As the definition of ‘book’ begins to shift and change, data is a good place to look for clues as to what will happen next. Each person making a book has a singular experience, but collectively the books are part of a vast network, with a lot of information to tell us about ourselves. Because you make a blurb book on your computer, even a printed book could be a ‘networked object,’ connected to other book makers around you through information you share. It’s easy to forget that, since you never see them, thousands of people around the world are making books at exactly the same time as you are. New layers of information will be finding their way into blurb tools, giving bookmakers more context and insight as part of the interface.
For example: over the past few years, blurb bookmakers have made hundreds of thousands of books with millions of photos. These digital photos often have a bit of information about the photograph embedded in them (the exposure settings, the equipment) and our servers receive them from all over. By aggregating this information and mapping it, you can get a sense of what people use, and where. Are you living in the U.K.? The most photos were taken by a single camera model were the Fuji Finepix 6900. In France it’s a Canon Ixus. In the U.S. by contrast, it’s a pricey Canon 5D Mk II overall (unless you’re on the east coast, where Nikon is top). In Australia, a cellphone camera (a Nokia E71) is in the top 10. And so on.
Equipment is fun to think about, but what about much more concrete stuff, like exposure? In Canada and the U.S., most people (about a third) used ISO 400, f/2.8 and 1/60th of a second for exposure, but in the U.K. it’s ISO 100, 1/500th and f/4 (not that these settings were used together necessarily, they were just the most popular separately). More particularly, looking at the most popular exposure settings across the U.S., shutter speed and aperture are pretty much the same no matter where you live. What changes (a bit) is the ISO; the further north, the higher the ISO, the further south, the lower. Maybe this is a bias in the auto-exposure programs built into the camera — all things being equal, cameras will automatically adjust the ISO first? Yet another good reason to stay in manual mode! In New York, many people used a grainy ISO 1400. In Atlanta, ISO 200. Why? Who knows! Where I live, in the San Francisco Bay area, ISO 200 is popular… maybe I will try that next time I am out instead of the 400 I am used to.
And even better would be to know what my friend Sam used to take the gorgeous photos of his wife and kid in the book he showed me; right now, it’s impossible for me to find out. My books (and my book-making) could be connected, as much or as little as I choose, to my friends, my town, or the world. All of this is to say that after a lot of drawbacks to (*cough*) over-sharing, it’s time for some benefits, and helping me know how people shoot (and more about the process of making beautiful books) is a good place to begin.