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January 21, 2009 11:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking to get 3 or 4 copies of an illustrated book printed and bound. It's a project for my Illustration class this semester, so the print quality of the images is my highest priority, but cost is key as well since I'm your typical broke college student. What print on demand services should I look into?

A few more details:
-The book will be approximately 35 pages long, about half text, half full-color illustrations.
-Hardcover vs. paperback pretty much comes down to price, so I'll probably go with paperback, though I don't really have a preference
-I need to do all the layouts and typesetting and whatnot myself, so the sort of service where you just upload a mass of pictures and the printers plug them into a template won't work for me.

I did a search for previous questions like this but everything I found was from 2007 or earlier, and neither dealt with the image-quality issue, so I want to be sure nothing new and awesome has popped up since then.
I've heard of and, but I'd like to hear from anyone who's actually used them before.
It was also mentioned that Kinkos does binding, so I'll be checking out the prices and quality at our local shop tomorrow, but I'm not getting my hopes up as I haven't had great results from them in the past.
posted by Corvidae to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've heard (and seen) good things about Blurb. You have to use their software, but it seems pretty flexible. I suppose you could create your text and illustrations and upload them together as a full page image, if the typesetting options within Blurb were too limited for you. If you want the best print quality, remember that image files need to be least 300 dpi at finished size.
posted by slowfasthazel at 11:48 PM on January 21, 2009

Perhaps you'd be interested in Dear Lulu?
posted by Mike1024 at 2:29 AM on January 22, 2009

I'm going to be working on something like this, and I plan to print it myself on my university's high-quality inkjet printers - which are intended for Art Studio majors but can be used by students in other majors with permission. It may cost a little more this way (I haven't calculated this out yet), but I'll have complete control over how it looks. Then I'll bind my two or three copies myself, but you could probably hand your block of paper to Kinko's and ask them to bind it.
posted by dreamyshade at 2:37 AM on January 22, 2009

Little known fact: many large universities have their own professional print shops. Students and affiliates often receive significant discounts at said shop.

Some googling brought up a result from the UKMC and I imagine if you poke around a bit you'd be able to find something at the main campus.

It still might be cheaper to do a POD thing, but this would probably give you greater control of the final product.
posted by charmcityblues at 4:02 AM on January 22, 2009

I've only read the intro description stuff but it seems like MagCloud might fit the bill for the PoD part also.

slowfasthazel makes a good point about the resolution of your illustrations - that could easily be a bigger problem than print quality. Depending on exactly what they look like you might consider using some sort of tracing software to convert them to vector graphics if possible - vector graphics are effectively unlimited resolution. The sorts of software you might use are potrace (free, good quality and relatively easy but monochrome only), Autotrace (free but only half-finished; you can get good results but you really need to know what you're doing), VectorMagic (commercial), or the "Live Trace" function in Adobe Illustrator. Wikipedia has a more extensive list.

Inkscape is a really great free vector drawing application for doing touch-ups after tracing (or for doing illustrations from scratch) and Scribus is a free desktop publishing app which you could use for layout.
posted by XMLicious at 6:50 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

A little personal plug for - it's affiliated with amazon so there must be something decent about it. I used it to publish my first book, and the draft I got back was spot on. Since that sort of thing has it's own restrictions, I'd recommend finding the print shop on your college campus. If you can't find it, contact the PR dept. of the college and see who / what they use. Best of luck :)
posted by chrisinseoul at 8:41 AM on January 22, 2009

Response by poster: dreamyshade/charmcityblues - Ah, the good old print lab...Yeah, I primarily work digitally, so I've spent plenty of time there. For small projects it's always my first choice, but unfortunately I would have had to make upwards of 75 prints by the time the whole project was finished and the school's print shop was knocked from the running right away because it was just far too expensive. Good choice in generally, just not for a project this size.

In the end I (and 3 other classmates) ended up going with Blurb after an alumni sent us a copy of a book he'd recently had printed through them and it looked quite good. The print quality was pretty good, the prices were very reasonable and we all got our books back in about five working days, despite the ETA being 8-10 days. All in all I'd highly recommend them.
posted by Corvidae at 1:53 PM on June 5, 2009

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