Tell us more about the birth of Blurb. Who was involved, who was in charge of what? What would you all say is the reason why Blurb is so successful?
Blurb was started in 2004 by Eileen Gittins, who still runs the show. Eileen is a passionate photographer and an entrepreneur, with experience at a number of companies, including Kodak. She started Blurb because she wanted to make a photo book – not just a photo album – but something beautiful and professionally made, and there was nothing out there.
We’ve been successful because of the quality and options we offer for bookmaking. There’s nothing cookie-cutter about a Blurb book. Every Blurb book looks completely unique, so it’s the customer’s work that stands out, not prefabricated layouts and covers. We really mean it when we say “bookstore-quality books.”
Where are ya’ll based out of? Tell us about the founders and what did you all do prior to Blurb.
Blurb was born and raised in San Francisco, though we’re truly international, with an office in the UK and printers in the US, Canada, the EU, and Australia. Blurb’s employees bring their experience from companies like Apple, Kodak, Corbis, Adobe, Current TV, Lonely Planet, Yahoo!, Sun, so many companies who’ve made big impacts on creativity and sharing in the digital space.
Let’s get into the nitty gritty. Folks are now with the 4 or the 4s. What are the print capabilities for these cameras? What is the advice you would give someone who is brand new to mobile photography regarding how to publish? Explain to us in laymens terms as a lot of us are casual users who just have found the art form.
The iPhone 5 and 4S have 8-megapixel cameras and the 4 has a 5-megapixel camera. The 4 is perfectly fine for our Standard books (8×10 inches or 10×8 inches). And the 4S and 5 have enough resolution for our Large Square size (12×12 inches). But you can do amazing things with cameras with even lower megapixel counts, using our smaller book sizes (like 7×7 inches). Part of the mobile aesthetic is about pushing the boundaries, and some people will use a 5-megapixel mobile camera for a 12×12 book and play with the look using Hipstamatic or other apps. Our book design tools will tell you if your image doesn’t have high enough resolution for printing at the size you’ve chosen.
The best advice for photographers, shooting digital or analog, is to just keep shooting. Practice all the time. Shoot in different lighting conditions and see how things change. Shoot one object from multiple angles. Just get to know your camera and learn its strengths and weaknesses. And do so with the goal of making something permanent, like a book. Commit to the real and you’ll treat your work like it matters.
Why do you think that mobile photography and mobile art is beginning to go viral? Why is it successful? Why is it not successful?
There’s a lot to be said for the accessibility of it. Suddenly everything from the capture to the display of work is democratized. Using Tumblr, Instagram, or Flickr, you can expose your work to thousands, potentially. Now, there’s something problematic in that too. There’s so much ephemerality and a sense that once a photo disappears from the social feed it’s gone. Of course it’s still there, but it’s been replaced in the viewer’s attention span by the most recent uploads. Blurb launched an easy way to make books from your Instagram photos so you could really preserve your work and go back to it in a tangible form. Some people will actually make a small book a month of their photos. “Instantly ever after” is a phrase we use to encapsulate the idea behind those books, and people really love to see their work in print.
Where do you all see Blurb in the future? What are the future plans for other platforms? Possible galleries and exhibitions? These galleries and exhibitions will be like wildfire in the next year, what can Blurb provide for this to happen?
We will always be a print publisher, but we’re also really involved with ebooks. Right now you can make ebooks for the iPad and iPhone. Plus we recently launched enhanced ebooks, so you can add rich media like audio, video, and hyperlinks. Ebook is pretty exciting because it’s changing the whole concept of what a book can be. And we’ve found a niche by making it inexpensive (only $9.99 to convert your book, which is much less than what other services are charging) and by letting you take that same ebook and make it a printed book – and vice versa.
Blurb books end up in galleries all the time, because we offer a really easy and economical way for artists to print small runs of books. And many Blurb books are in the IndiePhotobook Library, a pop-up gallery run by Larissa Leclair. A Blurb book on ‘70s rocker Alex Harvey is now part of the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame’s permanent collection. I see Blurb books in small galleries around San Francisco all the time. We just need to keep providing tools that let photographers, artists, and authors do their best, and we have to exceed their expectations in terms of quality and service.
Tell us more about the Blurb individuals and their own art and passions. Are some of you, into mobile photography? If so, can you point us to their photo social network handles and on what platforms?
Blurb was founded by a photographer and most of us here shoot as hobbyists, enthusiasts, or even as professionals. In fact, we run a weekly blog and Instagram series that lets our employees show off their cameras and photographs – and recently we even had someone show off the tools they use for illustration.
Blurb actually has a photographer at large, Dan Milnor, who’s our ambassador for the pro photography world. Dan is a Leica-toting film enthusiast, but he’s also got the Instagram bug, he can be found there as @smogranch. We have so many great photographers here. One that comes to mind on Instagram is our content manager Forrest (he’s @fojazz). And of course, our official Instagram account is @blurb_books. When I’m not posting on Blurb’s Instagram account, I’m @windsorknot.
How has Blurb grown in the last year?
This last year has been tremendous for us. We now serve customers in German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Dutch, and ship books to over 70 countries. We launched easy ways to make books from your Instagram and Facebook photos and we have plug-ins and deep integration for Adobe Lightroom. Our ProLine book customization options came out, giving bookmakers some really professional papers, end sheets, and cover linens. And we continue to see amazing books come from our creative community. I think really that’s the most incredible thing, watching how the community has grown. We are astounded every day with the work produced by this community. Honestly, there are many times when I look through the books that are uploaded and think, “we’re not worthy.”
Last thoughts, last words?
I spoke to a class of creative writers at San Francisco State University a few months back. They asked, with a great deal of fear, if the book is essentially dead. They’re seeing bookstores close and all they’ve ever wanted to do was make a bound book. I think printed books will continue to live on, and I think people will value them more and with Blurb (and companies like us) anyone can make that book. I see via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram how excited people are when they get their books. And we’re also really excited about the world of ebooks. Any way that authors and photographers want to share their work, and any way audiences want to get that work, we’ll be there.
Jay, doing the important work of quality control and color correctness
Daniel Milnor, Blurb’s photographer at large, using his “other” camera:
Kent Hall, Blurb’s social media manager with his trusty Polaroid SX-70
Thank you to everyone who participated and we love hearing and seeing the Blurb books that you all created.
Tag us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and G+ and we will be sure to share with the community the books that you all made.
Big thanks to the amazing folks at Blurb and we look forward to more collaborations in the future.