Limited Custom

For the bloggers and aspiring authors out there, Eileen Gittins, CEO of Blurb, is interviewed by C|Net as part of their DEMO ’06 Conference coverage and they’ve posted the video online. At about 4 minutes, it’s worth watching for anyone creating content (Link).

What Blurb provides, in the words of Gittins, is “a tool to enable anyone to convert their digital content, of whatever kind, into a professionally-finished book”. Especially interesting to me was the primary example shown: a book of recipes. Because the originating blog had numerous contributors, in the words of the CEO, “Blurb supports community-contributed books”. Now that’s something I’d not given any thought and it sounds cool, but it does raise the thorny intellectual property rights issue.

While not cheap at US $32, the resulting output – a decent-sized 80-page hardcover – would make an excellent gift. Another option is if the book were priced at … say … $50 and sold to raise money at charity fund-raising events. If anyone could navigate the IP issues (and perhaps open source some legal documents to facilitate community efforts) it’s some of the more forward-thinking organizations out there (Randy, you reading this?).

This obviously isn’t really all that different from print-on-demand publishing already available online. However, it does appear as if this tool is more flexible and convenient than most services since it uses a “realtime drag and drop metaphor” in combination with what appear to be standardized templates. Good enough for a lot of people. The print-on-demand services I’ve researched typically accept manuscripts from authors and then, for a fee, either approve the layout for printing or provide that service… on top of the cut they get from the book.

So what we really have is a service that leverages other content creation/aggregation applications, reduces manuscript variability by providing a free layout tool to ensure conformance, and then acts as a marketplace for the finished product (not yet available on their site). The blog angle is nice, but blogs are an interactive medium; I doubt my links are going to translate to print. Additionally, most blogs appropriate images from other sites – often without listing credit. Even so, for those who are perhaps only documenting their travels – an example cited in the video – by posting their blog entries via email, this service is pretty nice.

It also reminds me of Nike iD. Limited customization. I bet we start seeing a lot of this.

{Just noticed the Blurb official presentation is online. Haven’t watched it yet, but here’s the – Link}