If you work at a company like Blurb you really need to love books. Not just reading them but knowing about them, about the authors, and, if you are like many of us, understanding how they are built. Because of that last point I really enjoyed the NY Times piece in this Sunday's Style Magazine on Gerhard Steidl. The world of fine art bookmaking is fabulous and Steidl is at the pinnacle of his art.
But is there any real comparison to the painstaking hand work that represents what comes out of Göttingen and what can be expected from a print on demand publisher like Blurb? A lot more than you think.
First off, when we started Blurb our goal was to find a sweet spot with high-end, "bookstore quality" books and a price point that allowed our customers to sell their books for a profit. Early on that meant getting our first printing partners to buy into a whole new model of how 4-color books should be priced. Since then the technology has advanced a bit, allowing us to build more and more process automation into our workflow which allows us to continually improve quality while keeping our prices among the most economical in the marketplace.
Some of the improvements since we first went to market in 2007 are an ever-expanding line of products that include hardcover with dust jacket or custom-printed "ImageWrap" as well as soft cover books; an all-HP Indigo global network tuned to GRACol standards, assuring consistant quality worldwide wherever books are printed; a broadening line of standard and premium papers; and, very soon, new pro-directed options. Add to that our new standard end sheet that will be moving from white to a thicker medium-grey paper and, in our world, POD does not mean low-grade.
We are constantly looking for ways to improve our products. Over the past month we have held sessions with design movers and shakers in Berlin, hobnobbed with some of the best photographers in the world at the Palm Springs Photo Festival, and ran various focus groups as we plan our next options. Our new BookSmart software just released has many upgrades that come directly from the requests of our customers. And we've got some new, native digital products on their way that will reinvent the genre. We're pretty excited.
As I get ready to head off to New York for the Publishing Business Conference, I'm reminded of how the book business has changed. But reading the story about how Steidl goes about his craft, it's nice to see some things--like quality--are constant in the minds of those who love books.