This Blurb helping turn books into major marketing tools
by Alan Zisman (c) 2012
published in Business in
Vancouver 27 November 2012 Issue #1205 High Tech
Office columnUzbek translation by Sherali Niyazova, Kazakh translation by Alana Kerimova, Dutch translation by Justin Watson, Azerbijanian translation by Amir Abbasov
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
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
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
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.