How ebooks change everything for photographers

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“For me, photography ebooks open up my work to a variety of people who might otherwise not be able to experience the story or project I’m working on. I see a marriage between print books and ebooks where both options work in tandem to provide the publisher with a variety of avenues to reach the widest possible audience. Ebooks can be sold at a lower rate, which potentially allows a wider, and more far-flung demographic to experience the work.”

-Dan Milnor, Blurb Photographer At Large


Blurb ebooks are now available for any book made with Blurb BookSmart® or Blurb Bookify™ (with PDF to Book support coming soon). And we think this is pretty big: Full resolution, beautiful versions of your books on Apple’s iOS® devices for a fraction of the cost of the printed book. And while much of the ebook market has focused on novels, here we’re focusing on something else: ephotobooks.

For artists, putting out a collection of work has typically been a balancing act between aesthetics and economics. Hard copies cost money to make. Yet using the web to show work has meant free distribution, with limited ways to monetize that work.

National Geographic photographer Michael Nichols recently switched from using his website to showcase his work to using an iPad app because he “just couldn’t give it away anymore.” Not that no one wanted it, but he wanted people to value it. Meanwhile photo book maker Michael Mack has gone the app route because of his disappointment with the collector’s market. So it’s a shift already in progress.

Of course making an app is an expensive undertaking, requiring a developer. A Blurb ephotobook that runs on the iBooks app, however, presents artists with an entirely disruptive format for distribution. Everything becomes more affordable for the bookmaker:

1)   Cost of production: Right now the base price of an ebook is just $9.99, cheaper than our smallest Black and White book option — it’s also significantly less than what anyone else charges for ebook conversion (which can cost up to $10 per page).

2)   Profits: Our Set Your Price program means that how much you make on your book is up to you. Blurb takes a simple 20% commission on each ebook sold (unless, of course, you’ve set your price to 0.00).

3)   Distribution: No shipping costs, no waiting time for delivery, virtually no geographic boundaries.

4)   Scalability: You use the same tools to make an ebook as you do a printed book on Blurb, so there’s no time lost going from one format to another, and no cost for different tools.

And the aesthetic experience doesn’t lag either. With a backlit screen, the ebook more closely mimics what the bookmaker sees on screen. The images are full resolution too. So with ebooks, it’s not a balancing act. It’s more of a perfect union of aesthetics and economics.

And what about the relationship to printed books? We believe there’s a place for both. As beautiful as the iPad is, it’s not the same as our [ProLine Uncoated paper].

Ultimately, we don’t know if ephotobooks will enjoy the same privileged place on the bookshelf as Robert Frank’s The Americans, Lee Friedlander’s America by Car, or William Eggleston’s Guide. But there’s tremendous opportunity for many more photographers to release their work for a lower cost on a medium that’s gaining increasing popularity.

As Darius Himes, lead judge for Photography Book Now 2011 has said, “Both illustrated ebooks and printed, physical books… I’m sure certain artists will thrive in one arena or the other, whereas the rare individual will utilize both platforms to launch amazing projects.”

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  1. As a photographer, this development is extremely interesting, and I am truly pleased that Blurb has moved in this direction.

    However, I am finding more in-depth information hard to come by, and am not certain as to who to contact for questions. For example, how do we go about getting the ISBN number that was mentioned? Does Blurb do this? And to see our books on iTunes, what needs to be done?

    Any insight or help is appreciated!

      October 18, 2011 – 6:01 am   Permalink
  2. Hey Tamara,

    I’m glad you’re excited. We’ll be making a more detailed announcement soon.



    By Kent
      October 18, 2011 – 8:38 am   Permalink
  3. This is very exciting news! Being a pro photographer, and book designer, I can’t wait to make ebooks for the iPad. Thanks for developing this new option in your book publishing services!!

      October 18, 2011 – 11:34 am   Permalink
  4. I’ve just bought my own book, and it is pretty easy – I was hoping it’d be possible to get it into Apple’s store too, though.

    Some more info at the checkout stage would be useful (i.e. what to do with it next), and some advise on getting the metadata correct – my name didn’t show as the author, for example.

    That all being said, I’m very impressed, and look forward to pushing this pretty hard when it gets a bit more polished!

    By Mark Hood
      October 19, 2011 – 1:26 am   Permalink
  5. Great news. Is it possible to simultaneously publish a printed version AND an ebook?

    By Marc Baptista
      October 19, 2011 – 3:37 am   Permalink
  6. Quick question. What type, if any, of Digital Rights Management (DRM) will be avalable to protect our ebooks?


    By Tony
      October 19, 2011 – 3:59 am   Permalink
  7. Sounds great, though being new to ebooks I’m not sure if this allows or prevents people form using your book images for their own purposes?

    By Cally
      October 19, 2011 – 6:01 am   Permalink
  8. What about distribution of the e-book? Does blurb publishes on the iBooks section of iTunes? Or do we need to do the publishing ourselves by submitting the e-book to iTunes Connect?

      October 19, 2011 – 9:40 am   Permalink
  9. Hey Jossi,

    We will have support for selling on the iBookstore soon.



    By Kent
      October 19, 2011 – 10:00 am   Permalink
  10. Hey Marc,

    Absolutely. You use the same bookmaking tools. You’ll see the option to buy as an ebook or a printed copy right in the bookstore.



    By Kent
      October 19, 2011 – 10:07 am   Permalink
  11. Hey Mark,

    Thanks for the feedback! Support for the iBookstore is coming.

    If you didn’t see your author name associated with your ebook, feel free to drop a line to our support team:

    Thank you for making your ebook with Blurb.



    By Kent
      October 19, 2011 – 10:11 am   Permalink
  12. Hey Cally,

    We think it provides bookmakers with a pretty safe way to distribute their books. While possible, it’s harder for people to take images from an ebook than, say, from a website where images are posted.



    By Kent
      October 19, 2011 – 11:31 am   Permalink
  13. Hey Tony,

    Right now, we’re not implementing any DRM. On the balance of things, we think openness is the way to go, since DRM often makes legitimate sharing difficult for the content creators. Also, the more layers we add, the more it drives up the development cost . Still, we always want to hear your feedback.



    By Kent
      October 19, 2011 – 3:30 pm   Permalink
  14. Will there be an eBook version for the Android operating system?

      October 20, 2011 – 12:50 am   Permalink
  15. Including books created with the PDF to Book option would be much appreciated. It’s a little disappointing that it isn’t available now. Any information about when we might expect it to become available, even in terms as general as quarter 1 2012 or next month?

      October 20, 2011 – 1:03 am   Permalink
  16. Is it possible to make previously published books available as an ebook?

      October 20, 2011 – 5:01 am   Permalink
  17. I just downloaded six books to my iPad. The photo image quality and layout is superb, but there was no retention of the fonts used for title and text. Are there plans for support of custom fonts?

    By Melinda Isachsen
      October 20, 2011 – 5:37 am   Permalink
  18. Hi,
    I see that you will have support for selling ebooks on the iBooks store but what about Also, will these ebooks be compatible with the Kindle?

    By Elisabeth
      October 20, 2011 – 6:23 am   Permalink
  19. Hi Kent, my concern was how easy would it be to illegally copy an ebook and obviously create a black market for photographers work.

      October 20, 2011 – 6:27 am   Permalink
  20. I created a book with Bookify last year — how can I get it in an ebook? When I go to my book settings I am not finding any option for that.

    By Donna
      October 20, 2011 – 7:33 am   Permalink
  21. How will prices of e-books compare to printed fine art photo books, which are always very expensive? For example Kindle wants them to be $9.99 or less.

    By Fred Limbach
      October 20, 2011 – 8:22 am   Permalink
  22. what about support for the Kindle?

    By Patryk
      October 20, 2011 – 9:34 am   Permalink
  23. especially for the new Kindle Fire thats coming out….

    By Patryk
      October 20, 2011 – 9:36 am   Permalink
  24. Hey Patryk,

    I can’t make any promises, but we’re working on a number of ways to get Blurb ebooks into more people’s hands. Of course, much of this has to do with formats, and the openness of different platforms, which isn’t something we can control.



    By Kent
      October 20, 2011 – 9:48 am   Permalink
  25. Hey Fred,

    The launch price for our ebooks is just $1.99. Printed book prices start at $5.95 (for a color book). So it’s considerably less. Of course, bookmakers can set their own prices for their books, so it’s not possible to give you an absolute price.



    By Kent
      October 20, 2011 – 9:51 am   Permalink
  26. Hey Donna,

    You should see the option to order it as an ebook from your book’s page in the Blurb Bookstore. You’ll see it right above the printed book options. You can make it available to others by going to the “Seller Options” on your book details page.



    By Kent
      October 20, 2011 – 9:53 am   Permalink
  27. If I make an ebook, how does Blurb get paid?

      October 20, 2011 – 9:54 am   Permalink
  28. Hey Elisabeth,

    Naturally, we’d love to see Blurb ebooks everywhere. We’ll be making a number of improvements to distribution methods, but I can’t make any specific promises about platforms or formats.



    By Kent
      October 20, 2011 – 9:57 am   Permalink
  29. Hey Melinda,

    That’s fantastic. The images do look nice, don’t they? As for fonts, this has to do with issues around font licensing. Simply put, there are millions (just estimating) of fonts in the world, and each has to be paid for, which would drive up the cost for everyone. But our goal is to make every book look fantastic, so we’re constantly looking for ways to improve this aspect.



    By Kent
      October 20, 2011 – 10:07 am   Permalink
  30. Hey Ted,

    Yes, any book you made with BookSmart or Bookify can be ordered as an ebook. Just log in, go to your books in the Blurb Bookstore, and you’ll see the option to buy as an ebook right above your printed book options.



    By Kent
      October 20, 2011 – 10:09 am   Permalink
  31. Hey Mark,

    I totally understand your disappointment around that. PDF to Book is a bit more complicated because there are infinite ways those books can be made (whereas BookSmart and Bookify are much more standard). It will be early 2012, but no exact date that I can announce.



    By Kent
      October 20, 2011 – 10:15 am   Permalink
  32. Hey Deronda,

    No specific plans for that yet, but we’re certainly seeing some requests for it. Thank you for letting us know it’s something you want.



    By Kent
      October 20, 2011 – 10:16 am   Permalink
  33. Hey Neal,

    Our base price for ebooks is currently $1.99. You can set your price on top of that, and you keep all of that markup. Our Bookstore handles all the details. If you have more questions, check out our Set Your Price page.



    By Kent
      October 20, 2011 – 10:20 am   Permalink
  34. Hi Kent — not seeing it on this book. I did see it on the other one just as you described it.

    By Donna
      October 20, 2011 – 10:26 am   Permalink
  35. Hey Donna,

    Not sure what’s going on with that. Go ahead and drop a line to our Support Team, they can help you out:



    By Kent
      October 20, 2011 – 10:43 am   Permalink
  36. thanks!

    By Donna
      October 20, 2011 – 11:21 am   Permalink
  37. Hey Chester,

    It’s a valid concern, but even DRM is no guarantee against piracy. It’s always a trade-off, but we think most people will support the bookmakers they like by purchasing the ebook. Still, it’s good feedback, and something we could consider if demand is strong enough.



    By Kent
      October 20, 2011 – 11:27 am   Permalink
  38. Wonderful, wonderful and wonderful. It was I was waiting.


    By Glauce Lima
      October 20, 2011 – 1:19 pm   Permalink
  39. Examples on the Blurb website show much of the iPad screen wasted. Can we make ebooks in 1024×768?

    By John Corso
      October 20, 2011 – 3:29 pm   Permalink
  40. This is great! Many thanks. Any plans to add the capability of viewing our books one page at the time in portrait mode. Would be easier to read with my old eyes.

    By Bill Snoddy
      October 20, 2011 – 6:26 pm   Permalink
  41. I find it not so good looking that when you acces the book from ibooks, you get a left page ( white) next to the cover, is there a way to only show 11 page at the beginning and the end?
    But I do like the rest of the book!

    By Saskia
      October 21, 2011 – 3:30 am   Permalink
  42. Hey Saskia,

    Glad you like it! Unfortunately, we don’t have control over the cover issue, as it’s part of the iBooks format. But if Apple ever makes any changes around that, we will bring it to our ebooks.



    By Kent
      October 21, 2011 – 10:05 am   Permalink
  43. Hey Bill,

    I’m really happy you like it. The page-at-a-time option is something we hope to add in a future release.



    By Kent
      October 21, 2011 – 10:06 am   Permalink
  44. Hey John,

    We developed ebooks in this way so that people who’ve made printed books could convert their books without having to change their book layouts. However, if you’re looking to make something specific for the iPad, our Standard Portrait book size is pretty close to occupying the full screen.



    By Kent
      October 21, 2011 – 10:08 am   Permalink
  45. Kent: I’d like a Blurb app where I can download my books (purchased of course) directly from Blurb in epub format for my Android device.

    By C Gardner
      October 21, 2011 – 8:02 pm   Permalink
  46. When the iPhone hit the market, it was the only thing like it out there but now there are dozens of Android phones taking a significant market share.

    In a similar fashion, there are many Android tablets poised to hit the market. You will be leaving out a large audience if you do not develop something that works on the Android platform. This would include Kindle, Nook, or Overdrive versions since those apps all run on Android.

    By Kathy
      October 22, 2011 – 1:57 pm   Permalink
  47. Hello C Gardner,

    Ebooks has been a big project for us, and we’re certainly not done yet. I can’t make any promises on formats and devices, but we’d love to see Blurb ebooks everywhere anyone wants to read them. Stay tuned for more.



    By Kent
      October 24, 2011 – 9:38 am   Permalink
  48. Hey Kathy,

    I definitely hear you and your feedback is great. We’re starting with Apple right now, but obviously we’d love to see our ebooks everywhere. I can’t make any specific promises about platforms, but I can say that we’re certainly not done with ebooks.



    By Kent
      October 24, 2011 – 9:42 am   Permalink
  49. Very, very cool! Can you also add hyperlinks in the e-book?

    By Lise
      October 25, 2011 – 8:04 am   Permalink
  50. Hey Lise,

    Glad you’re excited. Right now we don’t have that functionality. But this is just the beginning for the humble ebook.



    By Kent
      October 25, 2011 – 9:28 am   Permalink
  51. Just converted two of my books to iPad to see how it worked. At first I thought that it was a mess, because my epub reader is Stanza. It looks TERRIBLE in it. I opened it in iBooks and it works just great in there.

    I think it would be important to highlight that a bit more.

    One thing that has me worried is the security. In the order email I got the two hyperlinks to download the epub. That means that I can download the file as many times as I want or that I can share that link with anyone and they can download the file, no?

    I’d like to see a feature that limits the number of downloads on a file, both by date and by number of downloads. I have bought other ebooks, and they say that the link works for 7 days after the purchase OR after XX number of downloads.

    Is this something that could be considered?

      November 29, 2011 – 7:45 am   Permalink
  52. Hey Juan,

    Yep, right now our ebooks are iOS optimized. So they’ll always look better on an idevice. I’m glad you like how it looks in iBooks.

    As for download limitations, it’s something we could consider. In general, we favor openness because too many hoops can make it difficult for bookmakers to legitimately share or re-download their work. We do require anyone downloading an ebook to register with Blurb, so it’s not as easy as just clicking a link. Still, we’re always listening to our customers.



    By Kent
      November 29, 2011 – 10:26 am   Permalink
  53. Plans are on the way to publish my first ebook and am glad that I found this topic.

    By Jose
      December 9, 2011 – 8:49 pm   Permalink
  54. Hey Jose,

    That’s fantastic. We think it’s a pretty neat way to get your work out there.



    By Kent
      December 12, 2011 – 2:11 pm   Permalink
  55. Hi Kent, just received my first book from Blurb..followed all the instructions on your site and I am using a calibrated system, yet my book was printed way too dark. Any comments or advice and do I have any recourse.

      December 30, 2011 – 10:32 am   Permalink
  56. Hey Chester,

    Thanks for writing to us. You should contact our Support Team. They’re a great resource and they can help figure out what’s amiss.



    By Kent
      December 30, 2011 – 11:27 am   Permalink
  57. Repeat from another poster:

    Anything in the works to enable Android ebooks? In particular, ebooks for Kindle Fire?

      February 23, 2012 – 11:26 am   Permalink
  58. Hey Barney,

    We want to get Blurb ebooks on every screen imaginable, so stay tuned for future developments.


    By Kent
      February 23, 2012 – 11:40 am   Permalink
  59. Hello,
    I have just made my blurb book available as an e-book.
    Will it automatically appear in I-tunes bookstore index ?
    And if there is an ISBN number allocated where can I find out what it is?
    I don’t have access to I-pad/phone to check.

      April 26, 2012 – 5:07 pm   Permalink
  60. Hey Rennie,

    Currently we’re busing tuning up the iBookstore submission process to make sure it runs smoothly for everyone. So, for the moment, you won’t be able to submit. Once we’ve brought it back, you will be able to get an eISBN number.

    So, hang tight and watch our blog for details.



    By Kent
      April 27, 2012 – 2:40 pm   Permalink
  61. This is awesome, I’ve already made two ebooks,
    I’m just wondering when your PDF to ebook option is becoming available?

    And also if we are going to get the option with
    A isbn bar so they can be sold automatically on amazon etc?

    Kind regards anton

      June 24, 2012 – 3:08 am   Permalink
  62. Hey Anton,

    We’re working on PDF to ebook. I can’t give you an exact date, but hold tight. We know it’s something people want.

    As for ISBNs, it’s something we’re thinking about. But the feedback is really appreciated.



    By Kent
      June 25, 2012 – 9:48 am   Permalink
  63. Any news of when it will be possible to make ebooks for Kindle?

    Been “promised” for a while, but seems a long time coming :-(

      July 2, 2012 – 3:13 pm   Permalink
  64. Hey Morag, I wish I could give you some concrete dates on this. It is high on our list, however. We’ll let you know when it’s coming.

    By Kent
      July 3, 2012 – 3:27 pm   Permalink

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