Kathy Richardson – my friend from Canada has just produced another photo book which just blew me away. You can take a look at it here.

I have travelled with Kathy and her husband David Richardson on some great safaris and she has documented them most beautifully in some full sized photo books – every one a fantastic record of our adventures to Zambia, Botswana and Namibia. Last year I asked Kathy to give me some tips for people making books and her blog made really interesting reading.

Kathy used Apple Aperture for her book productions previously but for her latest book on Namibia she tried  Lightroom 4’s Blurb plug in for the first time. I am a Lightroom user and was very interested about her account of the experience.

Over to Kathy…

1.  Quality of both is very good.  Blurb doesn’t offer the image wrap cover + dust jacket as apple does but I thought the linen cover was quite fine.  (I went with the standard black, tho’ the premium oatmeal colour was appealing.) Paper quality is very good in both.  Colour reproduction also very good in both, altho’ the text on the cover of my Namibia book turned out to be pinker than I wanted (it was supposed to match the blowing sand on the dunes below it) and I had just calibrated my monitor.

2.  Price of blurb books (even without using the discount codes I received) is considerably cheaper than the equivalent apple product.  (About half price with the discount code!)

3.  Shipping – Blurb’s willingness to ship worldwide is a very BIG plus to me.  Apple will at present ship only to an address within the country where the book is ordered.  So, even for our friends in the US, I have to order the book (from the US), have it shipped to me and then turn around and ship it back to the US to whoever I’m sending it to.   Shipping costs and delivery times were comparable between the 2 products.  Blurb’s shipping to you in SA quite amazed me … I ordered it on March 19th (Tuesday) and by the following Monday it was on a FedEx truck in SA for delivery to you.  (Actual delivery was a couple of days later b/c no one was home.)  And the delivery cost from Blurb for that service was about 1/3 of what we paid to send the last book to you via Canada Post, and that one took at least 6 weeks to arrive!

4.  Interface with Lightroom – I loved the way LR and Blurb interface.  In the past, I’ve always edited a bunch of photos (always far more than I end up using) in LR, then exported them and re-imported them into Aperture, where I made the book.  And if I needed to fill in a few gaps I had to do that all over again.  But this time I started with just a couple of hundred photos and found it easy to return to my originals to grab a few more and do a quick edit on them, as I needed them.

5.  Layout – There are plusses and minuses to both systems in terms of layouts.  I liked the fact that in Blurb I could put in any colour of background page I wanted.  Aperture has a few set colours, depending on the theme you choose, and that’s it.  I missed the ability to inset a small pic or two onto another larger one, as I could with Aperture.  I know there is a Blurb layout that allows this but there are no frames around the smaller photos and I didn’t really like the result so ended up never using it.   Aperture allows you to frame any photo and also determine the colour and width of the frame. (I think this is probably possible in Blurb too, by doing a layout in the LR print function, but that seems too cumbersome to me.)  Overall, I found the Blurb layouts less flexible than the Aperture ones, but perhaps that is because I had figured out a way with Aperture to clear all the layout off a page and then insert whatever size boxes I wanted.  Text too I found more difficult with Blurb.  For example, I couldn’t get the text on the spine of the Namib book to go sideways, but I’m onto another book now and it went in that way w/o a hitch.  I know that there’s a fair amount of flexibility with Blurb, in terms of sizing and aspect ratio of the photos as well as with placement of the text.  I just need more experience with the program, I expect, to figure it all out.

6. I thought of a couple of other things about Blurb that I really like too – first, the ability to share an electronic version of the book with friends & family – not everyone is nearby and can see the hard copy; and secondly, the ability to buy an iPad version of the book for under $10.   Both great (non-traditional) ways to share the book with others.

In summary, I’d say I was very satisfied with the Blurb experience.  (Had a little hiccup placing my first order but customer service was fast and responsive so I was happy.)  I’m making another book now and began by thinking I’d do it quickly using Apple, but after toying around a bit there I decided Blurb was really a better way to go.  I doubt if I’ll ever go back to using Apple again.