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Problems with Blurb books

Katherine Mann

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I hope it is okay to discuss this topic. I have used Blurb to publish several books. I have not used Lr's BOOK module as it seems cumbersome. This is a general question regarding the quality of Blurb's output.

Last Monday I received an order of ten books from Blurb. I had ordered the same book a total of four times before, during the past month. I get more printed when I sell out my stock.

The first four printings were great. They exactly matched my calibrated monitor.

Unfortunately the last order arrived totally different from all the others. They are oversaturated generally and tending toward yellow. They are too ugly to sell, and unacceptable. I immediately brought this to Blurb's attention via their customer service section of their web site. I received an answer from a rep the next morning. She needed a detailed description of the problem. I replied. The next day she wanted photos of the good and the bad books. I sent them. The next day she wanted to know the order number of the last good run. I sent it. I also told her that I thought it was time for Blurb to deal with the fact that they had sent unacceptably printed books. Today she offered to reprint the last order for free. She said that the problem was in my file and to fix it before I ordered the books. She was not specific. I have sent them the same file five times. Four times the books printed perfectly. I have not changed the file. I don't think she has any idea of what she is talking about. I replied asking her to tell me precisely what was wrong.

So I did some research. Apparently there are many people who are upset with inconsistent results from Blurb. I wonder if anyone has encountered the same sort of inconsistent quality from Blurb. If so, what did you do about it?
 

Modesto Vega

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I hope it is okay to discuss this topic. I have used Blurb to publish several books. I have not used Lr's BOOK module as it seems cumbersome. This is a general question regarding the quality of Blurb's output.

Last Monday I received an order of ten books from Blurb. I had ordered the same book a total of four times before, during the past month. I get more printed when I sell out my stock.

The first four printings were great. They exactly matched my calibrated monitor.

Unfortunately the last order arrived totally different from all the others. They are oversaturated generally and tending toward yellow. They are too ugly to sell, and unacceptable. I immediately brought this to Blurb's attention via their customer service section of their web site. I received an answer from a rep the next morning. She needed a detailed description of the problem. I replied. The next day she wanted photos of the good and the bad books. I sent them. The next day she wanted to know the order number of the last good run. I sent it. I also told her that I thought it was time for Blurb to deal with the fact that they had sent unacceptably printed books. Today she offered to reprint the last order for free. She said that the problem was in my file and to fix it before I ordered the books. She was not specific. I have sent them the same file five times. Four times the books printed perfectly. I have not changed the file. I don't think she has any idea of what she is talking about. I replied asking her to tell me precisely what was wrong.

So I did some research. Apparently there are many people who are upset with inconsistent results from Blurb. I wonder if anyone has encountered the same sort of inconsistent quality from Blurb. If so, what did you do about it?
What type of file? Has the file changed since the last good print run? Have you sent exactly the same file? How do you send the file via Lr or externally? If through Lr have you upgraded Lr since the last good print run (including dot releases)?

Sorry to ask so many questions but I need more info to help.
 

Katherine Mann

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Modesto - I didn't send the file via Lr. My question is with regard to general satisfaction with Blurb's output. I used their software Bookwright to make the book. I have sent the exact same file 5 times. Four times it matched my monitor (calibrated) and the last time it was radically different. I am looking for feedback from people who have used Blurb and wondering if anyone has had the same problem (same file radically different results). And what they did about it.
 

Modesto Vega

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Modesto - I didn't send the file via Lr. My question is with regard to general satisfaction with Blurb's output. I used their software Bookwright to make the book. I have sent the exact same file 5 times. Four times it matched my monitor (calibrated) and the last time it was radically different. I am looking for feedback from people who have used Blurb and wondering if anyone has had the same problem (same file radically different results). And what they did about it.
Katherine - the problem is that it is not that simple. There are 2 possibilities: it is Blurbs fault, they had a printing issue, or the file is corrupted due to a fault with you hard drive or got corrupted in transit. The only way to check this if to ask Blurb to do a test run and print 1 copy with you suppling them the very same file again. If the problem reocurrs there is likely to be a problem with the file, if it doesn't it is likely it was Blurb's fault.
If Blurb does not agree to run this simple test free of charge and you have a healthy hard drive, them I would ask Blurb for a full refund of the faulty print run.

Hope I make sense.
 

Katherine Mann

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You do make sense Modesto, and thank you. The deal that Blurb has offered is to run the job again for free AFTER I have fixed the problem. They will not say what the problem is. No one has suggested a test. I don't expect that one would be forthcoming. They do not do in house printing but farm out the projects all over the world.

AFAIK there is nothing wrong with the file. My hard drive is healthy. I can boot the file in their software and it matches exactly the first four orders. I believe that their press is not calibrated - and that it is a different press from the one that printed the first four orders. I can print from Lr to my Canon Pro9000 and my prints match my monitor exactly.

It's a classic. If the supplier doesn't know what is wrong they blame the customer. I have run three jobs with them over a few years and always been happy with the product. I have spent well over $2000 on their books. This is the first time I have had an issue with their quality. The absolute vagueness of customer support's response has been frustrating. Basically they say that there is something wrong with the file - which worked perfectly four times in the last month - but they decline to say what is wrong.

Given that Lr is connected to Blurb, and I take that to mean that Adobe has confidence in their company and its products, and that Adobe is here with us on these forums, I thought it might be a good place to ask if people are generally satisfied with their service.
 

SwChappell

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Katherine, I have used Blurb a few times. One thing you said confused me a bit ... you said you sent them the same file 5 times? When I log into Blurb's site, I can re-order any of the books they've printed for me without resending the file at all, so I'm not sure why you'd have to resend it just to reprint it? I don't really think the problem is on your end ... from what you've said, it sounds like a printing problem for sure. But if you could direct them at one of the original uploads that had satisfactory results, then that'd at least eliminate that variable.
 

Katherine Mann

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Thanks ScChappell. I wonder if they keep your various files around. I'm betting they don't. I have had to upload the file for each order - even two orders of the same file on the same day (I had a sudden purchase for ten books and had to get some more.) In any case - I will ask them if they respond to my latest request to identify what they "see" in the file. The offer remains to print the order again without cost - after I fix the thing they can't identify. I must say it's frustrating. I only have the one file on my computer. *sigh*

Thanks for responding.
 

Modesto Vega

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Thanks ScChappell. I wonder if they keep your various files around. I'm betting they don't. I have had to upload the file for each order - even two orders of the same file on the same day (I had a sudden purchase for ten books and had to get some more.) In any case - I will ask them if they respond to my latest request to identify what they "see" in the file. The offer remains to print the order again without cost - after I fix the thing they can't identify. I must say it's frustrating. I only have the one file on my computer. *sigh*

Thanks for responding.
What type of file are you sending them, a PDF?
 

Katherine Mann

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Modesto, I sent them the sort of file that BookWright makes - a .blurb file. I was thinking of ordering one book and seeing how that goes. I think it's a matter of one particular printer doing a bad job though, so it's a matter of tossing the dice. It could be that the last time I uploaded the file it was corrupted too and I have no control over that.
 

Modesto Vega

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Katherine, I cannot rember if you can print from BookWright. If you can, have you tried printing a couple of pages with your Canon printer; if they print to you satisfaction the file is not the problem and as you suspect the problem is with Blurb's printer.

If you cannot print, from BookWright I will just take their offer, send them the file, perhaps with a different name, like adding V2 after the name and see what happens. It is bad customer service they are asking you to figure out what is wrong with a propietary file format that cannot be debugged easily.
 

Katherine Mann

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Thank you again, Modesto. You are most kind to pay attention to my little problem. I think you are exactly right that I should send the file again with a slightly different name. I have ordered this particular book five times and all but the last order came back matching my monitor exactly. (which is pretty remarkable, I must admit) Their customer service has not overwhelmed me with gratitude. They will only communicate once a day. So far five exchanges have taken five days. I will wait for Monday and the possibility that she might reply to my request for her to be specific rather then vague. I am not holding my breath. And then I will cross my fingers, turn around three times, spit, and send the renamed file. Hopefully the file will be directed to a printer who glances at the output from time to time. (I spent years as a pressman in the seventies so I imagine there is a human being involved. Probably not though.)

Thanks for all your help.
 

Roelof Moorlag

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You could also generate a hash from your file. Blurb then could generate it from their received copy. When the numbers correspond you proved there is no filecorruption.
 

Katherine Mann

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Roelof, I don't understand but it sounds intriguing. If you have time, could you perhaps explain the process?
 

Roelof Moorlag

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You can download a program like WinMD5 free (http://www.winmd5.com/). After install it lets you generate a MD5 hash from your file. That is BTW just a number...
This number is unique for a file. When you make a copy of a file the hash of that copy must be the same as the original. This is how you can check for file integrity. Your own back-ups for example. But in this case you can send the hash value to Blurb and ask them to generate a hash from their copy of your file (with the same tool). The numbers must correspond.

BTW: Lightroom uses this technique to check on file-integrety of the DNF files it manages (So you don't have to generate periodical hashes for all individual files), a great way to detect file corruption in a early stage.
 
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Katherine Mann

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Great information Roelof! Thank you!
The problem with Blurb is that they are willing to do nothing much except to reprint after I fix the thing they can't identify. I can't imagine that anyone at Blurb would check the file for integrity. I think Blurb's customer support is really just a few people fending off criticism and offering to reprint if the customer is persistent. Not really tech people.

Someone on another forum pointed out that Blurb is cutting the quality line as close as possible in order to maximize profit without totally losing customers. I have a few books on the go just now and one a portfolio volume of my best work. I would have sent them to Blurb but now I'm not so sure I will. I'm looking for another print on demand source.
 

Katherine Mann

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Roelof, I expect it looked like a great service, which it does. I have been very happy with Blurb up to now, publishing a book of my own photos and a biography for a friend. The quality was top notch for both projects. The first 31 books for this book of poetry that we have on the go around here were just fine. More than just fine - inexpensive, well printed and professionally done. But it seems like a roll of the dice - when it goes wrong it totally sucks.

I suppose things do go wrong - I still think that overall Blurb probably offers a good service - depending on how fussy you are - most of the time. I have seen people complaining about blocked shadows, folded and crumpled pages, colour shifts such as in my case - but they report that Blurb stood by their work and offered reprints. In my case they will do the same - the problem is in defining the problem. I think it's their press, they think it's me. It's a bit of an impasse. Here is the problem - the bottom image is the correct printing, the top is yellow and over-saturated.

 

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IanL

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When I log into Blurb's site, I can re-order any of the books they've printed for me without resending the file at all
This is my experience too. Any time I have had the need to have more copies of a book printed I have just logged into my account at Blurb and created a new print order form the book that was already there. No sending new copies of the file at all. If you can reorder from your account then you can eliminate the problem of sending them a copy of a file that could be different in some way. It would also remove the possibility to blame your output because you have just had them reuse the same data that already produced good work.
 
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