Review of Blurb's Layflat Photo Books

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The primary advantage of a layflat photo book is that two-page spreads are displayed with no binding break between the two pages. This can be especially important if the photograph displays important details in the area of the image that crosses from the left page to the right page. As an example, my photos of my friend's guitars display the details of the neck and the appearance where the neck joins the body in the area of the book where the two pages join. If I had used a standard book, reviewing those details of the guitars would not have been as easy or as enjoyable as when using a layflat book.

I've never seen a photographer's comments about Blurb's layflat photo books and have wondered how good they really are. Now that I have one, I thought it might be helpful to explain my impressions.

Special Requirements
Blurb has two special requirements when producing a layflat book: The cover must be a hard cover that includes a matte wrap around the front cover, spine and rear cover and the pages must be Premium Lustre Ultra-Thick Paper (432 GSM). One of their web pages indicates that that is 100# weight and another one indicates that it is 295#. That discrepancy might be explained by different standards of determining that numeric value. Regardless, the pages are made of very heavy, stiff stock.

Blurb's layflat books must have a minimum of 20 pages (that's true for all of their books whether layflat or not). The maximum is 110 pages and Blurb advertises that "that’s more room than you’ll find anywhere else."

Cost
Blurb's layflat books cost considerably more than their standard books. The photo book of my friend's guitars is 106 pages and the last page displays only Blurb's logo. (Blurb charges more if the book doesn't display their logo.) If I had ordered this book using the soft cover and Premium Lustre paper that isn't ultra-thick I've always previously used, the cost would have been $55. The cost of the layflat book was $155. Those costs are before promotional discounts, taxes and shipping fees.

Quality
I've always been satisfied with the quality of the printing in Blurb's photo books and this layflat book is no exception.

The book weighs about 3.5 pounds (1.6kg), which is hefty. I suppose some would complain that it's too heavy and others would like that it feels solid. I lean toward liking that solid feel.

The pages are so thick that they don't bend when you turn them and this is so new to me that I haven't yet decided whether I like or dislike that characteristic overall. (I've got over 100 commercially produced photography books and I've never seen a book made of pages that don't bend.) One distinct advantage of such stiff pages is that you can easily turn a page by grabbing the top edge of the page with just one finger, which prevents fingerprints from being added to the photographs.

Conclusions about Future Orders
I would order a layflat book when the details in the images and the display of the images in two-page spreads explained above merit the extra expense and weight. Otherwise, I'll continue ordering soft covers, normal pages and a book binding that doesn't lay flat.
 
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I've always believed that we really find out about the quality of a company much more when things go wrong than when everything goes right. Up until this order, everything has gone right with all of my orders from Blurb, which is the only company I've ever used to print photo books. Not so with this order.

Both copies of my layflat books were damaged presumably after they were put in the shipping box. The box itself was so damaged that it was torn all the way through the side.

I sent a note to Blurb using their web site's customer service facility explaining the problem. Four photos were attached displaying the damage to the books and shipping box. Within six minutes, they replied with an apology and an explanation of their requirement that one or two photographs be provided displaying both books in the same image as proof to their partner involved in the issue. (None of my first four photos included both books in the same image.) I provided two more photos, each displaying both damaged books.

This morning I received official notification that both books will be reprinted and shipped to me free of charge. Though that customer service process required less than three full days to complete, my guess is that it would have taken even less time if two of the three days had not been on the weekend.

There is no reason whatsoever for me to give anyone other than Blurb my photo book business, and I will be ordering more photo books in the future than in the past.
 
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I needed to do a lay-flat book a number of years a go with both a time and budget constraint. Ended up using Adoramapix (now Printique) and was quite surprised with the quality of the book and printing. I have not tried Blurb, but I would give Printique consideration if I had to do another one. Glad to now that Blurb is an option as well.

--Ken
 
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some general pictures would be useful
I don't consider myself a layout pro, but you can review a PDF of the entire book using the following link:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/sby1uasifmb6ayn/Toms12Guitars.pdf?dl=0

For ideal results, download the PDF to your computer. Set your PDF reader to view two pages at a time and to show the cover page separately. (Showing the cover page separately displays the left and right pages as they appear in the physical book.) Unfortunately, the reader built into Dropbox doesn't provide those capabilities.
 
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I have been using Blurb now for a bout 10 years and have a bookcase full of their Large Landscape books with Hard Covers. Every time I go away on holiday I produce a book. And their customer service is 100%. As I have had a book damaged in transit, and with only a single message to them, it was reprinted and sent to me FOC.

Yes there are cheaper book makers out there, but I will be staying with Blurb.
 
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I've never seen a "layflat" book.
Here ya go, Rick.

Notice the binding style and that the two pages displaying the photo are so stiff and thick that they don't relax enough to fall onto the other pages.

Notice also the "seam" where the two pages join. I intentionally chose a two-page spread with a dark background because that allows you to see that seam when it is most noticeable (at its worst). That seam is a lot less noticeable where the lighter colors cross it.

Ignore the awful colors in the guitar, as I didn't take the time to accurately replicate the colors on the printed page.


Mike 2019-12-13--001-S.jpg
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I recently ordered my first photo book from blurb based on Mike's review and Glenn's positive experiences. I have made numerous photo books before from a company call My Publisher, but I believe their quality has declined since they were purchased by Costco.

I did create a photo book with lay flat pages. I like this look, but I did not use any images that would span the width of two pages. Personally, I do not care for the crease that would mar my images even with the lay flat design. Overall I am pleased with the blurb book. A bit pricey but well-constructed. The photos are not as vibrant as some of my previous photo books, but that my be partly due to the subject matter. I would use blurb again but would certainly wait for one of their frequent promotional coupons.
 
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Personally, I do not care for the crease that would mar my images even with the lay flat design.
I agree. I recently used a couple two-page images in a regular Blurb book but they were selected because the image content where the two pages join was not problematic. The only time I've used the two-page spread in a lay-flat book was when the compromise of that detail was better than the alternative compromises of using a size that would have been too small when presented on one page or losing lots of detail in the image in a regular book where the two pages meet. Now that it has been about five months since I had the lay-flat book made, I actually can't think of a reason other than to document more of my friend's guitars to order another one.

I would use blurb again but would certainly wait for one of their frequent promotional coupons.
I don't think I've ever ordered anything from them at less than a 30% discount and it's usually more. I recently ordered some books at a 41% discount. A few weeks later they offered a 35% discount plus free shipping, which would have been a bigger discount than a 41% discount without free shipping if the order was small.
 
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I have been using Blurb for some ten years and have always been very pleased with their work.
I haven't used the Lay-Flat option but have always used their heavy Lustre stock and ordered hard covers.

I use InDesign to layout my books and then supply Blurb with Press-ready PDFs for the Pages; plus a separate PDF for the 4-colour cover and spine. I upload the PDFs directly to their Server. A 200-page book, with heavy high-resolution image-content, can takes several hours to upload. The only problem which I have ever had is with the Internet going down late in the game (when most of the book has already been transferred!). That means you have to start the up-load all over again — but that is not Blurb's fault.

I build my pages separately and move images which spread across the binding slightly apart —providing extra trim for each image in the centre. (There is a formula for setting the correct distance.) This does allow a spread to appear seamless even though it crosses the binding. However, I am very interested in your experience with the Lay-flat binding and hope that the binding proves to be durable.

I had just 25 pages (containing a representative set of images) and a hard cover produced as a "Proof" before I ordered my first book from Blurb.

When I received this "Proof", I decreased the brightness of my monitor (so that it matched Blurb's printing) and edited all the images for the final book to look right on my calibrated screen running with the dimmer monitor setting.
I also noticed that their HP Press lays down a fairly heavy Black ink in the shadows so I adjusted my CMYK Profile settings to take that into consideration too.

The result is that what I see on my Screen when I am creating a book; very closely replicates Blurb's final printed results.
 

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I used them exclusively in my dance company album books, back in the dark ages, of 2005-2010. Very happy with their product and customer service. Highly recommend too.
 
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