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Review: Publishing books via Blurb

Table of Contents
Intro About Blurb Adding Pictures Picture Spanning
Summary Blurb Response #1 Blurb Response #2 Updates
Color Profile Artistic Blur / Bokeh Spanning Conclusion
Where to buy Alternatives    


Tips for publishing photo books on Blurb

This lens will hopefully help those of you publishing books for the first time using the self publishing service and software offered by Blurb. These are some points that I wish I knew when I published my first book.

See the color of the paw prints? It's not supposed to be that color. Here's a link to my revised book on Blurb for those who want to see the "real" color.

If you're visiting this page again, thanks! You will find my comments on the revised book after the "update" section.

About Blurb

Blurb is undoubtedly one of the more popular sites where people go to publish their own books. They have their own software you can use which is pretty easy to get the hang of. They will also accept books in PDF format should you choose to go that route. You can put your book up to sell to the general public or set your book to "private" where others cannot see it.

Unlike other self publishing online service provides Blurb does not charge a fee to sell the book you just created. You must however buy at least one copy. Should you choose to sell your book, you can set your own markup, offer a 15 page preview and Blurb will do the rest (invoice and send).

Blurb also offers different sizes of books, different covers and different paper types. All with different price tags!

Adding Pictures

If your book has a lot of pictures then keep this in mind. You will most likely need to edit your images, making the brighter. This is necessary because Blurb will print them darker. Your images will not look like they do on the screen, far from it, in my experience.

Just how much, I have no clue. For those of you who want to get it perfect, there is a way. You will need to get the color profile for the printers that Blurb uses. Here's a good tutorial that I found and plan to follow:

Seriously, there are no warnings within Blurb's software in regards to prints coming out dark. I was not a happy camper when I got my book. If your book is photo heavy, you need to be aware of this, because Blurb probably won't reprint for you or refund you. I can't even get them to respond to my email enquiry.

If you don't go for the printer profiling then I guess you just gotta do the trial and error method. Just note that Blurb will charge for each trial.

For my photos, I edited them and made them brighter using my computer setup and photo printer, they looked perfect but my product from Blurb came out darker. Personally I feel that the darker version of the photos do not look as nice (that's why I edited them in the first place) and from the few people I've showed the book to, they agree, darker photos don't look as nice. What do you think? The photo here has not been edited except for cropping and resizing to upload here. Notice the color difference? Especially under the chin.

Picture Spanning

If you want one picture spanning 2 pages, it's possible and looks really nice. Provided you set it up correctly.

To do this, just put the same image on the two pages being spanned and increase the size of the photos (on both pages equally) and move the pictures around until they join up nicely.

Here's the kicker. What looks nice on the screen IS NOT how it will turn out in print. This is due to the binding. You would think that the software would compensate somehow but that's not gonna happen. You have to guess, I guess. I haven't been able to find any documentation on how to get it perfect. If you browse some of the books on Blurb's site, you will notice that a lot of the spanning images look perfect in the preview, yeah mine did too. but when I got the book only 3 out of 4 spanned images came out ok. The one that didn't was my title page...SIGH!

Other books you will notice the spanned image does not look quite right. That is because the author has taken into account the binding offsetting the image. Usually the image on the right side page will show some of the image of the left page. Hope that wasn't too confusing.

The image show here you will notice that ear on the page (right side) does not line up with the total image. Trust me, it was perfect in the preview. If you don't believe me check out the preview on blurb. Http://

So in my revision of the book I will move image on the right over about 1 cm. Or I may not take the chance and not span the image.


Blurb does make it pretty easy to get your own book published using their proprietary software "Booksmart" (which runs on both windows and mac). The paper quality for the "regular" paper is good, so the "premium" paper must be better? Not sure yet, haven't ordered one yet. The soft cover however feels like laminated "regular" paper as opposed to a more thin cardboard feel.

Blurb's pricing can seem quite steep especially if you consider the amount of times you have to re-publish your book because they don't warn you about the issues discussed here. Yes,you will have to pay again for each time you re-publish your book.

If you can get it right on the first try, then the pricing isn't that bad at all.

Blurb Response #1

I got a response....Copy n paste of the email:

Response (Eri) - 09/14/2009 01:58 AM

Hi Ray,

Thanks for letting us know about this problem with your order. Can you please let me know which pages/images specifically printed dark and provide an image of the received book? This will help me determine the source of the problem so I can assist you accordingly.

Blurb does not technically honor color/ICC profiles--meaning we do not guarantee an exact match between what you see on screen and what will appear in your printed book--but there are ways to manage color while anticipating slight hue differences from print run to print run.

Besides ensuring that your images are in the sRGB colorspace, you can also include a color chart in the back of your book so that you can make some adjustments before placing a larger order of the same book.

Furthermore, at the following website, you can find the ICC profile for the machine used to print Blurb books:

Again, please note that we do not technically honor color profiles, nor guarantee precise color management. However, softproofing with the ICC profile found at that website can help your color management workflow.

Take good care,


European Support Specialist | Fluent in Dutch, Spanish, English, and conversant in French

Blurb Response #2

Great customer service !

Response (Eri) - 09/15/2009 10:55 AM

Hi Ray,

Thanks for your feedback.

I'll pass your suggestion to the software design team.

In the meantime, please note that dark areas in your images will print even darker on our printed page. The printed photos won't have light shining through them unlike the photos when seen on your monitor. You will need to adjust your photos accordingly. Fine shadow details are especially likely to be lost, and you may need to adjust the brightness/contrast of your images; if you have the option you can lighten/brighten your shadows and/or midtones as well.

While authors are solely responsible for the content of books, including the characteristics of source images, we do want you to be happy with your order. Therefore, as a one-time courtesy, I would like to issue you a promotional code to fix your book and upload/order your revised project. This code is in lieu of a reprint. It is valid for three months, and is worth the total of your previous order, including shipping. You can redeem this code during checkout by entering it in the "Promo Code" field when asked for payment.

Please let me know if you have any additional questions about this. I hope this helps you get a better book in your hands soon!

Take good care,


European Support Specialist | Fluent in Dutch, Spanish, English, and conversant in French


My new revised book has been upload, ordered and is on it's way. Feel free to have a look here:

In this revision, I have edited the images and previewing them using the HP printer profile that Blurb uses. There are also 10 additional pages of photos!

I got the revised book, here's a photo of the difference using the correct (HP) color profile. The revised book is the bottom one. Don't worry the difference is more pronounced in another photo. Check out the flickr slideshow for a higher res. image.

Color Profile

Check this out. The revised book is the bottom one. Notice the color of the paw prints? It matches the preview on Blurb now! My tigers now come out white, instead of "dirty white". Huge difference don't you think?

I am VERY happy with these color results. But there is something that still prevents me from being satisfied. Read on . . .

Artistic Blur / Bokeh

One word....DON'T. Maybe it's just me but I have a 2 shots that have some blur in it. One is a tiger walking behind the main subject (see image). The other is a blurred paw as the tiger reacts to seeing a potential meal (see Flickr slideshow). Both the blurred parts look weird to me.

The photo has not been cropped or processed in anyway. The left side is what is printed in the book, the right side is from my Canon Pixma ip 4500. Note the color difference (due to the color profiles being different). The blur on the left isn't consistent, looks rather blotchy compared to my own print out. The print size is different, I realized so I printed the other photo with blur, this time my print out is larger than the one printed in the book. Same results. I used a macro lens for the blurred paw shot and you can see the paper pattern. Don't worry, you can't see the paper pattern without using the macro lens.

The bokeh also looks a bit grainy to me but acceptable I guess. Maybe it's my equipment, maybe not. The reason I say this is because my prints (meaning the photos I print on my printer) look better in this regard.

Spanning Pages

If you've seen in the first edition of my book, My attempts span pictures was not very successful. In the second edition, I've limited myself to only spanning pages when the photo is a somewhat easy one to span. This photo for example, where the binding "eats" into the foliage so that the inconsistency is not immediately noticeable. In the other spanned photos, I chose photos where the span "eats" into the body of the tiger where matching the almost horizontal line of the back was easy to match up and again not so noticeable at first glance.

My suggestion is not to span pages unless you absolutely must AND the image is relatively easy to match up.

My Verdict

I will contact Blurb regarding the printing of the photo with "artistic" blur and see what happens. In my opinion, I think it's too much of a hassle really. I've had 2 books made and still not satisfied. It's kinda like placing an order at a restaurant and what you got wasn't "right"...TWICE!

I'm sure others have gotten awesome results their first try, but that is not my experience and not those of many of the people that has posted on Flickr's Blurb group.

I have yet to try any other publishing service but I will. At least I know now, exactly what to expect from Blurb's printers. If I print another book with Blurb, it'll be a pretty straight forward book photographically. No bokeh, blur, and spanning.