Accordion Al - image by Ivy, age 10

Business in Vancouver

Canadian Freelance Union- CEP

This Blurb helping turn books into major marketing tools

by  Alan Zisman (c) 2012 First published in Business in Vancouver 27 November 2012 Issue #1205 High Tech Office column

Uzbek translation by Sherali Niyazova, Kazakh translation by Alana Kerimova, Dutch translation by Justin Watson, Azerbijanian translation by Amir Abbasov

Lots of attention has been paid to the way that digital media have shaken up the music, film and publishing industries. Now, the growing use of e-book readers and multi-purpose tablets is bringing changes to the way printed volumes from textbooks to novels are being produced and distributed.

Less noted – along with the drop in music CD sales there’s been a quiet rebirth of production and sales of older-style vinyl LPs. And the same digital technologies that make e-books popular have also – by powering new generations of digitally controlled printing presses – enabled print-on-demand services that make it possible for anyone to produce a book with print runs as short as a single copy.

Seven-year-old San Francisco-based Blurb (www.blurb.ca) promises that anyone can publish a professional-quality hardcover or paperback book, with per-book prices starting around $5. In 2009 Blurb shipped more than 1.2 million books worldwide.

With a free Blurb account would-be authors choose one of three toolsets to lay out their book: an online app, a downloadable (Windows or Mac) BookSmart application or a set of Adobe InDesign plugins aimed at professional designers.

Each includes a range of customizable templates for book sizes and types ranging from text-heavy volumes to graphically rich portfolios and catalogues. After the book is laid out, it gets uploaded to blurb.ca and the user chooses binding, paper quality and number of copies. Additional copies can be printed at any later time, with delivery taking a week or two.

Authors can choose to place their book for sale on Blurb’s online bookstore (in print or e-book format, setting their own price and keeping 100% of the profit) or keep it private. Blurb also provides authors with tools to distribute their book with Amazon and to publicize it on Facebook.

Blurb uses five printers in the U.S. along with one Canadian printer located in the Vancouver area. The company has recently added tools for custom magazine design and publication and for adding multimedia features like online video clips to e-books.

There’s obvious appeal to individual users looking to remember a trip or baby’s first year or self-publish their novel or memoirs. But there’s also business potential.

At a recent session for Vancouver-area photographers, Blurb “photographer at large” David Milnor suggested, “The book is the new business card.”

And increasingly, businesses are producing custom volumes – as part of a marketing campaign, as a sales tool or an annual report. A hardcover edition of a PowerPoint sales presentation given to a potential client is going to be more memorable than a photocopied handout and more permanent than a link to a website.

Vancouver designer Cindy Hughes has used Blurb to product a variety of books for clients. Among them – a company that rents houses worldwide. Now the coffee table of each home sports a hardcover volume with glossy photos and descriptions of all the company’s houses. She also produces custom photo books for dog owners (www.muddylove.com). She has tried other print-on-demand services but prefers Blurb’s paper choices and feels it does a better job printing photos.

While a dozen books won’t fit in a wallet as easily as the a dozen business cards the impact of a well-designed and professional quality book is much higher. Yes, the cost of a book is much higher, but for that special customer or client it can easily be money well spent.