HoltWebb's Posts

A letter to Blurb's CEO and Board of Directors
General Interest

Dear Blurb,

The quality of your printing is exceptional. For the price, nobody does as good a job as you do. I stopped using other OD printers because Blurb.com had the best product available at the time and it came at a price I could afford. 

That being said, I have to take issue with some of the decisions that are being made. They may seem like the right decisions from where you sit, but from where I sit (I’m a professional photographer, writer, designer) Blurb has made some very short-sighted decisions.

I’m not sure how to explain it, but it seems as though someone is coming up with ideas and stopping halfway, never reaching the idea’s full potential. You come up with something great, but the implementation has so many flaws and restrictions that it’s almost not worth messing with. I know there are many factors that affect these decisions (most of them financial, I’m sure), but providing an incomplete product is a very bad idea. Some examples…

Magazines? Great idea to offer magazines. They could be great portfolio pieces and would make excellent gifts to give to clients, but you either have to lay out your book in a completely different software app and create a PDF, or purchase a $700 Adobe application just to be able to make one. Not a viable option when time and money are at all time lows. You think YOU have financial concerns? Take a peek at your customers. Money is an issue for all of us and it’s not only insulting, it’s mean to offer such a cool product that the majority of us simply can’t purchase — not because we can’t afford to purchase the product itself, but because we can’t afford the third-party tools required to create said product.

ebooks? Again, a great idea, but your ebooks are only available on ipads. Your reps tell us that it’s because programming in two platforms is so expensive that you have to test the market to make sure it will support the investment. But that’s a copout. There is no reason to "test the waters" anymore. PC Tablets and Kindles outsell ipads today. A couple of years ago, phone companies and other software retailers would come out with the different platforms for their applications in stages, because the market was still blooming. But that’s not necessary anymore. Technology is moving so very fast now. There is no reason to wait. The money will come.

Calendars? Almost every single one of the companies that competes with Blurb offers calendars. Even if they have to outsource the calendars until they can get enough business in to provide the calendars in-house, they are still providing calendars. Blurb does not and has no plans to. A shortsighted move, to say the least. Any customer of Blurb who needs a calendar is going to take their business to the competition. And, once they are there, who is to stop them from ordering books from the competition? You are opening a door and sending your customers to the competition without any effort to keep them on board. Don’t give your customers a reason to leave.

Forums? Now you’re changing the format of the forums into the awkward, virtually useless "Yahoo Answers" style of forum. Bad idea. I’ve used that kind of forum and have found it to be far too limited for serious discussion. And that’s what forums are for — discussion. The "Answers"-style forum has short time limits, requires a mandatory "best answer" (even when there isn’t a best answer) and is awkward to navigate. As a matter of fact, the navigation and search capabilities are almost non-existent. It’s a lazy forum, to say the least.

Blurb has an opportunity to outpace Lulu.com, My Publisher.com, Cafe Press, and all the others simply by making smart decisions that will put Blurb ahead of its competition. Stay on top and make the others play catch-up. You have the ability, you have the right ideas. Keep coming up with those ideas, take those ideas to their logical conclusions and you will lead the pack. Nobody will be able to catch you. But, if you continue to cut those ideas off before they reach their potential, you are doomed to failure. And I, for one, don’t want to see you go.

-Holt

Posted by
HoltWebb
Jan 9, 2013 9:17am PDT
Permalink
HoltWebb
 
Kindle your book
General Interest

Blurb has always approached the market in a half-ass sort of way. They come up with something great, but it has so many flaws and restrictions that it’s almost not worth messing with. They’ve done it multiple times…

Magazines? Great idea, but you either have to lay out your book in PDF format or purchase a $700 Adobe application just to be able to make one.

ebooks? Again, great idea, but it’s only available on ipads. They say that it’s b/c they are testing the market. But that’s BS. There is no reason to "test the waters" anymore. PC Tablets and Kindles far outsell ipads today.

Forums? Now they’re changing the format of the forums into the awkward, virtually useless "Yahoo Answers" style of forum. Bad idea.

Whoever is making these decisions at Blurb is going to wind up bankrupting the company. Mark my words.

Posted by
HoltWebb
Jan 9, 2013 8:41am PDT
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HoltWebb
 
New Magazine format
BookSmart

That’s Blurb for ya. Great in some areas, bewilderingly lacking in others.

I was about to ask what the differences were between the new "magazine" format and a softcover book. Well, I guess I got one answer — the tie to InDesign. It’s a ridiculous way to go about launching a new format (only making it available to those using a $700 third-party application).

I would love to know what the board/CEO or whoever runs this circus is thinking. They have SO much potential but seem to be incredibly out of touch with some of the bigger needs of their market.

Posted by
HoltWebb
Dec 30, 2012 12:35pm PDT
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HoltWebb
 
How about a calendar?
Book Design and Imaging

Calendars (high-end, stapled calendars… not the cheap spiral-bound jobs) are right up Blurb.com’s alley. The Blurb.com printing quality is very good. And, they’re halfway there with softcover books and "magazines".

Why is this not on the product list?

They seem to be missing out on a good seasonal market.

Posted by
HoltWebb
Dec 22, 2012 3:29pm PDT
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HoltWebb
 
Discount Coupons?
Web Features

I just got the answer to my own question: "How long is Blurb going to wait before they offer authors the ability to create their own discounts and coupons?"

 The answer: Forever.

Blurb has no plans to offer this convenience. It’s a shame, too, because so many other online order systems have this ability. Smugmug.com, where I sell my photographic prints, offers discounts. Spreadshirt.com, where I order my custom t-shirts, offers discounts. But Blurb doesn’t. Welcome to the Stone Age.

Posted by
HoltWebb
Sep 7, 2010 6:13pm PDT
Permalink
HoltWebb
 
Discount Coupons?
Web Features

Really? Blurb STILL hasn’t created the capability to offer buyers discounts? Really? How long are they going to wait?

Posted by
HoltWebb
Sep 7, 2010 4:23pm PDT
Permalink
HoltWebb
 
so slow
BookSmart

Oh, and I’m running a top of the line Pro Mac Dual Quad Core Xeon with 16 gigabytes of RAM, 4 terabytes of hard drives and the latest version of Snow Leopard. I’m able to work with multiple images of 200+ megabytes simultaneously in Photoshop. So, I know my system can handle the load.

I challenge Blurb to look into the autosave feature, run some tests and make the autosave feature a "selectable" option. (If it would be easier, just put out a patch and let me run the test for you.)

Posted by
HoltWebb
Aug 19, 2010 2:46pm PDT
Permalink
HoltWebb
 
so slow
BookSmart

I think I figured out why Booksmart gets so slow.

Yes, large image files have a lot to do with it, but the real culprit seems to be the "Autosave" function. In the latest version of Booksmart, the app automatically saves your work ever 10 seconds or so (someone please correct me if that number is off). On small books with small files, that can go relatively unnoticed. But on large books with lots of large images, the autosave function will slow you down. Think about how long it takes to save a 2000×3000 pixel image in Photoshop… A couple of seconds, right? Now, multipy that times the number of images in your book and you’re in for a 10 second or longer delay. And when that delay occurs several times every minute, your productivity drops dramatically. It doesn’t matter if you’re moving images, changing layouts, or simply typing in a text box, the autosave function will stop everything you’re doing until it’s finished saving. And all you can do is wait.

If there were a way to turn the "autosave" function off, I’d be willing to bet that these speed problems would go away. I’ve brought up the issue with Blurb support. We’ll see if they take it seriously.

Posted by
HoltWebb
Aug 19, 2010 2:40pm PDT
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HoltWebb
 
Best Blurb Books Contest
General Interest

I still think it’s unfair to require a book be purchased to enter a contest. Yes, you receive something for your money (a book you worked hard to design), but those of us who made big, expensive books might not be able to afford to purchase our book — making it difficult or impossible for us to enter.

And, no matter how you spin it, "popular vote" has very little to do with how much the "public" likes a particular book. It has almost everything to do with how many friends you can get to vote for you. Not a very truthful way to select a quality work. Even if you do have professional judging in the second round, that doesn’t mean that the finalists were the best or even the most popular. It’s a nice idea, in theory, but it really doesn’t work right in practice.

Posted by
HoltWebb
Dec 18, 2009 9:03pm PDT
Permalink
HoltWebb
 
Best Blurb Books Contest
General Interest

Oh, by the way, I just found out that if we want to enter our book in a Blurb contest, we have to purchase our book first. I already own a copy of my book. So do my friends.

My book costs me over $80. That, on top of the entry fee, amounts to a considerable investment — especially in a contest where the finalists are picked by online public voting.

Are Blurb’s contests just a way for Blurb to sell more books?

Posted by
HoltWebb
Sep 20, 2009 9:10am PDT
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HoltWebb
 
Best Blurb Books Contest
General Interest

I think it’s great that Blurb is doing contests. However, I wonder if the current contest trend of online "public voting" is the right way to select finalists…

 I’ve entered a couple of photography contests that use online public voting (and have watched several others from afar), and it always seems the people with the most friends, and the most email addresses win.

Contest promoters try to prevent voting fraud by only allowing one vote per person, but there are numerous ways to vote multiple times without being able to be tracked. And, the more votes you can scrounge up for yourself, the better your chances.

I’ve seen some very good entries get pushed out of the competition (and some truly bad entries take their place) solely because one person was better at drumming up votes than the other. It had nothing to do with the quality of the entry. (Just look at the fiasco created by Lenovo’s "Win Your Dream Assignment" competition.)

I guess what I’m trying to say is that public voting creates an atmoshphere of competition to see how many votes we can round up, as opposed to seeing how many unique visitors actually like your product. It’s no longer a competition to see who’s product is best. it’s a race to drum up votes.

The best product doesn’t win, but the most prolific vote-getter does.

Is this really the best way to choose the Best Blurb Book?

Posted by
HoltWebb
Sep 20, 2009 8:55am PDT
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HoltWebb
 
Print file huge. Takes a long time to print.
BookSmart

I recently (and reluctantly) installed the new software on my Pro Mac, hoping that its incredible power (16GB of RAM, dual Quad Core Xenon processor, and 4 internal 750GB hard drives) would help speed things up.

Unfortunately, the program runs as slowly as it did on my weaker PC. And, I think I might have an idea what the problem is…

Every click, every font correction, every edit, literally every single move within the program requires 15 to 30 seconds before the software is ready for another move. Could it be that the "Always Save" function causes the program to pause and save after every "event", slowing down the creation process? Could it be that if this function were modified or turned off that the software would run faster?

 Is anyone else having problems with their 100+ page photo books?

Posted by
HoltWebb
Jul 15, 2009 12:06pm PDT
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HoltWebb
 
Print file huge. Takes a long time to print.
BookSmart

Actually, I have been corresponding with a tech support rep named Mark. So far, he’s provided the standard suggestions of reducing image filesize, removing unused images, and upgrading to version 1.9.9… all of which I have done.

I’ve been using BookSmart on my HP laptop (2GB RAM, 160GB hard disk, 50GB free space). But, I’m afraid to put it on my Mac. I can’t say running BookSmart on my PC is actually "buggy", but it’s flaky enough to cause me to hesitate putting it on a pristine isolated Mac that will never see the risk of downloaded material. 

Posted by
HoltWebb
Mar 13, 2009 8:16am PDT
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HoltWebb
 
Print file huge. Takes a long time to print.
BookSmart

I’ve had the same issues that JLGHammond is having. I’ve tried to print to PDF, but even after running it all night (with no other programs open), it still hadn’t gotten past page 3. And, when I try to print straight to my HP printer, it only prints 31 pages (and takes several hours). Is 31 a magic number of some kind? I’ll bet there is a limiter in the software somewhere.

I don’t need to proof the book for color or clarity at this stage. I’m just checking the layout. But, with a book currently at 177 pages, half of which are full-page photos, and weighing in at over 2GB, I’m beginning to think that proofing to my own printer isn’t a possibility.

I’m upgrading BookSmart 1.9.7 to version 1.9.9, but have heard horror stories about layout problems when importing an existing book.

Posted by
HoltWebb
Mar 11, 2009 3:29pm PDT
Permalink
HoltWebb
 
so slow
BookSmart

Time to make a correction…

I’ve given BookSmart 8 hours to "cache", and it’s still running incredibly SLOW!

It sometimes had difficulties prior to the upgrade, but now, it’s just impossible to work. Every single change I make takes at least 45 seconds, and the program stalls while that 45 seconds ticks by. This isn’t just a "once-in-a-while" occurrance. This happens whether I’m editing text, adding pages, changing fonts, moving photos, moving pages… you name it.

Granted, BookSmart is a lot better than any other "bookmaker" I’ve tried (and I’ve tried MyPublisher, Lulu, and others), but it’s prohibitively slow. Even Photoshop CS3 operates faster.

Why?

Posted by
HoltWebb
Mar 9, 2009 12:07pm PDT
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HoltWebb
 
so slow
BookSmart

I, too, notice that everything takes a while upon first opening the program.

However, ANY modification to the spine text, even after the program has been running for several hours, still takes an eternity. And, it’s just the spine text that I have trouble with. Once all the images have loaded, everything else works fine, but trying to enter or modify text in the spine takes several minutes.

Posted by
HoltWebb
Mar 9, 2009 4:48am PDT
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HoltWebb