An Insider’s Guide to Blurb’s Global Print Network

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Bruce Watermann, Blurb’s Senior Vice President of Print Operations, has been at the helm of our global print network from the get-go. He’s watched it grow over the years and in the following post, he outlines the story behind our print network and the wonders they produce (most importantly, your books!). So, if you haven’t already, take the visual tour of the journey your book takes from order to print, and then get Bruce’s view on it all. Great stuff!

From Bruce:
The Blurb global print network has been called the “most comprehensive and agile digital print network in the self-publishing industry.” So what does that mean exactly? Here’s a look at what makes print work at Blurb.

Blurb ships to more than 70 countries worldwide. While we are U.S.-based, we ship nearly half of our books to other parts of the world. In 2010, we printed nearly 1.4 million books, most of which were produced using our print-on-demand technology. And with most orders totaling just one book per order, that’s a lot of packages shipping out of our global print network.

As the demand continues to grow and our “printing footprint” grows accordingly, we’ve worked hard to avoid a cookie-cutter approach. Instead, we’ve sought out industry leaders that meet our specific criteria, are located in territories that we’re looking to expand to, and who can contribute to the breadth and depth of expertise shared throughout our global print network. For example, in our network we have bookbinders that have been in business since the late 1800s. We have lean-manufacturing experts. One of our global print facilities has a subsidiary specializing in bookmaking automation. And we have full-service, commercial suppliers that offer a complete line of offset options to our higher-volume customers.

And all within our global print network excel in the four tenets of our business: a high level of skill and expertise in printing; sophisticated IT staffs; a full understanding of the book manufacturing process; and the ability to efficiently fulfill orders of one—or many.

Managing this “virtual print shop” includes various levels of management on Blurb’s part. First, before a printer enters our network they go through a rigorous test period where we review all of the products they are producing for us. Then we continue to monitor the quality of the products going to our customers with regular internal audits as well as third-party reviews by our friends at Rods and Cones to assure adherence to the GRACoL 2009 color standard. We also constantly monitor each location for adherence to our production time guidelines.

Once you’ve completed your book, your book files go to one of our global print facilities. Our routing engine directs your order using several variables, starting with the proximity of the ship-to address. This keeps our carbon footprint low and shipping prices down. For example, if you are in San Francisco and you send a book to a family member in Boston, your book will likely be fulfilled from our print facility in the Northeast. There are some exceptions to that rule, though. Not all of our products are manufactured by all of our print locations. All ProLine books, for example, are printed at our Seattle location currently. Also, if the print location nearest to the shipping address is getting close to capacity, our routing engine will automatically re-route to another facility with no additional shipping costs to you.

Our global print network also allows Blurb bookmakers a seamless global reach. For instance, we ship throughout Europe from our print facility in The Netherlands, a location selected for its proximity to all of Europe. And our deep relationship with our shipping vendors allows for shipments into countries throughout the world at prices that are reasonable.

From our modest beginnings in 2005, we knew what we wanted from our printers was not a “vendor” relationship but a true partnership. I’m proud to say that we have done just that and are humbled by the accolades we receive for our products, service, and our extended family that is the Blurb global print network.

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