Charlene Barina October 30th, 2006
I’m still playing around with the concept, but I first read about micropublishing several months back in the New York Times (the article unfortunately costs money now, but the link is here.
It’s a bit different from finding someone local to publish and more like a hybrid with such services as cafepress, where you create apparel with logos or designs you make that are printed on an as-ordered basis. The micropublishers give you a variety of options, ranging from submitting a pdf to standalone custom design software to put together books based on a few different templates and styles. Most all of them offer a hardcover option in a few different shapes (portrait, landscape, square little books) with a nice dust jacket and glossy pages as if it were a “real” book. Pricing depends on quantity, size, and sometimes colors used, depending on the site. Also depending on the publisher, you can make books with as many as 400 pages.
The micropublisher I’ve chosen to try out is Blurb, partially due to their nicely designed website According to the now-hard-to-get-to NYTimes article, it also supposedly had the best interface for book creation; it feels google-like in its implementation, which to me means semi-intuitive and slightly bubbly. It does have some confusing but supposedly easy buttons - I’ve had experience where I change a layout and my content disappears, never to be found again, but that may be to my version being an older beta copy. After you’ve completed your book, you can “publish” it publicly to the Blurb bookstore, where you can direct friends to check it out or discover random strangers who really like your topic. They’re still working on getting an ISBN service set up though, for those of you who plan to seriously market your creation. Like cafepress, though, you can’t set a price above the typical Blurb book cost. Thus you can have the warm fuzzy glow of being while embracing the hip/edgy starving artist persona.
From the sites, the book styles and layouts remind me of the Williams-Sonoma line of thin cookbooks with themes like “Beef” or “Pasta”. They have some page and book templates that are thematic, such as “Blog Book”, “Cookbook”, “Picture book”, which gives you a starting point with the variety of layouts. I chose to make a cookbook of my favorite recipes from friends, family, and random self-experiments.
I found it neat to be able to edit the cover, the inside author picture/bio on the dust jacket, the front pages, and section headers and indices in addition to the expected “average” reading page. I also learned about how time-consuming putting together even a 30-page book, between wanting to prepare the meals to take pictures of technique and final product. I’m trying to enlist a friend who likes to take photos of food, but it hasn’t worked out yet.
Given that Blurb only has hardcover options, and the proprietary software, which, last I experimented, didn’t allow text document import, I don’t see this as being a great venue for those who want to publish their next great novel. It’s also obviously not designed for electronic distribution of the content, either. I do see it as a neat way to publish a travelogue, a office yearbook, or a going-away present that would really be able to leverage the full-color capabilities of Blurb. When my cookbook’s done, I’ll try to post the link here just for grins.