Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Photography Book Now announces call for entries for 2010

I'll admit it...I love the smell of ink on paper.  Especially when the paper is gloriously bound and contains some of the most beautiful and compelling photography you will ever see.  Such is life at Blurb for the next few months as the Photography Book Now 2010 competition gets underway.

Many of my readers attended one or more of our events last year, each a celebration of photography, creative people, and the art of permanence over temporal things.  This year we will be taking the show on the road, with events planned from Seattle to Rome.

Much thanks goes out to those whose entries the past two years have made our competition a real phenomenon in the industry.  And a big shout out to our 45 (!) sponsors, including our Platinum Sponsor HP, who once again is underwriting the grand prize of $25,000.

So please take a look at the site and think about what your book might be.  And also browse through the entries from last year to get your creative juices flowing.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Rich-content self-published books are still too expensive

At Blurb we've made a pretty good living printing primarily 4-color books over the past four years.  In fact we shipped more than 1.3 million books in 2009 to a tune of over $45M.  At one point we were taking a new title every 1.1 seconds.  Pretty cool stuff.  But our vision since the beginning was the "democratization" of publishing.  Have we succeeded or are we still just scratching the surface?

Blurb's success revolves around several building blocks.  First, we revolutionized how full-color, digital offset books are priced, moving away from the pay-per-page model that was embraced by the digital photo album folks that were attracting the early consumer adopters.  Then, as a software company, we listened closely to our customers during our beta period and created products and services that met their needs along with a full ecosystem to manage their Blurb experience.  Finally, we captured a cool factor that creatives understood and embraced.

But an ever growing group of our customers are authoring books to make money.  These are the true self-publishers that are avoiding the traditional means of publishing, a stale model that leaves the author with a minute percentage of the book's selling price as a profit.  Or they are creating titles so specifically targeted that they could never publish traditionally and in the past had to live in the world of newsletters, zines, and, more recently, electronic means.  Browse around the Blurb Bookstore and you'll see stunning examples of what these authors are creating.  We are obviously thrilled but we're still not happy.  Why?  Because the promise of self-publishing rich-content titles has still not been fulfilled.  Even though we are the price leader in the color book printing category, I think that getting a bookstore quality color book at a price allowing for re-sale is still a bit illusive.

So we continue to push the envelope for our customers.  Our close relationship with HP, manufacturers of the Indigo presses that are used exclusively by our global print network, allows us to continue to drive efficiencies in the print process as well as create economies of scale that can be passed on to our customers. Growing from zero to $45M in just a few short years also helps us gain credibility in a publishing marketplace that often looks at newcomers with a suspicious eye, allowing us to parlay our success into valuable relationships with suppliers.  But those relationships, while vital, have still not moved the needle in a way to create the sea change needed to really democratize the industry.

I am excited about some prospects over the coming months.  The new high-speed ink jet presses, like the T-300 from HP and the Prosper from Kodak, hold the potential of very good quality color output at a price that could change the industry.  Various inventors and entrepreneurs are looking at ways to remove some of the labor out of book binding, which remains one of the biggest cost of goods. Plus, Blurb is looking to keep innovating on how our authors can promote their books easily and inexpensively.

We've just released a new beta of a product we call Blurb BookShow.  BookShow is a widget that authors can embed in their website, blog, or Facebook page allowing potential customers to automatically preview and buy their book.  It's the first of the ongoing innovations that we are releasing this year to support our author/customers. Rest assured that we are not resting on our laurels. We won't be happy until we revolutionize the publishing business.