John and all other members,
I wanted to follow up on this thread. I have been waiting for the results of this experiment in order to post my views here. I just received the Blurb book I ordered yesterday and would like to share some of my findings as well as some questions or concerns. Since this is an older thread I will also post this as another post or thread so others can read it and provide their input in case they miss it here.
First, after the catastrophic failure with the book I had created in Lightroom's book module (I lost a book that was nearly finished and contained approximately 220 pages) I was able to recover an early back-up done by Lightroom with the initial 60 pages of the book. I exported the pages as JPEGs following John's helpful advice and instructions. The pages were exported as JPEG's with 300 dpi and compression set to the highest level of quality.
After that I downloaded Blurb's InDesign template for the same book size I had created in Lightroom (in my case the large landscape, 10" x 13"). I was able next to place the JPEG images on the first 60 pages of my InDesign book and then just continued from there. The JPEG images were placed on a layer of their own. Next I locked that layer so that no changes could be made by accident and created additional layers for the other elements. I continued to place my images on the subsequent pages (from page 61 forward) as well as to place additional elements such as text, image caption, page numbers and others. These elements were placed on the initial pages on layers above that containing the JPEG images exported from Lightroom. They were also placed above the image layer on the subsequent pages. When the book was finished I exported the book using the Blurb downloaded PDF export preset. The book was submitted as a PDF to book. The uploading took less time than I anticipated and, with the exception of the price (I wish it would be a bit more reasonable), everyting went very smoothly.
The book looks great. The hardcover makes it look like a book you would expect to find at your local Barnes & Noble store - really professional. In general I am quite impressed and the following are my observations:
1. It's not a photographic quality book.
The book was a pictorial containing photos for the most part. The images are 'book quality' but not 'photo quality', if you know what I mean. It is not the quality you would expect from even a low cost Epson photo printer but looks like photos you would find on your typical printed book. Most of my images were either 300 dpi or higher. InDesign has a nice feature that allows you to place an image on a page and then reduce its size. As the size is reduced you can see the resolution increasing on one of its menus. The resolution should have been enough to produce high quality images but I suspect the process has to do with the printing process rather than the resolution (registration?, others?).
2. The images appear darker.
The images were in general darker than they appeared when the book was created. I know there are differences between both media - computer screen is emissive and paper is reflective. However, I had hoped that the printing process would take this into account, including the brightness of the paper, and make proper adjustments so that the book would look as close as possible to its screen counterpart. This is clearly not the case.
Is there a scientific way to address this ? Is there a calculate way to increase brightness prior to submitting a book for printing that would compensate for this phenomenon ? If not, is this more art than science and one must 'guess' the loss and increase brightness at will ?
3. The paper looks great but affects (sometimes negatively) the viewing experience.
I chose the most expensive paper Blurb offers. It is the Proline Pearl Photo Paper and it has a very nice, soft, matte finish I like. The downside is that it is not very reflective and further compounds the 'darker' feel. In addition I think that its 'white' isn't really white due to the characteristics of the paper. It is probably more like an off-white or light gray. Again, it would be nice to know if there is a scientific way to address this. One would expect the press to utilize some kind of algorithm that takes all these variables into account, including the paper individual qualities. Is there a way to do this ?
4. The hardcover looks really nice but I can already see fingerprints on it. The cover isn't offered with a choice of UV coating, which would be nice to protect it and make this a longer term investment. I can see this book ageing faster if care is not exercised in its handling.
Having said all of the above I must say that my experience has, for the most part, been a positive one. The book looks quite nice. Adobe InDesign has proven to be a terrific tool for this type of job and there can definitely be good integration between Lightroom's book module (once that thing is working the way it should) and InDesign. I didn't notice any difference in quality between the images exported from Lightroom and those I manually placed in InDesign.
I wish Blurb would offer more choices and that I few issues would be addressed:
1. More paper choices.
2. UV coating for cover (and also for pages).
3. A reliable method to compensate for brightness so images on books don't appear dark.
4. Lightroom export to InDesign document for those who wish to add, refine or edit the book in InDesign.
Thanks John for your help and for pointing the right direction.