Tip of the Week: Using PDF/X-3 for your PDF to Book Projects

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We’ve been getting back to basics in some of our recent tips, so here’s one for more advanced Blurbarians who may be using PDF to Book workflow. We asked Joe, Blurb’s PDF tech specialist and all-around good guy, to talk a little bit about the PDF/X-3 format and why we use it. This gets a little technical, so grab a cup of coffee, get comfy, and dig in…

pdf export Tip of the Week: Using PDF/X 3 for your PDF to Book Projects

Why do we use PDF/X-3s for PDF to Book projects?

Here at Blurb we often get a variation of the question, “Why can’t I just send you guys regular PDFs to print my book? Why do they have to be PDF/X-3 files?”

Though we’d love to be able to take any kind of PDF to print your book, the reason we require a PDF/X-3 file is not because we’re picky or want to make life difficult for you. The PDF/X-3 solution is required because it actually protects your design and insures your book comes back exactly as you’ve designed it.

The PDF/X-3 format was designed specifically for the print industry and, along with its cousin PDF/X-1a, is an official ISO standard in file acceptability for print. We don’t want to bore you with too many details here, so if you want a more complete description of the format please check out our PDF/X-3 FAQ.

Some book publishing services accept non-PDF/X-3 formatted PDFs for their workflows, but doing so increases certain risks. Issues such as font reflowing and replacement, severe color shifting, disappearing images, and page repositioning are common with workflows that accept PDFs indiscriminately.

A PDF/X-3 standard guarantees that all the fonts you use are embedded into the PDF, and ensures that your images and other elements are in standard color-spaces. The PDF/X-3 standard also allows for color-managed elements to be profiled correctly so that the calibrated printing presses in Blurb’s network will print pages exactly as intended.

Just like you, we design our own books and appreciate the amount of time and passion that goes into making something so personal. This is precisely why we’ve decided to set the bar a little higher for our PDF to Book fans. By using the PDF/X-3 standard, we’re giving you more control over your finished project, which lets you focus on the personal touches — like whether to use Premium paper, which cover type to choose, or how many books to order for your friends or relatives — and not so much on the technical details.

We try to make using PDF/X-3 as simple as possible for you. If you are using Adobe® InDesign®, please check out our Adobe InDesign Plug-in. The plug-in puts all of the templates at your fingertips and installs the required Blurb PDF Export Preset directly into your InDesign application. If you’re using another page-layout application or have any questions about the PDF to Book workflow, go ahead and contact Blurb’s Customer Support. We’d love to help you get started.

Happy (PDF to Book) Bookmaking,

Joe, Blurb’s PDF Tech Specialist

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