Book it

Print it or lose it. Those words hung heavily over my head while contemplating the more than 3,500 images I captured during a three week European trip this summer.

I’ve had hard drives fail, taking hundreds of digital images with them. CDs and DVDs have a limited lifespan. (No, they don’t last forever; cheap ones can fail in less than a year.) Anyone have a floppy disk with pictures on it? And does anyone still have a computer with a floppy disk drive to read those floppy disks? Memory sticks and camera memory cards won’t last forever, and are easily lost or erased.

Ever lost a smartphone? Had it stolen? Where are all those pictures now?

The only way to guarantee pictures will last is to print them. There’s a very real possibility the photographic record of recent history will disappear, as few of us print our digital images, trusting to the electronic gods that those digital pictures won’t disappear.

I have a drawer full of DVDs which I know will shortly give up their ability to hold data as some of their component layers rot, so a major editing session is in my future.

bookSo what to do with all those pictures I just shot in Europe? I made a photobook.

I went out for a walk late Friday afternoon and when I got back home, my wife was standing at the table going through the just-delivered photobook, page by page. She wouldn’t let me near it. She accompanied me on the trip. She’s seen all the pictures. But being able to see them printed out . . . priceless.

I selected the Blurb platform to make the book. Although Blurb offers them, I wasn’t interested in following a template; I wanted to create my own design because I had so many pictures. One of my kids did that for his daughter’s “year one” book a few years ago and had to search to find a platform which would accept page PDFs rather than individual photos inserted into a template. It’s a lot easier now.

Blurb offers an Adobe InDesign plug-in. This lets you create your own design giving you the precise physical parameters to work within on screen, and the precise output specifications to guarantee a proper printing job. Very easy to use and follow. The only thing you’ve got to keep in mind is that once you’ve made certain decisions, such as the type of cover construction, changing your mind will require a complete redo of all your work. Yes, I did that.

Blurb also offers a plug-in for Lightroom as well as its own program, BookSmart. The company also has a separate PDF-to-book program for those who use other design tools. And as for smartphones, Blurb has an app!

I produced a large format (13×11-in / 33×28 cm) 240-page hardcover book using InDesign. The book’s a beaut.

The printing is excellent, the paper stock I selected from the available list is super, and the binding looks solid.

Total cost was about $185, including shipping. Had I ordered more copies, the per item cost would have dropped after the 10th one. But one was all I wanted, a record which can be passed on to my kids and grandkids. History preserved.

Blurb offers an array of templates and designs, as well as a nice variety of sizes and orientations (square, portrait, landscape), cover types, and paper quality. Pricing depends on the choices you make for paper quality, number of pages, type of cover . . . you get the idea. You don’t need to be a designer; all you need are your photos.

It’s early December. You’ve got time to make a photobook before Christmas.

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