Photographer Banned by Blurb Books

Photographer Jonathan Saunders found out like most people (I know we’ve covered this ground before) that Blurb Books are completely hit-or-miss in the quality of the final product. Much of this can be chalked up to blurb trying to find the point where acceptable cost meets acceptable quality. I had an interesting conversation last week with the Modern Postcard dudes where they said that the business started because they couldn’t find any reliable printers for their high end photo heavy real estate brochures, so they built their own printing facility and suddenly discovered the immense challenge of gang printing photographs and working with photographers who have an eye for detail and color. They told me the majority of their employees work in customer service.

So apparently after he saw some extremely high quality books at the Photography Book Now party in the fall of 2008 Jonathan decided to give Blurb another shot even though he had tried their service previously and been disappointed with the results. Then “Blurb banned me when I pointed out to Blurb the books at the Photography Book Now party in the fall of 2008 are of a higher quality then I was able to receive when placing an actual order with Blurb. So instead of helping me achieve that quality, Blurb “disabled” my account for me without my permission since Blurb could not achieve the quality Blurb advertises or actually support the B3 system I paid for.”

You can read the full story (here), but it looks like Jonathan did everything within his power to get a book that matched his expectations including paying for a higher quality product, contacting customer service and complaining and submitting frequent lengthy emails. I was thinking that I might say to him “too bad buddy” you got advertised to. It happens all the time where the marketing pushes your expectations beyond what the product can deliver but I think in this case it’s blurb that’s making the mistake by pushing very hard to be a print on demand book company for professional photographers and failing to meet the bare minimum of consistency and quality. A photo book that’s printed right is only as good as the photography on the pages and if Blurb would like to use professional photographers as their marketing vehicle they need to step up to the plate and meet their expectations. Banning someone from ever using your service again is headed the wrong direction.

There Are 84 Comments On This Article.

  1. I paid a few extra bucks when Blurb introduced its high quality paper option and was very disappointed in the results. I compared the paper with an older version and the two were almost identical.

    For cheap little coffee table books, I think Blurb serves its purpose. However, for anything you want to show someone who’s not your mom, a photog’s best bet is custom printing and binding. On my last trip to NY, I got to see Matt Gunther’s bound book and it was terrific.

    WHCC is now doing books which are more expensive than Blurb, but I’m curious how the quality is. If you’re just doing a few books, I think the price would be worth it.

    • susie cushner

      @john n.,

      What is WHCC?? I’d like to look into it. Just received a disapointing result from BLURB.
      Thx.

  2. This is an interesting story. I’ve been meaning to use Blurb for some time now and, when I get my act together, will do so. A good friend of mine has produced several good looking books with Blurb. His first attempts were of very variable quality but after a couple of trial runs he learned what adjustments he needed to make to his photographs to get everything looking good. I imagine I’ll waste a couple of books before I get something acceptable. The product is very cheap so I’m not expecting a really high end product but of course I want my work to look as good as possible. Hopefully the kerfuffle being raised here might get the folks at Blurb to raise their game.

  3. I know Blurb and they’re work. I have been disappointed; thoroughly disappointed each time I’ve ordered a book the same book. Its pretty ridiculous to pay $120+ for an awfully printed book. Jon is right in every aspect to demand that they print his work correctly. Blurb has a hard time printing books so that they look nice much less beautiful. Camille and the guys over at Fastback Books, http://www.fastbackbooks.com/
    are great. They offer custom on-demand printing with excellent customer service, Camille is a very talented photographer herself with an uncompromising eye for quality and best of all you can visit them in person if you live in NY. I think its time that photographers be the ones that ban Blurb instead of the other way around.

  4. How does the saying go?…”Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”

    In the real world of printing you only get one shot, if they can’t turn it around and deliver, you move on to somebody who can. I understand Jonathan’s pain, been there, but he put himself in a position to get burned. Personally, I would have spent my energy finding a better alternative and then told everybody I knew about how much friggin’ better it was and how crappy Blurb is.

  5. Sounds like Blurb didn’t handle this in the best way, but this is telling: “Now I am a particular guy and expect a higher level quality then most.” [sic]

    I’ve done a few Blurb books and their quality isn’t the same as a high-end, state-of-the-art offset press, but they’re much better quality than Lulu and way cheaper than Fastback or any other comparable POD printer I’ve seen.

    You don’t go to McDonald’s and expect foie gras, but the fries sure are tasty.

    I imagine the wording of “print device” is probably an attempt to be more concise – after all, is a “printer” a company/facility or a device? It’s my understanding that Blurb subcontracts out the actual printing to various facilities with the

    Ya gets what ya pays for, as they say.

    And sure, Blurb could have been more responsive and really should have kept their promises vis a vis the B3 service but as for not wanting to continue a relationship with a customer who is a self-described “particular guy”, I don’t necessarily blame them.

    Maybe I’m just playing devil’s advocate here, but isn’t this the same blog that advocated “firing your clients” from time to time?

    • @dude,
      Initially I was leaning towards “you get what you pay for” and the fact that they showed the best books they’ve ever printed in their marketing is par for the course.

      But, the thing that’s unique about this product is the labor that goes into making a DIY book and you really need to rely on the examples you’re give as proof of the final product.

      That combined with a photography book contest that uses people like this as jurors:
      http://pbn.blurb.com/juror4
      Jurors who would likely go ape shit if a printer didn’t deliver a quality product.

      And, so I think he’s right to call them out on it.

      • @A Photo Editor,

        Actually, the mass-market POD bookmaking process is generally pretty automated and is not very labor intensive. For instance, a Xerox I-Gen system (like the ones Lulu uses) will print, fold, collate, laminate and perfect bind an entire book in-line.

        Places like Paperchase and Fastback do a more labor-intensive (and higher quality) product and it’s reflected in their pricing.

        What Blurb does well is to take a technology, standardize it (within limits of course) and make it cost effective. It’s like a Corolla (LuLu, Cafepress, iPhoto, etc.) vs. a Lexus (Blurb) vs. a Maybach (Paperchase? Fastback?). They all do the same thing but each one does it with an increasing level of quality and customization.

        Besides, if you want to impress the heavy-hitters on the jury panel, then you can just get your book printed at Paperchase or Fastback and submit it to Blurb’s contest.

      • @A Photo Editor,

        I have regularly used Blurb for portfolios for commercial projects and have been very pleased with their quality and consistency. In fact it has helped me land significant business from a Fortune 100 company. It is imperitive the photographer have a completely color matched and calibrated system. We calibrate all our monitors and printers on a regular basis and use Blurb’s professional version with ICC profiling. As long as we do that we get excellent results and have been very pleased with their service.

        Wonder if the person you mentioned really understands color matching and ICC profiling?

  6. The lesson here is how not to handle customer dissatisfaction. Blurb could have said “sorry we can’t meet your expectations…” blah, blah, and maybe “…keep the book no charge.”

    But obviously the strong arm tactic has backfired. Now we’ll hear about other dissatisfied Blurb customers…can’t be the result they wanted.

    Customers/clients tend to talk more about bad experiences than good ones…no need to encourage it, especially to someone with a blog.

  7. After much reading at the Blurb forum and elsewhere, I finally took the plunge and did a hard cover book with the highest quality paper Blurb has to offer. To be fair to Blurb, I am going to list the weak points and the strong points of their product.

    Weak points:
    - the print quality just isn’t there. And by there, I mean to a professional photographer standard, where you can take the book and use it as a portfolio piece. No way. The images lacked pop; shadow detail was a bit muddy and some of the images were a bit soft (and the files are not soft).

    - you can’t actually get a colour profile from Blurb to soft proof it! This is incredible. The tech guy – after figuring out I wouldn’t take no for an answer, actually told me “we don’t print with a colour profile” How, I’ll never know (!), though I would be happy to be educated on this one.

    Strong points:
    - the drag and drop software that you use to create the books, is very, very good. Easy to use; heaps of options. Just terrific.

    - the ordering process – like the software – is very good. Exceptional. The whole user experience just worked for me. I felt they really sat down and worked out a great workflow and built good tools around it.

    - delivery was incredibly quick and this was from the US to rural New Zealand. I received emails every step of the way. Again, solid delivery workflow.

    Verdict?

    The book was a gift and the person loved it. Out of 10, I would give the print quality a 7. For a portfolio piece, it has to be 9 or higher for me (like the quality of prints my lab produces).

    As for having to do a couple of books to ‘get it right’. Sorry, that just doesn’t cut it with me. Blurb has to get it right at there end. As for their tactics with the photographer in the original post, well, Blurb will learn the hard way, I’d say.

  8. scott Rex Ely

    Couple of points:
    Right now we just live in a jpg world.
    Being uniquely demanding customers is unfortunately an ignorable condition.

  9. Speaking of overpromising and false advertising – Paperchase advertises in their email blasts that their books are cheaper, but their estimator doesn’t include the “prepress” charges – I thought the point of a digital press is there is no “prepress”.

    Also an apples-to-apples (kind of like red delicious to granny smith) comparison shows:

    Blurb 11×13 @ 80 pages (without the stupid logo): $84.95

    Paperchase 11×14 @ 80 pages (no proof, for more similarity to Blurb’s process): $219.95

    Like I said, ya gets what ya pays for.

    • Tamara Gide

      @dude,

      I think one of the differences though is that with Blurb you can only use their own software, and with Paper Chase you can use whatever software you want, which means you have to have prepress work done too.
      I always thought that was included in their advertised price….

  10. Having done a “real” book, (Core Memory, 2007 Chronicle Books)
    ,And a few Blurb books. I have to disagree with a lot of people here.
    I think for the price and the quailty I have gotten these book are just fine.
    I have shown these as portfoilo books. I hav shown these as a “idea” for a layout of a new book. The feedback I have gotten (from people whom for the most part would call me out) was that they were pretty darn good.

    Are they Great? Well is everybodys printing Great in their Portfolio?
    I love the layout program. Look it is about 90 books a big book
    That is a good deal. Everyone’s idea about what is great is different, (to state what we all know) so what is great for you is good for me is bad for……..
    Great books have been made on even bad presses

    I think of Jonathon like a brother..( ok a funny but weird brother I see once a year)… but I think I disagree here.

    I like them.

    Now back to work on my next book ( I hope!?)
    Flame on!

    Mark Richards

    • @mark richards,
      It is all about expectations. The person I gave it too loved it. And yes, I could see the value in using it as a layout book like you mentioned. But what I ended up with print wise, nope, just not good enough to show creatives, but hey, that’s just my experience!

      If it works for you, it works for you.

  11. I recently had a book made by Blurb to serve as a portfolio and showed it for the first time yesterday to a creative director. I wasn’t 100% percent satisfied about how some of the images looked (some of the smaller images seemed a little muddy and dull while the full bleed images looked great). More importantly, the guy that can hire me liked it and commented on how good it looked… which I was a bit worried about.
    I feel more comfortable mailing this book than something less easily replaceable. I’m satisfied enough to order another.

    Not to mention I can use the money I saved to actually produce work so I have something to put in the book.

  12. I’ve used Blurb once in the past. I had the cover arrive with glue smeared across it and some pages completely off in color as though the machine had run out of ink. I’m grateful that people are sharing their issues with companies such as Blurb and while no doubt they provide a good product some of the time – I find it’s not worth it to work with them and take my chances. If I pay for a product, I expect it to arrive in perfect shape.

    That being said, I contact their customer support team who was not very helpful an in fact, downright arrogant. Way to build a business…I say we aren’t in a recession – we are just at a point in time in business where the quality of product has sunk so low that people are sick of shelling out their cash for them.

  13. I’ve been through the whole POD rack since the early days, as well as being a graphic designer who has done a stack of “real” books… and I got excited about last year’s Blurb B3 program after thinking Blurb ca. 2007 was pretty lame. But the quality control issues remain — either most of their customers don’t care or give up — the chances of getting a perfect book are pretty slim. Sometimes they actually will nail the greyscale so that it isn’t color cast or muddy — but then the binding will suck. Or things will be bent. Or something….

    I think the best thing to do is to get as big an Epson as you can justify and simply print your own, then send the pages off to a good craftsperson bookbinder. Or just put them into a Lost Luggage/Pina Zingaro portfolio and go work on other stuff. It’s better to have a couple $500 tradition portfolios than 30 crappy Blurb books.

    The notion that you can automagically punch up a client’s address on the Blurb site and drop ship your $25 Blurb portfolio book directly to them is a fantasy.

    The only thing I print commercially is a stack of postcards/leave behinds (and business cards) at a local offset printer that allows me to attend press proofing.

  14. I can’t get in a lather about bashing Blurb. I read Jonathan’s rant on his blog and while I do have a bit of sympathy on the customer service side, we just don’t know all of the facts.

    I’ve done a Blurb book and had it reprinted 3 different times, hardcover, dust jacket, regular paper stock and was pleased with the results. One area a lot of photographers excel at is being critical before they think through all of the possible self-inflicted problems.

    First this is DIY. This is CMYK. RGB just ain’t the same! The way that I ensured a good product was not having any expectations for the first printing. You have to treat it like a proof. Once I saw the results of my best guess, I tightened up the files, resent it and I was pretty happy. Ultra-high quality printing? No, of course not. It’s foolish to expect that.

    The mindset for me is to squeeze as much quality out of $30 print job as I am able. Having a good understanding of RGB vs CMYK should temper your expectations . It’s not perfect but it’s pretty cool to think that I can upload a file and in 24 hours have a printed and bound book, and only one! headed my way.

    As for the inconsistency I have no issues, but I expect that a dog will slip through and then I’ll have my chance with their customer service.

    • @Paul O’Mara,

      He did mention receiving different problems from the same files on different books. Doesn’t sound like a color management mistake on his part. Besides he does assignment photography for magazines, probably wouldn’t get very far without being able to keep the colors straight. Also there should be more accountability and consistency with this “premium” program, otherwise what’s the point in spending the extra money.

  15. Last book I got printed from blurb came with another family bound into my wedding book. They replaced the book, yet I’ve never seem happy with the printing. The pictures come out grey and the look darker. I’ve started using iBooks though iPhoto and the printing is untouchable and a 8.5×11 hordcover is only $10 more then that little blurb book.

  16. good for you jonathan for holding them accountable. I guess they did’nt figure on this story ending up on a ‘photo heavy’ blog such as this. I’ve been thinking of doing a blurb book for a little while, but not having actually seen a finished result was holding me back. Now it’s at the bottom of my ‘to do’ list. Thanks for the research and until they get their priorities right…. goodbye Blurb.

  17. Mason, I think you are correct to be skeptical. I’ve signed up for the B3 program and am not in a rush publish a project. Blurb has got a really great idea along with the other POD’s, but it’s a work in progress. On the surface the B3 program seems to be attempting to address some of the issues that may have created the disaster for Jonathan.

    He’s a solid photographer with strong work, but we live in the world of RGB. I am not implying that Jonathan doesn’t understand the process.

    The voodoo that happens in conversion is something we should all understand if we submit for publication but I’m going to lob a potential bomb out there and say that most publication photographers may understand it in theory but not in practice.

    For good or ill, all of the POD vendors allow folks like us to “run with sharp knives”. If the inconsistency issue is such a persistent problem, then why even do business with them?

    But you know Banned by Blurb, how cool is that! Power to the Pixels!

  18. Rosemary

    I think the thing with Blurb is that they use a number of different printers. For example, I have uploaded a book one time and reordered it from the same exact file maybe a dozen times – and the quality from that same exact file has varied widely. Some of the copies ordered at different times are absolutely stunning – the detail is amazing, the shadows are not blocked, and they look wonderful. Other copies ordered at different times (again from the same file) feel more flimsy, have terrible color, and/or blotchy details.

    I would be more inclined to use them if there was more consistency. I am certainly willing to pay more to get the higher quality, but apparently this is not an option with the way their system is set up. Their customer service was very nice, but ultimately unhelpful.

  19. Susanne Richards

    I really felt the book I did with Paperchase was top notch. I have yet to find anyone who can compete in terms of quality and even price. It always gets the attention of buyers too when I show them my book….they have a new special they are running which actually makes it even cheaper. I am going to do this new thing they introduced called a Mighty Mini…its small and super fast to turnaround.

  20. Ian Boys

    I’ve had stacks of books printed with Blurb and given them as Christmas presents and sold plenty too. I’ve only had one problem (with packing, not printing!) and they fixed it so quickly my customer still got their books by Christmas even though time was short.

    All my books are made in Holland as part of the Europan Blurb operation. My feeling from reading about this company on various fora for a couple of years is that one of the US printers might not be up to standard. It’s rare indeed to see any complaints here in Europe.

    Are they perfect? No. Are they damned good for the money? Yes.

    My next wedding shoot will sell in Blurb books, not an album.

  21. I’m using a White House (WHCC.com) bound book, with the hinged paper and a custom photo cover (not using a photo, but my designers logo-based design as a jpeg), and it looks AMAZING. Yes, I pay extra for the hinged paper and the custom cover, but it does not look cookie-cutter with a custom cover, and the price is lower then a print yourself portfolio. But more importantly every AB & AD that sees it, asks me about it, where it was done, etc. They all like it very, very much.

  22. Blurb has never been a Professional Photographers printing house. They did a lot of advertising to get the Flickr crowd to use them but nothing about them is on par with the needs of professional photogs and never was.

  23. Blurb may not even be a decent printer, but it does have great pricing, marketing and software. Have you seen how their profits have skyrocketed over the last few years? From their end, maybe I’d be saying, “who cares, business is booming. Of course a few whiners are going to pop up.”
    I’ve spent well over $1000 on their books, so I guess they’ve gotten their moneys worth out of me. However, I don’t think that I’ll ever print with them again. WHCC’s hardcover books are just too close to the B3 price, and absolutely blow Blurb out of the water. No contest! Plus Blurb’s customer service blows and the whole B3 thing, slows down the turn around time. I wouldn’t mind seeing Blurb adapting or going the way of the dinosaur.

  24. I don’t have a problem with whatever level of quality Blurb decides it needs to maintain in order to be profitable. What I do have a problem with is if they can’t deliver a consistent product. That’s unacceptable.

  25. Erica Chadwick

    As an agent -

    Blurb books are not the way to showcase your work to creatives and art buyers. The printing is just not there, if the creative is influenced by printing in addition to subject matter (and if you want to book jobs, you should assume both are equally important).

    Interestingly enough, I order postcards all the time with Paperchase and I always have to call them 3 times to get an estimate, they promise a proof, it doesn’t arrive, the colors don’t match. As long as you hold their hand along the way the printing is nice, but they could make it easier to work with them.

    I order Blurb books all the time for family albums. Once I had trouble uploading a book and no one would call me. They simply will not call to work out a problem with you. The print quality has always matched darn good to my calibraed monitor when I use Adobe RGB 1998 and sRGB. I disagree with a previous poster that Blurb does not give you a color space recco- it says you should make jpgs in sRGB.

    Both services are lacking in customer service.

    • @Erica Chadwick, Interesting to read your post about colour profiles. My experience was with support via email and they would not give me a profile. Period. Why, I don’t know.

      To read that you received one, just shows me how random their support is and is another reason why I would never use them for professional quality products.

  26. James Walker

    I’ve had quite a few books made with Blurb and Apple and I must say that my experience with Blurb has been very good. The only time there was a fault was with the packaging and they replaced the book original damaged book very quickly. Had quite a few problems with the Apple books with printing quality but they have improved recently.

  27. I had the worst experience with Blurb. I didn’t even have high
    expectations for that matter. I printed three books, and it wasn’t even a color matching issue – my images had red blotches for the majority of the book.
    I complained to Blurb, and they told me that the smaller square format book
    is printed on a cheaper printer then the larger books. I told them that was
    not really fair for them to do that without disclosing that information. I spent
    a lot of time prepping my images, making the cover design, etc. and they inform me after the fact. Long story short, they did nothing for me to give
    me a “better quality book.” I think they gave me a coupon for the next order.
    They totally mislead people to believe that all books are printed the same, when they were NOT. I emailed them recently to see if they are still practicing the same business ethics, and they say that all books are now printed on the
    same type of printer. They obviously changed what wasn’t fair, but never made me a satisfied customer. I paid for their mistake……

    • @Sarah,

      When I get into a disagreement like that, after making a reasonable attempt to solve the problem, I decline the charges on my credit card. then it is up to them to prove they gave you a quality product, which they won’t be able to do.

    • @Sarah,

      When did this happen?

      Back in March 2008 I printed a set of 8×10 wedding proof books along with a set of 7×7 books for a bride & groom to give to their wedding party. Upon receipt I immediately noticed that the 7×7 print quality was much lower than the 8×10 books. I contacted blurb, they asked for sample photos and after a few days agreed to reprint the 7x7s. But it didn’t do much good as the quality was about the same. In Sept. 2008 I received an email from blurb as follows:

      “We’ve always had a thing for our square books – while their size may be a little out of the ordinary, that’s what makes them so fun! You’ve made one, so you know what we’re talking about. You also asked us to bump up the quality on these guys, so from now on we’ll be showing our 7×7 books the same love as their rectangular counterparts.

      Starting today, we’ll be printing all our 7×7 books on the same HP Indigo printers as the rest of our books.”

      I have yet to try them again for 7x7s, but hopefully this addresses that particular problem.

      As for the overall issues discussed here… I agree that the most frustrating aspect has been inconsistency with their sub contracted printers. One just doesn’t know where the book will be coming from and if there will be problems… But to blurb’s credit, at least with me, every time I have contacted them with issues they’ve been quick to respond via email and have always reprinted books when there was a problem.

      As others have stated… would I use them for real portfolio pieces? No. But I do use them to create gift books for friend or proof books for wedding clients. The cool factor of having a customized, printed book made specifically for someone still seems to outweigh relatively minor print quality issues. One has to remember that most people not in the business are used to seeing crummy point and shoot photos day in, day out. And I think this is where blurb is primarily focused despite their claims to the contrary.

      • @Ron Scheffler, I printed my 7×7 books in May
        of 2008. So it seems after I told them they were deceiving their customers by having them
        think that all of their books were printed equally, and that was just plain wrong – they obviously couldn’t continue that lie. I would not have ordered the square book if they disclosed information about the quality being lesser then the larger formats. Blurb told me that I could get a credit and do a larger book….. I said “thanks but no thanks.” I had already wasted a week designing this square book. Besides, I don’t support businesses who treat their customers as idiots.

  28. I recently received my first Blurb book, and have to say that I was surprisingly pleased with the quality of the book, especially considering the price. It makes a great gift that I can give my client, and use as a supplement to my portfolio. Would I make it my only portfolio? Probably not.

    I’ve created the same book with Asuka to see the quality difference (which hasn’t come in yet). But considering the price difference – $17.95 compared to $120.00- I’m not expecting anywhere near the same level of quality.

    I had a terrible experience with Paper Chase, (both print quality and customer service). This cost me a fortune in shipping proofs back and forth from NY to LA, and they never got it even close to right, and they gave me the similar line Jonathan got, “well, you’re never gonna be happy…” But people here seem to like it just fine.

    I think it’s like back in the days of color labs, everyone I knew would swear off one lab or another, myself included. People make mistakes, but it comes down to how that company handles the mistake. Hopefully, Blurb recognizes the importance of customer service…

    but for 1/6 the price of a high-end printer, what do you really expect?

    • Tamara Gide

      @Raymond Adams,

      I also had a rough time with Blurb and found the fact that you couldn’t ever just TALK to someone too infuriating to even give them another chance. After that I went to Paper Chase. At first it was a bit challenging, it took some hounding to get the customer service reps to give my job the attention it really needed. But once I got the book back it looked so spot-on I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else. I’ve noticed some changes over there, new customer service reps, new production manager, and it definitely seems to be working. Since ordering my first book, I’ve done two more jobs with them and they both came out perfect.
      http://www.paperchase.net

      • @Tamara Gide,
        Do you work for Paper Chase? This is the second time you’ve responded to a comment in this thread standing up for them.

  29. Based on the comments here it’s apparent the problem with Blurb books continues to be the consistency of the printing. Considering the investment in time you have to make to prep a book and discover if you got a shit printer or a good one I think it may not be worth the gamble for some people.

  30. Pretty interesting that they banned him. I used Blurb once in the past and didn’t have very amazing results but at the price i didn’t complain. I plan to try again soon as well now that they are offering a higher quality paper. Personally I think it’s a decent quality for the price. Sure it’s not a professionally printed book but hey its less then $100 for a 11×14. Still this doesn’t go into their claims and marketing tactics vs. their final product.

  31. Jamie Klingler

    Having just attended an event in London where Blurb was heavily pitching their books, thought it would be interesting to send this thread to their PR in London. He responded immediately saying he would alert the US PR team and see how they would be responding, but still nothing as of yet.

    Burying your head in the sand seems a silly option.

    • @Jamie Klingler,
      This is what blogging is all about and where it is most useful.
      I’ve printed 3 Blurb books and the quality is ok, not great and I understand color management very well. What troubles me the most is Blurb’s seeming lack of concern about customer satisfaction and user interface. Critiques like this can become viral literally overnight, so Blurb had best get their collective heads out of the sand and start fixing things. My next book, will NOT be by Blurb because of what I have read here. There are plenty of vendors who care about customer concerns and I’m happy to try those that do.

  32. WOW! lots to learn here! again thanks for sharing. I am getting ready to do a DIY book and will see how it goes. Still shop it around- I’m inclined to check out the powerhouse and WHCC book links ; and revisit iphoto- It might be good to try one of each; my dad did a couple BLURB books and he was pleased…will stay tuned in.

  33. I was recently contacted by a book publisher that is interesting in having me present a book proposal, and I had thought about using Blurb to create a sample book. But after reading this thread and considering the time and effort I’d have to put in, I definitely reconsidering.

  34. a week ago, i received my book which i created through Blurb (http://www.kontain.com/thewildimageproject#entries/entry/29998) (http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/693118) A landscape format printed on premium paper. the cost was $85. The book has been at the bottom of the drawer and will not get out. I am a professional photographer and the quality of the book I received is something i can’t simply show. All photos are way too dark, some seems to have was too much pink, all subtleties are gone, and to top it all, the premium paper is a joke. It is thin and fragile, and when i turn the pages, the light comes through and you see the photo in the back. I contacted Blurb and after sending them example of how different it was, they answered me:

    “Response (Padraic) – 05/28/2009 01:27 PM
    Hello Daniel,

    Thank you for the images. This looks to fall within the standard variation of our printers, and does not constitute for a reprint. Each book you order from us is individually made by one of Blurb’s top-notch professional book-printing partners. There may be minor differences across different prints of the same books and/or across books printed by our different book-printing partners, including, but not limited to, slight variances in color fidelity and binding type. While we work very hard to keep our product as consistent as possible, this variation is a normal occurrence and is not considered a manufacturing defect or a defect in workmanship.”

  35. Iìve been so disappointed by blurb, so i decided to make my books in other way, like Aperture printing, or myphotobook way…the print a good quality product, but after all blurb, for the price, makes a decent job..
    the point of strenght of blurb is the ability to allow someone to place an order of your book online, are there different alternatives for this service?

  36. chris shaw

    overall i`ve been quite pleased with the books i`ve made with blurb re the quality and the price..i live in europe.black and whites not so hot..but then its not twin palms publishers its blurb-and i`ve had a book published with twin palms.
    the colour printing in europe is good quality..but then you cant make pearls out of a sows ear!
    there are teething problems with the process but i lke the idea of artists publishing their own very limited edition books.its a great marquette.to hand to publishers..

  37. Over the last 18 months I have had many books printed with blurb, I am a busy professional photographer and know about colour management and all the associated issues/implications. No, these are not finely bound, fold-flat books, but the printed quality has only ever been good, very good. My only issues relate to a lack of quality control with the bindings. However, when I raised my concerns about any individual book, it was immediately replace, WITHOUT QUESTION OR DELAY. Colour fidelity has never been an issue, and I mean NEVER. The only time I had an issue with printed quality, was due to an error on my part, I sharpened the images twice, silly me!
    Clients have only ever had positive things to say about there books, they are great value for money and as such can help to complete a job without adding much to the price. Blurb books are a standard item with all my wedding photography options, if a client wishes to upgrade, they are welcome to do so.
    My vote sits with Blurb, maybe someone else will begin to challenge there position but at this moment in time, unless you pay considerably more, no body can compete with their service.

    Get things right at your end and accept them for what they are, good quality and good pricing.

    Graham

  38. I have been a graphic designer for well over 25 years. I have created hundreds of pdf files to go to printers, so not exactly like I am a newbie. I spent considerable time on this layout in InDesign for wedding book. Downloaded their special pdf export software and then the problems began. Continuous errors on a font. They are sorry I have been “inconvenienced” but they don’t support CS. That is all they will say, no attempt to work with me. It is a little more than “inconvenience” to build for another vendor, but sure don’t want to work with these guys. Thanks for all the info on other vendors. Will try and find one with same size format so I don’t have to recreate the whole thing.

  39. I just ordered my first blurb book and am thoroughly disappointed! I am pretty sure that I could have recieved the same (if not better) quality ordering a photo book from a discount printing site. It is a shame that a site would offer a “quality” product that is really just crap at an unreasonable price!

    • Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that my photography is landscape and architecture. I imagine that Blurb would do just fine for portraits or weddings.

  40. Christine

    I just published a book with Blurb. I also entered the book in the Photography Book Now contest . When I received the book, I was extremely disappinted. The image wrap binding was sub-par, but not to the point of returning as I considered this first copy a “review Print”. However, the quality of the photographs (primarily black & whites) are unacceptable – too dark. I am also knowledgeable about color management and calibration – In order to hopefully get the images so they will print better, I went back and made adjustments to those that absolutely needed help – am hoping they will now print better.

    With so many forums that include professional photographers and designers including those on their website reporting this flaw, it amazes me that Blurb would not launch a major campaign to correct this issue. The other major concern is that I can’t find a telephone number for customer service – so much can get lost in translation in an email. Is this how they hide from problems?

    I am doing research to find another viable alternative – would love to form a list of the Top 5 that we could all share!

  41. I did not find Blurb easy to use. It is definitely harder to put a book together than Shutterfly. I looked at their video and I feel I do not have access to all of their tools. Can someone help me? Is there a written pamphlet available on how to put a book together on Blurb?

  42. What bullshit. If you read Blurb’s forums you will be shocked at how many customers crap all over their product without being banned or censored. He must have gone overboard to get banned.

  43. I’ve 7 or 8 Blurb books by now and printed over 50 of them. One got slightly damaged in shipping but that was not a blurb issue … that’s it.

    Happy with the print quality for the money and the easy of workflow. My digital workflow is calibrated, I use premium paper as there’s a difference in my observation.

    My expectations are based on my understanding of the print process and many years of hands on experience in printing images in a variety of processes. I own hundreds of photography books printed by a wide variety of publishers … there’s an equal variety of print quality ;-)

    I’m happy, my customers are happy, what else can I say ?

    I also use MyPublisher, WHCC, GraphiStudio and have used other wedding book suppliers in the last 6 years … your mileage may vary … all of them have their good and bad points

    Do your research and set your expectations accordingly.

  44. Well, my expectations for Blurb were much more modest. I’ve ordered about 30 soft bound, 20-page photo “books” from Kodak. $19.99 for each book, not including shipping. Blurb has a similar product at a very similar if not identical price, very close in size (although I think Kodak is maybe a wee bit bigger). Now, these type books tend to have a much better looking cover than interior pages but, again, that’s to be expected given the price; and I should say that one should not expect either product to look as good as your Fuji Pearl or Kodak Metallic … okay … got my Blurb book yesterday and it looked flat compared to the Kodak. To my eyes, every image had a less “pop” than the book from Kodak. The images seemed grainier and more diffuse. Now, I realize that whenever we make these claims other people have not seen the books and thus can’t really say whether they’d agree with our assessments … one man’s trash is another’s treasure … understood … But for me, my test of Blub is the literal “one and done”.

  45. Trevor Taylor

    I wrote a 107-page book for my father’s 70th birthday. I ordered a proof copy on Dec 15. I received the proof copy in very short order and it looked great. I used it to make many changes and adjustments and ordered 2 copies for my dad’s birthday on Jan 15.

    I noticed a page didn’t upload into the “book preview” even though it showed in Booksmart. I emailed customer support but they confirmed the file uploaded and it should be fine. It wasn’t both books printed without page 99.

    After emailing customer support I was offered a free reprint. That reprint was horrendous. Streaks and smudges throughout both books. At this point the months of work were ruined as I had no book to give my dad on his birthday – despite my leaving enough to go through 2 prints!

    The “customer service” (what a joke!) agent Michael, offered to have someone inspect the book to be sure it printed correctly. Well apparently the inspectors snapped the binding of both books at page 2. So once I again I emailed and sent photos. After many days (more time to respond to my emails than to print and mail the proof book I might add), Michael responded something about a lay-flat book and how they wouldn’t reprint since I couldn’t be satisfied!

    I don’t know what a lay-flat book is but I just want the book I ordered to be printed and shipped with all the pages their, no printing errors and the binding in-tact.

    I would definitely recommend you look somewhere else as you can’t reach anyone from Blurb. They hide behind their email/live support chat. Save your money and you memories for a company who delivers what they offer!

    PS – I have the entire thread of emails and the pics of my book if anyone is interested: newt_dunbarton@hotmail.com

  46. I need to apologize publicly for my ill-worded line about the customer service agent Michael. I meant to write that I felt Blurb’s customer service system (email/live support) was a joke, not that he and his service were a joke as it came across in my post.

    They have offered a reprint and full refunf of all associated costs with the printing of the book. Hopefully I will finally get the copy I planned on, even though it is weeks after my dad’s 70th party and his actual birth date.

  47. I’m wondering about Jonathan’s being banned. He said “Blurb “disabled” my account for me without my permission…”
    Does this mean that the file, his book, his persona property, was
    confiscated? Was no longer where he could get to it? If a company decides they don’t want to continue with a particular customer,
    they should at least return that customer’s belongings — meaning
    he should have access to the file containing his work. I hope
    that was the case. ??

  48. I have had 2 books printed by Blurb. My first was a 7 inch, soft cover, 20 page used to check their color printing. I and all who saw it were very pleased. The color of the prints matched what I had on my screen and were sent as jpeg. The second book was a pictorial keepsake of my familys trip out to the southwest. It is a 12×12 hard cover with dust jacket, and 238 pages, 512 pictures. Again the printing was just the same as on my screen. Thank you Blurb for preserving our great memorys. I have taken both books to our local Photographic Soc. meetings and recieved much prase. All you whiners should calabrate your screens. Blurb can only print good books from good input. Garbage in / Garbage out!

    • It is very true, Garbage in and Garbage out. Typically that is not the problem with on demand printers. The issue is when your image is printed, does it look like a high quality print or does it look like a magazine page.

      I have printed a couple of books and I am working on another. The problem with the second book I had printed was there were bands that showed up in some of the images. This is a problem with the printer and not my image file. The next issue, some we lighter or darker than what was displayed on test prints and on my calibrated dsiplay. I even verified on a second system. I don’t know of many professionals that don’t use calibrated displays it doesn’t make sense.

      Lastly if the printer doesn’t have some kind of quality control system to ensure they are working at 100% on their end, they are going to need a large customer service staff. When you spend over $100 for a single copy you want it to be right especially if it is art versus a family trip, so I reserve the right to express my dissatisfaction (whine as you word it).

  49. August 7 2011 I published a book with Blurb Books. The book is photographs I took during my 29 months of homelessness while in my 5th battle with cancer.

    At first glance the book looked fine, but after I started having people mail me the books to sign them I noticed how some of the pictures were blurred and the color towards the ends of pages was fadding. Then there were books where pictures had lines through them.

    Last month I had 3 book sales, but blurb lost two of those sales and since then they’ve done nothing more then tell me to be patient. It’s been over 7 days and they have not contacted nor corrected this issue.

    Blurb books fails on so many different levels. As i prepare for my new book, I am not trusting it to Blurb Books

  50. Well, I’ve sold over 300 copies of my book on blurb in the 15 months since I published it. Shameless plug: http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/1644955

    I’ve not had a single complaint from anyone who ordered from blurb or bought a copy from me (personally or via amazon). I’ve ordered abut 75-100 copies myself and every single one looks great. I might be the exception, but , really, I’ve got no complaints.

    I’ve gone so far as to recreate the book as a large landscape HB (11×13) for a limited edition and while spendy, it’s a gorgeous book. Again, as I’ve checked each book, the only errors I’ve found have been my own formatting glitches or spelling errors (now corrected and newly uploaded).

    Before I even created my book, I did a dummy 20 page book to take a look at blurb’s quality and was pleased. I was concerned because I did (and do) read the forums and there is a lot of griping. I’m happy to say, speaking for me alone, I’ve got nothing major to gripe about.

    While I am looking forward to blurb’s addition of an iBook format, I do wish they could/would do something about a distribution deal with amazon. Blurb and I would sell more books that way.

  51. Dave Acheson

    As a graphic designer with 30 years experience and 20 years working on all the major Apple packages I approached Blurb with some trepidation. I had read all the forums and was worried that one day I too would have to write my bad luck story of Blurb gone wrong.

    I sent my 268 page book off in September and had it returned to me within two weeks. I was pleasantly shocked to find it was perfect in every way. Indeed I wished some of my litho printers could do as good a job! People have to understand CMYK is different from RGB and that the Blurb profiles are there for a reason. I checked my 700 photographs in my book twice to make sure everything was right before I sent it off. Time consuming but professional.

    Now I have a 400 pager ready to go – a similar mixture of photographs, illustrations and black text and a 200 page photography book in the works. I hope I am not tempting fate but I hope to get as good a job.

    If I have a gripe with Blurb it would be the lack of an A4 format for British based designers. It’s what we work in 90% of the time.

    Overall I am happy with my book and those I have seen from other photographers and designers who have used the InDesign to PDF format. Fantastic value for money. Am looking forward to an iBook future with the guys though perhaps not just so keen to have to work in BookSmart.

  52. I have just recieved my first Blurb book for a wedding client, and they have printed the page numbers on the pages, but only some pages and not others, looks shocking I can tell you!

  53. Dave Acheson

    Wouldn’t you just know it! I wrote message 75 and have just received my 400 page book back. Colour is definitely not as good as my earlier book and there are two pages crinkled – enough to annoy me!

    Grrrhh!

  54. Dave Acheson

    Re Messages 75/77

    Was in touch with Blurb about the two crinkled pages (one backed onto the other!). Sent them photographs and within a few hours I was told I would get a reprint of my 402 page book. Superb after sales service. Book came within a week and I was told I could keep the original flawed book. Amazed at that! The colour that I felt was slightly off in the flawed edition was now perfect. I am one happy bunny! Thanks guys!!

  55. I’ve printed 14 books of recent photo-reportage projects with Blurb using there simple Booksmart software and have to say that I and my clients have been very happy with the results.
    There was a small problem on one print run that Blurb immediately rectified by reprinting the whole run correctly.
    Im quite hqppy with them but from my experience at the begining think you need to order a couple of books and then adjust your photos accordingly

  56. To answer an earlier question about WHCC, it is a portrait and wedding lab that has really great service and printing, of all kinds. http://www.whcc.com/ Photographers are very picky, and labs like this offer quality and consistency like you wouldn’t believe. After reading one too many reviews about Blurb, I just cant trust them to send a good quality book to clients. Prices are only slightly higher and with guaranteed quality and a lot more size options. They have 2 versions of press printed books/albums. I quickly priced a 10 spread/20 side 8×8 press printed book with wraparound photo cover – $65. Pages are hinged so they lay flat, etc., yadda