Sunday, November 20, 2005
I’ve learned much since my last entry on making books. I’ve been pleasantly surprised and very disappointed. I’ve had to readjust my thinking on what’s possible and reconfigure my plans for how I would make any books I create available for sale.
First the good news: The iPhoto iBook medium paperback looks really good. I would have no problem with selling these books as a representation of my work if the printing consistently looks like the copy I received. But I’ve only seen the one copy and I don’t know if the quality is consistent. What makes me question the consistency is that there are many complaints on the iPhoto forums about quality. I don’t know if I’m less particular, if I got lucky with this one book, or if the quality of the data I sent to them was better than the quality of the data others had sent.
There are two problems with the iBook: First of all, it’s expensive. The $9.95 quoted at the Apple site is for twenty pages – but if you want to create a real book – with title page and copyright page, etc, then you use up twenty pages really quickly. The first book I put together came out at 48 pages. The cost of this, without the shipping was about $23. And it’s really a tiny little book – 8 by 6 inches landscape format. I like the size. I think it’s perfect for a monograph – for a small study on a particular subject - but pricey if I add shipping and any small profit I might like to receive. The second problem is that, although, you can have total control over the individual pages, you have very limited control over the front cover and none over the back. On the back is the classic apple logo and the small phrase: “made on a mac”. That’s fine if you want to show off to your friends that you have a Mac and great for Steve Jobs and company, but not so good if you want to create a professional looking product with your own logo and perhaps an isbn barcode printed somewhere on the back cover.
Now to the bad news: I took the same book but changed it to 9 by 7 inch because that is the size that Lulu books offers in the landscape format. I redid the images so that they would all be 300 dpi and of the same quality as the ones submitted to iPhoto. I submitted this to Lulu Press. The cost was much more reasonable for a slightly larger book. And at Lulu, you have total control over your covers and can add isbn info. You could also create a storefront, decide on a royalty you’d like to receive, and let them handle all of the processing of orders, billing, etc. I created my storefront and was all ready to go. But I guess you get what you pay for- because the quality was terrible. The images had a pinkish cast, there were blue streaks across many of the images and there were vertical lines etched across them as well. It reminded me of what happens when you get your inkjet heads gunked up and have to run the cleaning program. Actually, it was so bad that it had to be an error in printing. Realising that made me feel a little better - this couldn’t be the norm or they would do no business at all; but still, would I ever trust this company to send out product to any of my customers without being able to personally check every book myself?
I have to say that up to now, Lulu has handled the customer service part of the equation admirably. They responded instantly when I complained and reordered the book for me without question. I haven’t seen the remake so I don’t know what the ultimate quality will be - but it’s quite clear that the paper is not as good as that used by iPhoto – so this would always be a lesser book quality wise. And since I can’t trust their quality control, I doubt I will ever use their storefront or allow them to send anything directly to a customer – thus negating much of what they had to offer.
So I had to continue my search for a “print on demand” option that works for photo books - with photo book quality printing at a reasonable price – seemingly an impossible task. Then I found Viovio. Their website is confusing and poorly organized: it’s unclear what their mission really is – travel blogs or photo hosting or photo book making. But they offer a way to upload a book by pdf, and although they use the same printer as Lulu (Xerox iGen), they have just started to offer a better, glossier paper stock for the inner pages. You can create your own covers and use your own logo. Also, they are focused on making photography books and are therefore motivated to find the best combination of materials to make images work on the page. Lulu, I believe, does most of its business with printed word books and are not focused on imagery. Viovio has been responsive and proactive to requests on their forum for improvements, offer the icc profile for the printer, and seem to be endeavouring to improve their product constantly. I would be worried that they are using the same printer as Lulu but for the fact that the cover on the Lulu book, made on the same printer but on better paper stock, looks pretty good.
So, we’ll see. I haven’t seen the remade Lulu book or the Viovio book printed on better paper. I’ll keep you posted.
making books part one