I love Blurb. I use them all the time. I think the books they create are so, so beautiful, and they make for amazing keepsakes and gifts.
But I don’t understand how their name keeps coming up in the self-publishing world, because I don’t see how you could possibly self-publish with them in any kind of commercial sense.
What Blurb is Great For
The first time I used Blurb was back in 2008. I’d spent three months backpacking with my best friend Sheelagh (you can read all about it in Backpacked) and, at least every other day, trekking to the nearest internet cafe to update our travel blog so our family and friends—and especially my mother, who had Interpol on speed-dial lest a day went by when I didn’t check in—would know where we were and how we were getting in. So when I discovered that I could take the text from our blog and our hundreds of photos and turn them into a beautiful, hardcover photo book, I thought it’d make the perfect memento for me and the best ever Christmas present for her.
Another time I used it for something I’d probably use CreateSpace or Lulu for now. I was organizing my inbox when I discovered a whole load of e-mails between me and a very good friend of mine from a few years back, and they were hilarious. (We’re both quite funny in e-mails, thank you very much. Plus we were always doing silly things, so there was always plenty to be funny about.) Because we didn’t live in the same place—we weren’t even living on the same continent for a lot of it—the e-mails were complete stories, and I thought it’d be fun to read back over in years to come. So I used Blurb to make a book of the e-mails, in chronological order, and gave it to him as a present.
This past weekend was my mother’s 60th birthday, and I gave her a large, square ‘coffee-table’ style Blurb book filled with old pictures that I’d scanned while she was away on holidays, and new ones I’d stolen off her computer. Perfect. (And slightly evil…!)
My mum and I in one photo spread over two pages in Blurb’s ‘large square’ coffee table style photo book with image wrap and premium paper.
This is what Blurb is great for, because the books just look fabulous. They’re beautifully put together, and their premium paper feels fantastic. They’re great for presents, weddings, graduations, yearbooks, a book of your mother’s recipes, blogs to books, or just a place to put all those digital photos you took but never developed. They also ship lightning fast, and you can order just one copy of the book if you like. Best of all is it’s so easy to make a Blurb book—you just download their software, Book Smart, to your computer, and then it can be as simple as dragging and dropping.
So: yay for Blurb.
What Blurb is Bad At
But it costs a bloody fortune.
Now don’t get me wrong: in terms of the pure joy the Blurb books I’ve made have brought to people, they’re utterly priceless. The books I’ve made as gifts have all been absolutely worth what they cost. But if we think of this in terms of self-publishing, where we intend to sell our books and collect a profit, it’s just not doable.
- My backpacker book was Blurb’s ‘standard landscape’ size and 102 premium pages with a dustcover. One copy is €47.43 before shipping.
- My e-mail collection book was Blurb’s 240 pages of Blurb’s ‘pocket’ size (think your average paperback) in hardcover with image wrap. One copy is €18.26 before shipping. Were I to go with a softcover edition, it’d be €9.84.
- My mum’s 60th birthday book was Blurb’s ‘large square’ with 106 premium pages and image wrap. One copy is €84.24 before shipping.
(€10 = $13 = £8.50, approximately).
For any of you that have just experienced a coronary event, may I say again: these prices are worth it when I’m giving these books as special gifts. And the product is so beautifully put together, I don’t mind that the price is that high, because you’re getting what you pay for. And Blurb frequently send out e-mails with 10% or even 20% off or other promotions, so hang around long enough and you’ll get a discount code.
But for self-publishing/selling, who’d pay nearly €100 for a book?
I think this comes down to the fact that for photographic books, Print On Demand self-publishing just isn’t there yet in terms of an affordable product.
But take the e-mail book, for instance, which is very similar in size and spec to my 5.5. x 8.5. CreateSpace paperbacks. CreateSpace are definitely creating an inferior product, but it does the job, and it does it for just $3.50, or about a quarter of what Blurb would charge for the same thing. And of course, CreateSpace are throwing in distribution, Cover Creator (ahem), monthly royalty payments, Amazon.com, etc. for that.
So, please, go use Blurb to create stunning books that will make you and your friends and family very, very happy.
But self-publishing with them? I don’t think we’re quite there yet.
Have you used Blurb? For presents or for publishing? Share your experiences or thoughts on it below!