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Blurb's "Trade book", color vs. b&w paper
Old 12-27-2013   #1
Andrea Taurisano
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Blurb's "Trade book", color vs. b&w paper

Hi everyone.

Many of you saw either or both of my Blurb books "The Japan book" and "-9289-". For both of them I chose the so called "trade book" solution, where the same "rough", off-white paper used, say, for novels is utilised for photobooks. This makes it very cheap, affording the auhor to buy a number of copies to give away and even making it possible to sell a number of copies at a rather modest price. However that paper has the drawback of not rendering the blacks as deep and punchy as many of us would like, thus resulting in overall lower contrast than some would have liked. If you think of any book by Daido Moriyama, for example, I can assure you that no matter how much you contrast your shots in the first place, you can forget that contrast.. Still, the result is pleasant and particularly suited to gritty, grainy b&w work.

Now, I just received test copies of the same two books printed on another type of "trade book" paper, the one Blurb offers for color trade books. The result is very different. The color trade book paper feels slightly thinner than the B&W one, but that may be due to its surface being significantly smoother (I'd say almost wax-coated) as compared to the porous B&W trade paper. The contrast is indeed more pronounced, with deeper blacks and, well, real whites (as opposite to the off-whites enabled by the B&W paper). When observing the same pages side by side, the black & white photos printed on color trade book paper have a significantly colder tone, almost looking blue-ish compared to the warmer toned B&W trade book. Another thing I can definitely see is that the color paper makes the film grain less pronounced, while the rougher B&W paper emphasizes it.

Considering that the price of the same book printed on color paper is 2 - 3 times higher than printed on B&W paper, I am far from sure that I would go the color way for my next book. The cold tonality it gives all b&w images is the major flipside IMO, while I guess the apparent smoothing of the grain can be compensated for by a little increase in LR before one uploads to Blurb.

Hope this can help those of you who are considering trade books for their work. I'll try to take photos of the two books open side by side to see if the difference shows, in which case I'll edit this post and add them, but can't promise success in this.

PS: should you know of any other nett based self-publishing companies offering more paper options, please do share..

EDIT: here is what I managed to get, but difficult to render the different paper tonality. The difference in contrast should however be visible.



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Old 12-28-2013   #2
Peter David Grant
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Hi Andrea,

This is great information, thanks for writing it up, I had been wondering how deep the blacks are. Still, the price is so low, I shall give it ago.

Thank you again.

Peter
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Old 12-28-2013   #3
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thanks for sharing your findings. am currently in work of making my photo book as well. Adorama has solution that got good comments earlier (year two ago dont remember anymore).
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Old 12-28-2013   #4
Andrea Taurisano
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Now updated with a sample image of the difference between color and B&W paper for B&W images.
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Old 12-28-2013   #5
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Thanks Andrea,

I think that's a good option for selected portfolios with less pictures...I've looked and looked to the books I've made with the first kind of paper and in the end I like it..it's not as I wish, but it steel feels fine.
I've tried to order a copy with the color paper, but it was too expensive, it's just makes no sense...

Still think that I'll make a zine on my choice of paper in limited copies, but I don't want to force any buyer on that expense (plus shipping)..

'soon!
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Old 12-28-2013   #6
Andrea Taurisano
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Yeah, I agree. After this comparison, I feel it's not worth to pay 2 - 3 times more for the difference it makes (as long as one only has B&W images, of course, cause if you have even only one color image in the book, the whole book will have to be printed on color paper).
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Old 12-28-2013   #7
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Excellent information and commentary.
Thank you !
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Old 12-28-2013   #8
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I can suggest Edition One Press in Berkley CA as an alternative if you want a short press run high quality photo book. They do not do "one copy" print runs or the "print on demand business" as they actually print in house rather than subcontract. Pricing is reasonable for as few as 100 copies. They do not have templates as you must send them print ready copy. And they offer no marketing assistance as they only do printing. What they do is excellent high quality in house printing and binding. FWIW, Ben Z., the owner, has a MFA in photography and Mary, the #1 assistant, also is a photographer.

I just found the quality of Blurb and other similar "one copy" shops unacceptable for what I wanted even though the price was cheap. As with so many things, you get what you pay for.

edit: I must add that by following their color management directions, their initial proofs they sent matched my exhibitions prints exactly. And these were b&w prints which I believe are more difficult than color given the nuances of tonality.
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Old 12-29-2013   #9
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more kudos for Edition One, wonderful folks to work with and excellent quality.
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Old 12-29-2013   #10
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It is possible the black and white paper, at lower cost, is just typical offset paper and if it does not have much show through it is offset-opaque. A 50 or 60lb stock is usually quite rough and cheap and will have a brightness of maybe 85 or 87 which makes it kind of yellow.

The color paper may be uncoated but calendared so that it is considerably smoother and may feel thinner but might actually have the same 60 or 50 lb basis weight since they take the rough stock and run it through rolls to calendar and smooth it out. They also may add some brighteners to the paper which could increase it to 92 or 94 which will then be sort of bluish.

From your picture, it seems both may have an applicable use. If only the warmer tone held the higher contrast, you'd have a Portriga-Rapid book, and that would be killer!

One can dream and thanks for sharing. I should do a book now. They are a lot of work but quite satisfying.
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Old 01-02-2014   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Michaels View Post
I must add that by following their color management directions, their initial proofs they sent matched my exhibitions prints exactly. And these were b&w prints which I believe are more difficult than color given the nuances of tonality.
Bob, can you provide the preparation details for the files you supplied to Edition One for the B&W prints? This looks like a very interesting possibility for a small project I have in the works.
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Old 01-02-2014   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dasuess View Post
Bob, can you provide the preparation details for the files you supplied to Edition One for the B&W prints? This looks like a very interesting possibility for a small project I have in the works.
I followed the details on their website here http://www.editiononebooks.com/proce...s/#imagesSpecs
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Old 01-02-2014   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Michaels View Post
I can suggest Edition One Press in Berkley CA as an alternative if you want a short press run high quality photo book. They do not do "one copy" print runs or the "print on demand business" as they actually print in house rather than subcontract. Pricing is reasonable for as few as 100 copies. They do not have templates as you must send them print ready copy. And they offer no marketing assistance as they only do printing. What they do is excellent high quality in house printing and binding. FWIW, Ben Z., the owner, has a MFA in photography and Mary, the #1 assistant, also is a photographer.

I just found the quality of Blurb and other similar "one copy" shops unacceptable for what I wanted even though the price was cheap. As with so many things, you get what you pay for.

edit: I must add that by following their color management directions, their initial proofs they sent matched my exhibitions prints exactly. And these were b&w prints which I believe are more difficult than color given the nuances of tonality.
That's near my home town! Thanks for the tip Bob!
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Old 01-02-2014   #14
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This is excellent information Andrea. I've been thinking of going the trade book route just to check it out. Very helpful information
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