Building a Book on Blurb

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About five years ago, my good friend and fellow photographer, Michael Connell, wrote about making inexpensive trade books to feature his photography. I really liked his idea. I’ve dabbled in making photo books before, a fancy one a long time ago and several modest ones for my family vacations. But, they all got expensive pretty quickly. I want a way to make inexpensive books; ones that I can either give away as gifts or sell at a reasonable price. Trade books from Blurb seem to be the answer. But there are challenges.

The trade books are vertically (portrait) oriented, which wasn’t optimal for my landscape oriented photos. And, as expected, the paper and print quality is in keeping with the lower price. It took five years but I finally figured out a way around these limitations; to create a worthwhile photo book in the trade book format.

Yesterday, I talked about Daido Moriyama as an influence on my photography. As I looked through his books in person and online, I noticed an unexpected way they were laid out. The photographs were all full bleed (completely to the edge of the page, without any borders) and some were oriented vertically and some horizontally. Portrait oriented photos, as expected, fill a single page, usually matched with another similarly oriented photo. Landscape oriented photos were displayed in one of two ways. Either double truck, meaning the photo spanned two pages or two different landscape photos were paced on each page oriented vertically. I thought this was a unique solution to a vertical trade book.

I also wanted the photos and the subject to match the gritty non-polished feel of the trade book. I’ve really gravitated towards black and white street photography, often with added grain and grit. My recent India trip produced a treasure trove of wonderful street images that I thought would work perfectly.

Blurb has a multitude of options for their trade books. Three different sizes, two kinds of paper, color or black and white, economy or regular print, and three different covers. I selected and even tested a couple of options to optimize for good quality at a reasonable price. Ultimately, though, the book needs to feature my black and whites in an effective way. I think I’ve succeeded and I’m happy with the results.

You can layout a book with Adobe InDesign (and Blurb supplies a plugin) or use Blurb’s custom BookWright application. I don’t have InDesign so I used BookWright, which worked well. It was easy to use and took me a few hours to become really proficient with all the features. The program supplies multiple prebuilt layouts but I created some custom ones. I also had fun designing the cover and the graphics at the start of each chapter. Uploading the book design with all the photos was straight forward and Blurb’s website worked as expected. I found it creative and enjoyed the process.

The resulting book, which came in a couple of weeks (I opted of the least expensive delivery option), looks great. The black and whites have a grittiness that matches the uncoated paper. I was creating an unfussy paperback and it met my expectations. This is not a fancy coffee table book. It’s more of what I call a bathroom book. Something that you can pickup easily and bring anywhere. I even brought it on a few photo outings to show friends and other photographers.

I also have it on my desk at work and often thumb through it in my spare time. A physical book has an entirely different dynamic compared to viewing the same photos on a screen. I really enjoy the tactile feel and I noticed that people spend more time looking through a book. A physical book still seems to holds more significance in our society than something electronic.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk more about the actual book I created. For today, here is my Blurb Page, where you can see a preview and buy a copy if you’re interested.

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3 thoughts on “Building a Book on Blurb

    1. You did a really good write up on the service. If fact your post is one of the top hits on Google for Blurb and Trade Books.

      It took entirely too long to create my book. Can’t believe it’s five years already, since you made yours. I’ll love to show you my book sometime.

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