary from printer to printer.
Software: I am glad, on a basic level, that it exists and functions reasonably well. It can be very slow on my Mac G5 and G4. Sometimes, if I change the font size from 14 pt. to 11 pt., nothing happens. But it I change it to 10 pt. it changes quickly, and then I have to change it again to get my 11 pt. type</del>-time-consuming, and it can increase the risk of mistakes of course.
I am anxious to do some larger/longer books—India, Arequipa in Peru, a cross-country road trip I made in the US in 2001, and maybe a retrospective of some of my favority stuff.
In the meantime, I hope Blurb thrives and invests whatever it can in enhancing and improving the software and working out some of the inconsistencies and color issues in its digital printing.
Thanks for the post. As a graphic designer most of my life, as well as a having photography be my main hobby, I am most particular about how my photos will turn out. I am waiting for my first book from another company that was offering a great flat rate price. My daughter received her books and the quailty was pretty good for her using only 150 dpi images.
I too, am worried about registration, and especially across the pages… and I used lots of large areas of flat color.
After reading a lot of comments here, I’m almost afraid to do a Blurb book. I use a Mac and while it’s a lowly G4 the BookSmart is extremely sluggish.
I did experience some very frightening problems uploading my book to the other site <del>- my book never "saved" out and I had to recreate it 4 times! I’m still not sure if all my pages will print or not.
I want to do a book for my mom, and she really won’t be aware of technical stuff at all, she’ll just think the book is great. :</del>)
I am concerned about many comments saying the photos look dull/flat and "dark." My monitor is dark despite all kinds of attempts at calibrating it and I changed my gamma to 2.2 and save my photos to that dreaded sRGB format.
I also can not believe printers are accepting RGB images for 4 color process printing. Since my book (not received yet) is supposed to be a 4 color process I am expecting all the bright RGB tones to dull out.
Has anyone created their photos CYMK and then converted to sRGB? At least that way you know your photos should be as you see them. But… are the printers doing some special sort of color conversion before they print?
Despite all this, how exciting to be able to sit at your computer and create your own book, and send it over the internet and then receive a printed book! Amazing! Young people today just don’t know how difficult and expensive this would have been in the "old" days.
A PDF option saves printing reams of paper. It should be a smart move to make this in Booksmart to check for errors.
As for producing PDF out of BookSmart in itself, it doesn’t even work at all wit BookSmart version 1.9.1 on system architecture of OSX Leopard (v. 10.5) on powerful, fastest MacBook Pro 17 and EVEN pretty darn fastest MacPro. NOTHING practically works with BookSmart’s printing feature.
I wonder why did Blurb software engineering team went ahead to release this horrible, miserable current version of BookSmart 1.9.1 knowing that it cannot print at all. If they can’t fix, they should have NOT released it to the general public UNTIL they figure this out how to resolve printing problem.
Like others, myself and you, we want to get some general “look and feel” when it produces PDF and printing low-grade version of PDF print on printer… and see if it needs to be corrected and all.
However, there are a couple of workarounds to correct color management, assigning right color profile on all images with sRGB, with right DPI as 300, and soft proof using ICC profile, where it can be downloaded from Blurb site to examine the soft proof on all books. Unfortunately, not all Blurb author or users have the luxury having the access to Adobe applications. I highly recommend Adobe apps, and of course they are pretty darn expensive. But I find that VERY useful investment tool for my field, and best of all with Blurb self-publishing book concept.
However, I remain hopeful that Blurb eventually develop a better BookSmart, but it has to be done NOW.
I have produced 4 books so far with Blurb. One is small, all b&w text with a color cover. Two are hardbound, color throughout. Third one is color throughout with soft cover. I make the original files with Quark (yes, will probably shift to Indesign one of these days!) and output a PDF according to Blurb specifications. I am very careful and so far have sent perfect files to Blurb and received excellent results. I have worked in graphics for many years and while I do not expect "the moon" with online publishing, I do expect very good quality and I have received that.