My Blurb experience

Finally, after a month, my first two Blurb books have arrived!  Not before Christmas, but at least they arrived.

Support

I emailed Blurb support a few times to ask if they could find out anything about the package.  They did respond with a friendly personal email within 24 hours.  Unfortunately, I had chosen the non-tracking option, so there was nothing they could do.   Disappointingly, they couldn’t even tell me if they had shipped via USPS, FedEx or some other carrier 😦

Shipping Options

If your books mean a lot to you, cost you a lot or you need it by a certain date, I definitely recommend the tracked option now.  I think I’ll be using the tracked option for all future books from now on.  

Interestingly, my books were posted from Sweden to Sydney with Priority Air Mail, then was delivered to me in Perth.  I really wonder how it got to Sweden in the first place!!

Packaging

It was nearly like playing Pass the Parcel.   First was the blue thick plastic bag from Sweden.   Inside was the cardboard box from Blurb.   And inside were the two books which were individually shrink wrapped.   

The cardboard box had a small dent, but there was no damage to the actual books themselves.  

Book Quality

Each individual book was shrink wrapped which was good to see.  At first sight, I was really impressed.  I chose the hard cover with jacket option, and the photos on the jacket were really vibrant and impressive.  The actual hard cover is thick and high quality.

With my larger book (with 312 pages), I only had the standard paper option.  It was only after feeling the Premium paper on my smaller book (74 pages) that I could feel the difference.  The finish of the pages is semi-matte.  

Photo Quality

But the thing I noticed most was that the photos all looked a little “washed out”.  The colours were not as vibrant as I had seen on my MacBook Pro.  OK, MacBook Pros have TN film type LCD panel (http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/apple-macbook-laptop,2130-3.html) which are definitely not good for photo editing or proofing.  And I have a 13 inch model which means I only get 6-bits = 262,144 colours.  But still the results in the Blurb book aren’t what I expected.

The printed out photos also clearly shows up the difference in quality between my Wifey’s Panasonic Lumix Point and Shoot camera and the D70/D80 that I took on the trips. 

After a bit of research, I’ve now realised that I could and should have proofed the photos using the HP5000 colour profile, which matches the type of printer that Blurb uses to print the books (http://www.blurb.com/assets/colormgt_dpreview-v3-1.pdf).  Some other people have also written up some other best practices like cropping photos to the exact sizes before importing into Blurb’s BookSmart software so you can use resizing algorithms in Photoshop and appropriate sharpening techniques.   There’s obviously a time cost to these additional steps, but it will result in getting better quality books.

Layout

The Blurb BookSmart software is pretty easy to use.  Yes, it has it’s quirks (and don’t even think about using the built in iPhoto browser).  I did do some 2 page spreads for panoramas by placing the same photo on both pages and aligning them to appear to be a single photo.  Looking at the final book, these turned out quite well, but due to binding, you can’t actually see right into the middle of the book so you do lose a bit of photo alignment.

As for photo layouts, as long as you keep within the safe region, you’re OK.   Wifey and I had made some custom layouts where we placed a photo on the left page to the far right, and a photo on the right page to the far left.  This layout didn’t look right in the final book as both photos seemed to try to blend into one another.  Something for us to fix on the next book.

Wifey and I also had some disagreements on the use of borders on the photos.  I didn’t want any.  But after looking at the photos with borders, the ones without look naked! 

Value For Money

We’ve shown the books to family and friends and they have all been impressed.  But they all thought that the 2 books would cost over $200, but were all pleasantly surprised when I told them it was about $140 including shipping.

Summary

I’ll definitely create more books with Blurb.  I’ve downloaded the HP5000 profile and can now see the difference in photos on screen.  I’ll have to remember to check this next time, but I can already see it blowing out the amount of time spent on the book!

One day, I’ll get around to creating books on my trip without the family photos so that I can sell them to the public.

Other Links

http://www.brightsideofnews.com/news/2009/7/7/buyer-beware-133-macbook-pro-cant-show-millions-of-colors.aspx
http://mantia.me/blog/macbook-pro-thousands-of-colors/

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4 thoughts on “My Blurb experience”

  1. @Martin Thanks for visiting. We’re hoping to make one photobook for each of our holidays, and maybe one each year to summarise family activities for that year.

    It’s almost going full circle and taking the place of old film photo albums.

    Excuse the photo quality of the pictures in post above – all taken on my iPhone 3G.

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