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Gadget Bag: Self-Publish
Digital image files have made it simple for any photographer to upload and print their own high-quality photo books. A few options online include Bay Photo, Blurb, Mpix, AdoramaPix, AsukaBook, BookBaby and PhotoBook Press, among others. Each of the companies we look at here offers a variety of customizable sizes, designs and features for making your book stand out from the pack.
As convenient as a tablet is, there’s a special cache that comes with a printed book. When you show it to friends and family, or just have it sitting out on your coffee table, the printed page has an allure that compels people to look. If you’re looking to build a photography business, even a part-time weekend business, a book is a perfect way to show off what you can do and it carries gravitas with prospective clients. The custom book publishers make it easy to get reprints at anytime, which means you don’t have to incur the expense of a large print run up front. All in all, it’s no wonder why custom books have become so popular. Here’s a look at some options.
Blurb (www.blurb.com) is a full-service book producer that lets you create your book, order copies and even sell it via the online Blurb Bookstore. Photo books are available in sizes from 7×7 inches to 13×11 and 12×12 inches, starting at $12.99 to $50.99, depending on size, cover and paper stock. Additional pages range from 15 to 75 cents each, depending on size and paper stock. Blurb also offers books in custom sizes, and ebooks with video.
Blurb first asks you if you want a simple book or a book with custom options. The custom option requires a download of the Blurb BookSmart software (the simple option takes you to Blurb’s Bookify software online), which includes robust font and design template options. Upload happens automatically when you place your order, and you’re taken to the Blurb website to complete payment details. Once you order a copy of your book, Blurb keeps it on file in your account, and you always can reorder it.
Bay Photo (www.bayphoto.com) has so many photographic printing options that it’s easy to get lost on the home page. Fortunately, there’s an 800 number for help. The company offers a three-day print run followed by standard two-day shipping. Ten-page/20-side Photo BayBooks are available from 5×5 to 11×14 and 12×12 inches, starting at $28 to $54, depending on size and pages, paper and printing type. Additional pages run from $1.40 to $5.90 each (each page having two printable sides). Bay Photo requires use of their Bay ROES lab connection software. The interface isn’t overly graphical, but it packs a lot of power into a fairly tight space via drop-down menus. When finished with the layout, you can choose paper coatings, page textures and premium 6-color printing.
Mpix (www.mpix.com) makes prints as well as photo books and other photo-related products. Softcover photo books range from 5×5 to 7.75×10 inches, starting at $15 to $25. Page count runs from 12 through 40. Hardcover photo books are available from 5×5 to 8.5×11 or 10×10 inches, starting at $20 to $30. Page counts run from 20 through 50. A 48-hour turnaround is standard on press items. If you order before 11 a.m., your order begins that day, and $10 gets your book delivered the next day.
Auto-alignment and other guides make it easy to position page elements accurately. Font options are limited, but all things considered, it’s a fairly intuitive and functional workflow—especially since it’s web-based software.
Adorama offers lab services, including photo books. The AdoramaPix website (www.adoramapix.com) provides a nice overview of some of the features that set their books apart—including pages made of silver-halide photographic paper. Books range in size from 6×4.5 to 12×12 inches, with 14 to 76 pages. Prices start at $14.95 for a 14-page, 6×4.5-inch hardcover book to $278.95 for a 76-page 12×12-incher. AdoramaPix makes it possible to share your book online so you can provide a link to a =virtual preview (for clients, customers or fans), and they can order books for purchase directly from the site. The order form shows the current lab turnaround time, which is three days as of this writing. You can expedite that to two days for a rush charge. Pickup in the New York store is free, U.S. mail is $7, and UPS Second-Day is $12.
PhotoBook Press (www.photobookpress.com) makes a great first impression. The website looks like the right place to go if you want meticulously crafted art books or presentation portfolios. It appears they set the bar high with a very hands-on, handmade approach. That’s distinctly different from the mass-produced or even lab-made books more typically available.
When you’re shopping around, you’ll notice that the PhotoBook Press website offers a very helpful feature, a button marked “Price my photo book,” so you can determine your total cost, upgrades and all before you begin. The projects are anything but inexpensive, although for the very best construction—a handmade book with a sewn binding—it’s to be expected. The default 36-page, 9×9-inch book is $139 (plus shipping). There are many options for end papers, cover materials and book wraps, so it’s helpful to see how different options impact the cost before you begin. The company offers free custom design software, their professional designers can lay it out for you, you can design it yourself with your own professional software, or you can upload a folder of images to simply make proof books or test prints.
Books are available in sizes from 5×5 to 12×12 or 12×10 inches, starting at $124.60 to $148 for 36 pages. Page counts to 396 are available (a 396-page 12×12 or 12×10 book starts at $718).
AsukaBook (asukabook.com) caters to professional photographers and designers, and offers high-end books from 5.5×8 to 16×12 inches, with 20 to 100 sides (two sides equaling one page). Contact AsukaBook for pricing. You can design your AsukaBook in several ways, including using AsukaBook Maker 2 software, AsukaBook’s Photoshop Blank Templates, predesigned book templates and AutoAlbum book design software from sister company Kubota Image Tools. Note that you take full responsibility for the layout and content of your design, as well as color management.
When the book is designed, AsukaBook’s File Checker will create a PDF file from your JPEG files. You can upload JPEGs directly to the order processing system or upload a PDF file created with File Checker. The program verifies resolution, pixel dimension, file name, color profiles and number of pages in addition to creating the PDF file. You can use AlbumOnline to share your AsukaBook with clients before the printed book arrives.
BookBaby (www.bookbaby.com) offers a variety of books, including photo books from 4.25×6.87 inches ($777 for 100 100-page books, including shipping) to 8.5×11 inches ($877 for 100 100-page books, including shipping). BookBaby also produces ebooks. You first configure your book—choose dimensions, number of pages, hardcover or softcover, binding, etc. Then upload your files. You can provide PDF files (separate files for the cover and inside), or hire BookBaby designers to do the layout. Note that images must be 300 dpi and converted to CMYK. You check a PDF proof, and once you approve it, a BookBaby electronic prepress specialist will preflight your files to ensure the best quality.