Blurb and a real threat to niche publishers

Blurb is a new service that allows people to design their own books which are then printed on demand and sent to them by post. The service is aimed not at the market that lulu.com targets but one off gifts and family memento buyers. And it has to be said it is a wonderful and very nicely executed idea. From their website:

Holding a finished book with your name on the cover is a truly amazing feeling; it’s one of those experiences everyone should have. As software people, designers and publishing professionals at the top of our game, we realized something both incredible and obvious: there’s no good reason why it should take tons of time, technical skills, big bucks or friends in high places to publish a book. Or a zillion books, for that matter.

The current price tag ($30 or so for a 40 page book) makes using the service to actually publish you own book prohibitively expensive. However the site has one key feature which over time may very well change the face of niche publishing. Its downloadable templates.

Using the template it is a very simple task to construct and edit a book. The ease with which this can be done is unsettling for me. I work with a publisher of limited run titles. Few rate over 2000 on an initial print run. To date, the key bebefits we could offer to authors of books published through our company were quality of design, access to distribution, access to retail and other sales channels and of course we take on the risk of publishing costs and pay royalties to the author removing the dangers that self published authors have of not receiving payment for the books other sell on their behalf.

Lulu.com took away the fear authors might have that they would be left holding the baby as it were with lots of stock and no buyers, it also resolved the payment problem (As have many other online selling and payments solutions). That left the problem of design, many self published titles suffer from poor design and lack of quality. Blurb resolves that quite easily.

Fortunately for now Booksmart (their downloadable program) is tied to the blurb platform. Were it to change or if someone were to offer the program or some even easier formatter, with similar slick design and template options niche operators like Nonsuch would be forced to respond. Price will for now remain a barrier but there is no reason to expect that to remain the case forever.

From one perspective this is a fascinating product and equally, from another a nightmare.

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