27 Jun Blurb shows that print still captures imaginations
In the age of digital everything, print still captures the imagination of consumers – even consumers who have become advocates of everything Internet.
There’s no clearer example than Blurb. I first discussed Blurb with founder Eileen Gittens when the company was no more than a brief PowerPoint deck. We met at a Starbucks on a windy afternoon and Eileen unwound a vision for consumer-generated books that well pre-dates the current craze. At the time, blogs were just beginning to pick up momentum, and online media was taking its first big bites out of print media.
But here was Blurb, believing that consumers would continue to want to create, touch, and read books.
Blurb launched at the 2005 edition of DEMO and has since grown to 37 people, raising an additional $14 million in equity and debt financing, and is printing books by the thousands each week for customers around the world. These books are not just party favors and photo albums, but substantial, professional, and beautiful volumes. The average size book Blurb publishes today is between 120 and 160 pages.
Professional photographers use Blurb to create wedding albums. Designers and agencies use Blurb to create client deliverables and showcase portfolios. And even though Blurb hasn’t localized its service to regions outside the U.S., six percent of its business is coming from abroad.
That number is bound to grow now. Blurb recently announced that it is expanding into Europe, adding a printing partner in the Netherlands in order to reduce cost and delivery times for the international set. The decision to add a European printer precedes improvements to the Blurb site targeted at European customers, including metric conversion and local currency pricing.
The bigger news, and potentially much bigger bounce to Blurb’s bottom line, is an exclusive deal with Flickr, letting digital photographers take all that online content and move it offline and into a printed book. The “Flickr Sluper” feature automatically streams high-resolution images stored in Flickr to the Blurb book-creating software.
To promote the deal, Blurb and Flickr have created a commemorative “24 Hours of Flickr” book featuring photos taken by Flickr members from around the world. The book is available on the Blurb Bookstore, and proceeds from the sale of the book will benefit charity.
Both announcements are supported by a site redesign that brings new community tools and creates a marketplace for independent book publishers. Now, publishers can create a book, price it, and post it to the Blurb Bookstore for sale. Blurb takes the printing costs and the book publisher gets the profit. These on-demand books also can be sold from any site with a “Blurb Badge” widget.
Bridging old and new
Blurb’s announcements and enhancements point to a countervailing reality to the digital world. Consumers still crave the tactile, visual experience of print. Blurb does an amazing job of bridging the two worlds.
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Shipley has covered the personal technology business since 1984, and is regarded as one of the top analysts covering the technology industry today. She has worked as a writer and editor for a variety of technology consumer magazines, including PC Week, PC Magazine, PC/Computing, and InfoWorld, US Magazine, and Working Woman.
She has written two books on communications and Internet technology, she has won numerous awards for journalistic excellence, and was named the No. 1 newsletter editor by Marketing Computers two years in a row. To subscribe to DEMOletter please visit: http://www.idgexecforums.com/demoletter/index.html.
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