Quick Review: Blurb Photo Book–Portfolio 2008

As promised, here is a quick review of the photo books I ordered from Blurb and received January 3.

Let me start by saying that I am very happy with the books!  The cover is a glossy finish which gives the final product a very professional look.  The print is crisp and stands out well against the black pages.   I chose Blurb’s standard paper for this production run and it has a nice feel to it.  It is neither light and flimsy nor heavy and stiff.  I plan to order a smaller book with Blurb’s premium paper in the future to see how that stacks up.

This is the softcover version so the spine of the book is the flat glued spine you find in trade paperbacks.  The construction seems to be good, although on three of the books the printed setback for the gutter (where the page is connected to the spine) is not correct.  On only one of the affected books is this a problem.  Specifically, on that book you can see white if you open the pages and look directly between the pages.  I have decided that that will be my “knock-around” copy that I keep in the camera bag to show interested people while doing photo walks.

The only other imperfection that I have noticed has to do with the page edges.  The books are put together and then the edges are cut to the proper size (obviously with a huge slicer of some sort).  The cut, while very smooth, is noticeable (especially when you have several of the books stacked together).  I can only guess that the discoloring of the page edges is due to the black background I chose for the pages and that the colored background makes the cut “grain” stand out.

One other thing that I have to file in the “I-wish-they-could-do-this” category has to do with the inside of the covers (front and back).  The theme I chose to create this book is called “Darkroom” and all of the pages have a black background.  The cover is also black.  The insides of the covers (front and back) are white.  While this is less of an issue with the back cover, I find the front cover being a stark white a bit harsh.  I am sure the reason it is left white has to do with technical reasons (maybe the glue in the spine adheres better to un-dyed paper) but it would be nice if they offered an option to have the inside covers some other cover (black or gray would be my choices).

Speaking of options, let me talk about the Blurb software for a bit.  In order to build your book with Blurb, you have to download Blurb’s free software.  The interface is fairly intuitive and walks you through the process of building your book.  Adding pages is easy (good thing, too, since this book has 200 pages).  The layouts for photo pages could use some expansion and flexibility as the options are fairly limited and many are not very usable for a portfolio.  Quite a few of the photo layouts appear to cater to a photo book with more of a scrapbook feel to it.  I realize that I am probably being pedantic on this, but I would really like to have more control over how my photos are displayed in future books.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Remember that I started this review by saying that I am very happy with the results and I stand by that statement.  The issues I have pointed out are not “dealbreakers” for me but they are things upon which Blurb could improve.  This whole experience with putting this book together has been wonderful as well as educational.  Self publishing has made great strides in the past few years and Blurb is just one of the options.  Others are Picaboo, Lulu, and Apple’s iPhoto book fulfillment if you have a Mac (I’ve not used iPhoto, but I have seen books produced from it and they’re quite good).

As always, comments and suggestions are always welcome.  If you decide you want to try making your own photo book and you have questions or just want to talk to someone about it, drop me a message here and I will be happy to help in any way that I can.

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