Photo Books from Blurb: A High-Tech Gift Idea with Low-Tech Charm

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printing and binding. Back at the Blurb website, you specify how many copies you want and enter your credit card and shipping details, and you’re done.

My book showed up in about nine days. I’m seriously impressed by the quality and workmanship of the final product. And the book looks exactly like BookSmart said it would, which is no small thing. I think my parents are going to like it. (You’re not still reading, are you, Mom?)

To bring the story full circle: it turns out Blurb isn’t just about physical books. As a cool bonus, you can order an e-book version that replicates your book in PDF form or in Apple’s iBooks format, viewable on iPads and iPhones. I did that for my Italy book, and you can download it to your iPad for free here.

In fact, Blurb has a whole online bookstore where you can sell both print and digital copies of your books. For print books, Blurb sets a base price and lets you set the markup, which is yours to keep; for e-books, Blurb keeps a flat 20 percent. The company can also help you submit your e-book to Apple’s iBookstore (but beware—Apple keeps 50 percent of each sale).

Cover image from Wade's Italy book from Blurb

Cover image

All in all, Blurb provides an interesting taste of publishing’s possible future. It’s one where small, custom jobs for specialized audiences reign; where design and production tools have been opened up to non-professionals; where there’s a lot more fluidity between print and digital formats; and where the whole thing is wrapped up in a friendly e-commerce infrastructure.

If you’ve got a digital camera, or even just a smartphone, chances are you have some pictures you haven’t yet shared with friends or family. Why not choose some of the best ones, arrange them into a story, and make someone a Blurb book? It’s something they’ll still appreciate years from now, long after they’ve used up the Chanel No. 5 or gotten bored with Call of Duty Black Ops II. And you’ll have more fun giving it.

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6 responses to “Photo Books from Blurb: A High-Tech Gift Idea with Low-Tech Charm”

  1. Kevin Hogan says:

    Great review Wade. One Mac-centric question: Is there any reason to use this program as a Mac user? I have had success using iPhoto to do basically the same thing at around the same price. Are there additional benefits?

    • Wade Roush says:

      Hey Kevin, thanks for the comment. I’ve never finished a whole book project using iPhoto. But from a quick comparison, I’d say Blurb’s BookSmart offers more templates and more flexibility, including the ability to make custom templates. Also, Blurb has an e-commerce layer where you can sell a book or an e-book through their online bookstore or iBooks. With iPhoto, Apple seems to be aiming squarely at average consumers, whereas Blurb is more for prosumers or creators — but is still simple enough for beginners to use.

  2. Thanks for the fun read, Wade. Now I really want to try this!

  3. Mike Hunt says:

    Is there a world outside of Central lake, MI?

  4. Jamie Roush says:

    Very nice. I’ll keep my mouth shut about what’s waiting under our tree for Mom and Dad if you give me one of those Amazon gift certificates.