LaTeX templates for POD publishing with Blurb.com

Momi with "Harry Potter"

From the README:

This a latex implementation of a photo book or photo folio.  It has been used to create a PDF photo book that has low-res images suitable for web display, and also will generate a hi-res version that is compatible with the Blurb.com “PDF to Book” publish on demand process (link).  It will also make a “folio” PDF–a stack of prints with some front and back material, both hi-res print and lo-res web versions.

This particular example was for the 10×8 softcover book, although it should be straightforward to tweak this to other sizes, compared to GUI desktop publishing systems.  The folios are targeted to 8.5×11 letter size paper, a common inkjet paper size, although the photos are in the same size/resolution as the book.

To use this, you will need a decent implementation of xelatex or pdflatex.  I use the excellent version of xelatex that is bundled with the “texlive” TeX distribution–just google for “texlive” and your platform (MacOS, Windows, Linux, etc.)…

This is the LaTeX version of my book Chickens, Anyone?  It was successfully used to make a 10×8 Blurb.com photo book.  I made this as a test, after initially designing the book using a GUI-based desktop publishing tool, Scribus.  I found that while it did a good job, the GUI tool required a lot of laborious GUI interaction just to make even minor changes to the book’s size, as is often required for POD publishing. With LaTeX you can simply tweak a few parameters in a text file, run make and have another version of the book in a different size.  This will be no surprise to anyone that is familiar with the productivity of working in a text markup language, but may not be obvious to newcomers to desktop publishing, who are familiar only with GUI based tools.  If you are frustrated by how much time it takes you to tweak your book for a different size or POD process, you should check this out!

Here are the main features:

  • creates separate web and print versions from the same source file
  • creates a book or a folio (a stack of prints with front and back material)
  • allows you to edit text in any comfortable text editor, with easy and rich text markup
  • is very fast and memory efficient (TeX was designed in the OLD days of computing, and is incredibly lean)
  • includes an ImageMagick-based script for preparing downsampled image files with embedded ICC profiles at different resolutions

Here are the book/folio latex files with instructions.

Click here to view the web version of the book that was made with it.  And here is the web version of the folio.

37 thoughts on “LaTeX templates for POD publishing with Blurb.com

  1. hi!

    i think your LaTeX approach is an excellent idea! thanks for providing the template. coupled with XeLaTeX, lots of great fonts should be easy to use.

    however, i can’t seem to load your tex-version of the photo book. the non-tex version loads ok, but the tex version gives an error (18) when i load it with adobe reader 9. any ideas?

    thask!

  2. @troy,

    XeLaTeX sounds inriguing; I had never heard of it before. From looking at it briefly it looks like it might be a bit dodgy on the PDF generation. Instead of pdflatex we would use what, xdvipdfmx? Does it embed TrueType fonts correctly and all that?

    –Eric

  3. I had almost forgotten all about LaTeX until you brought it up here. I used a decade ago to write my master thesis, but since then I forgot all about it. Thinking of it, if you’re ever so slightly geeky, and already know some markup language, it is ideal for the task of making a photo book. It’s so easy to get a consistent look, and to make changes.

    Best of all, the text editor is rock stable.

    I need to dig up my old “The LaTeX Companion” book.

    • So true, Kjell, so true. vi or emacs is almost never going to crash on you :-)

      But seriously, LaTeX is awesome for a photo book, especially with the nice fonts allowed via the xelatex route. Give it a try, you’ll be glad you did!

      Cheers,
      –E

  4. Just checked out blurb.com, like all the other POD sites I’ve seen they’re geared to people who use interactive graphic design software, and require pdf’s with ‘made by Adobe Distiller’ written all over them. That puts me off taking pains to design and produce a book, only to have it rejected or scrambled by their software (I’m a Latex user, have been for years, know my way round it well enough). So can anyone confirm that Latex2e output does work with these systems?

    The other point is that if you’re serious about publishing, as opposed to creating a few albums for friends and family (nothing wrong with that btw!) and are technical enough to handle something like Latex, then you’d probably be better off going direct to Lightning Source who all these POD sites use as their back end. It’s probably cheaper in the long run and they feed you directly into one of the main international book distribution systems, not just their own web site.

    PS. That’s some chicken! ;-)

    • Kam,
      Provided that you embed the proper PDF/X-3 strings (as described in the templates), it should work fine. Fonts need to be embedded, and the page dimensions must match exactly, with such and such trim, etc. With these templates I successfully used pdflatex and xelatex. You’d have to go to some additional work to use straight latex->dvi->ps->pdf.

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  7. Hello,
    I am writing my thesis on Latex (lots of formulas etc) and I had been looking for a way to get it printed by blurb for a long time.
    Your post is excellent and I am so glad I found it.

    However, I am not very experienced with latex templates and files, could you please tell what should I do in order to get just
    one pdf for the text and one pdf for the cover using your files? (the web, folio etc are useless to me and seem to confuse me – all I would like to have is 2 exported pdfs ready for upload to blurb)

    thanks in advance for your time

    • Sorry for the confusion.

      If you make the target for book-blurb (e.g. “make book-blurb”) then you will get two PDF files: one for the text and one for the cover.

  8. Hi Eric, read your posts on using xelatex to produce photobooks. Have just done that using templates and pdf of book looks great, not yet submitted as I must take one more photo. Do you have any thoughts re portrait jpg within landscape book with side column text, or other professional looking output such as full bleed. Any info would be welcome.

    Thanks in advance ……… Alan

    • Hi Alan,
      I think the idea of portrait or square aspect images with side text would work well.

      My templates would require a little tweaking to achieve that, but it should be pretty straightforward LaTeX. I recommend using a non-CMF font (Computer Modern fonts are the default in LaTex), as I think it looks a little more professional with a good TTF font such as used in my templates with xelatex.

      The exact document size is specified explicitly in the latex files, so as long as your images go to the absolute outer edge of the document and no more I think you will achieve a full-bleed image. The only question is whether their PDF checker will flag anything abnormal. Unfortunately, I think the only method of knowing in this case is to simply try to submit PDFs to the site and once you get one accepted, check the book when it comes back. It would be nice if they had a GUI that showed you a preview of the book after you’ve submitted the PDF and accounting for the page trimming. Been a while since I’ve been to their site; they might have something like that available now.

      Good luck!

  9. Hi Eric, thanks for the reply. I’ve got some way using the tabularx package and can use different widths of picture but unfortunately the
    text is single line ie not paragraph text. Being new to LaTeX my progress is a bit of a hack. Am happy with progress so far.

  10. Hi Eric, an update for anyone following this thread. My jpeg EXIF somehow fooled xelatex into thinking they were over 19 feet wide! Removed all EXIF data using “Jhead -purejpg ./file.jpg”, these were then included in PDF’s. Second problem, current versions of xelatex (0.6) produce PDF-1.4 as default, not PDF-1.3 as required by Blurb. Reasonable changes to xelatex preamble version string produced no changes – PDF always 1.4 and NOT excepted by blurb. Workaround used was
    xelatex -no-pdf to produce an xdv file,followed by xdvipdfmx -v -V 3 ./file.xdv. This produces verbose output AND the required PDF-1.3 version. These PDF uploaded successfully.

    Cheers ……….. Alan

  11. Hi Alan,
    Thanks for the report. Are you sure you are using a recent version of xelatex? This web page says that the recent versions are around 0.99. That would be a bit of a setback if it required an extra step to produce xdv.

    Did you use fonts other than CM? Were your fonts preserved and embedded? I assume so otherwise I guess Blurb would have rejected the PDF.

    Let us know how the book turned out!

  12. Hi Eric, sorry for the confusion. In my post I meant to refer to xdvipdfmx as being at (0.6), your pdf being produced with version (0.4) .Wanting to get on to actually producing a photobook I used your templates but neglected to look at your makefile. I am using the latest xelatex but obviously mistook the PDFX-3 statement in book-blurb.tex as all that was needed to produce the needed PDF 1.3. I am working from the command line while learning Latex, creating pages with differing photo placements. When I first submitted my book to blurb it was rejected, and I then independently googled for the solution, which is essentially the one you already have in your makefile. I will report back here when the book is delivered, promised by blurb a few days after Dec 8.

    I also see that VIOVIO accept pdf input and have very extensive specifications which I believe will accept more complex documents.

    Regards ……… Alan.

  13. Hi Eric, Blurb book delivered today, much earlier than expected. The book is 10×8 soft cover with 34 pages. Cover is high gloss with no blemishes, binding looks excellent, very tight. My EXIF data had no information other than number of pixels, ie NO colorspace info, my jpeg’s were all sRGB and color reproduction is excellent. I had increased mid tones by 5% during editing to counter screen to paper. My old Thinkpad is not color managed but color is exactly as expected. The half-tone screening is very good, on a par with average commercial magazines by direct comparison. Paper for pages is thin but adequate and has a slight sheen. I notice that there is a slight but constant misalignment between pages of about 1-2 mm probably would not have noticed if not mentioned in your blog. Text is essentially perfect. I used the PS fonts which came with my version of Ubuntu. The only additions by Blurb to the book are a small Blurb logo on a blank sheet inserted before the back cover and an equally small bar code type imprint bottom right on the back cover. I am pleased with the end product and regard this as very good value for money. Also concur with you that physically producing a blurb book with xelatex is fast and easy once the photos are prepared and sized properly. As an aside I shall probably produce my next book using the Article class and PSTricks, this essentially provides a canvas exactly the page size and placement of anything anywhere. Am having good success with either full or partial bleed images with appropriately placed text. Xelatex and PSTricks was broken on my Ubuntu version (9.10 remember 10 yr old laptop!) and required downloading xdvipdfmx.cfg from CTAN and renaming to pstricks.con and copying to some created directories. Google search gave enough detail. I am impressed at some of the books on SoFoBoMo and might give it a whirl. This thread was perfect for what I wanted.
    Many Thanks ………… Alan.

  14. Hi Eric, I’m looking forward to creating a photo book using XeTeX. When I run your makefile to create either the web folio or the web book, the first page of the pdf is 8.5×11 portrait instead of the 9.625 x 8.25 specified by the arguments to the geometry package. The rest of the book is fine. I’m not a tex guy (never used it before) but I downloaded the geometry package documentation to see if there was something that stuck out. Nothing did. Any clues? By the way, I’m using Ubuntu 10.04 and have installed the texlive packages (xetex Version 3.1415926-2.2-0.9995.2).
    Thanks,
    Tim

    • Hi Tim,
      I built “make web” on Ubuntu 10.04 and got the same result you did. To fix it I just moved the statement importing the geometry package right up under the \documentclass statement. That fixed it. I’m not actually sure what is different, but it’s probably due to some changes in the TeX packages since the version I posted. I’ll try to repost the templates soon, but if you are competent with a text editor, just move that \usepackage statement for the geometry package up and that will do the job.

      Hope this helps,
      –Eric

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  16. Eric, thanks for this. I will definitely give it a try after having used scribus successfully for my last photobooks. As you said, this approach works but quickly becomes tedious when having to introduce changes at a later stage.

  17. I love using LaTeX to make attractive documents, and have been playing with the memoir class and XeTeX along with some nice fonts, so would love to get a book printed. I saw that Blurb also make text books, as well as the more common photobooks (http://www.blurb.com/create/book/textbook), so I’m interested to know if your approach would work with this size of books, and if so, how to go about it? Would it be as simple as changing the sizes to match blurbs specification page?

    While looking up the specifications I found this survey; I filled it in saying there is a vibrant LaTeX community that would like to print books. I think it would be very cheap for Blurb to pay a LaTeX guru to package up either Eric’s work and add support for all of their formats, publish it on CTAN, and hopefully get it distributed with TeXLive. Would anyone else be interested in this? If so I implore you to tell Blurb that you’re using LaTeX at:

    http://pro24.sgizmo.com/survey.php?SURVEY=APTA8A97K62OPE71VNKX21TIGADYMX-147851-170682222
    Given LaTeX’s self supporting community and

    • Ian, I think if the text books can be made using the PDF to book process then you can simply use LaTeX as in the templates, retargeting for the different book size. I’d love to see someone with a little more knowledge of La/TeX make a class file that would parameterize everything necessary.

  18. Eric, I just submitted my book to SoFoBoMo and I comment here to thank you for your templates: they were very important to create my book. And I confirm that Latex (Xetex) flexibility is awesome, especially for last minute changes (I didn’t know any latex until 4 months ago).
    I even submitted the book to Blurb and I succeeded at the first try! Another proof of the usefulness of your templates. Next step: order the book.

    Here the link at my book: http://sofobomo.org/book-470-Senigallia-Cemetery-The-Old-Part
    Here the link at the github repository with the latex files: https://github.com/maurotrb/sofobomo2011

    I would be glad if some of my contributions to your templates (parallel texts english-italian, blurb book cover with pstricks etc.) could help other people with their books.

    • Hi Mauro,

      I’m delighted that you used the templates and I am looking forward to grabbing your mods over at github and seeing what you’ve done with them.

      I think your book came out very well. Did you receive your Blurb copy? Were you pleased?

      • Eric,

        I received the Blurb copy and I’m very pleased.

        The layout, the fonts, the photos are printed very well. The photos are a little bit warmer than they appear on my monitor, but it is negligible considered that my monitor is not calibrated with specific hardware/software.

        The cover is nearly perfect. The only problem is the background color that I defined as a solid black. Instead it came out a dark gray with a green color cast.
        After some research, I found that with Acrobat Reader, activating a specific option on overprinting, I can visualize the PDF with the same gray it was printed (with Evince and SumatraPDF, the other readers that I use, the cover was showed as black). After some other research in PDF and pre-press tutorials (understanding not very much) I decided that the RGB black used as solid color is not managed very well by Blurb printing process of the cover (the color parts in the book don’t have this problem). Tweaking the PDF generation from latex to solve this problem was beyond my knowledge, so I decided to try creating the PDF with photos and colors directly in CMYK. After some experiments, it seem the right way: Acrobat now display my cover in black. But only a new printing will confirm if I resolved the problem.

        Some photos of the book are on picasa: https://picasaweb.google.com/MauroTaraborelli/SoFoBoMo2011?authuser=0&feat=directlink

  19. Eric,

    one last comment to say that I received the copy of the book based on PDF created in CMYK. All was perfect from the solid colors to the photos colors.
    The photos are better rendered than the previous print: there are a little bit more details in the highlights and the colors are cooler and more similar (but not the same) to those that appear on the monitor.
    I updated the github repository with the CMYK management: https://github.com/maurotrb/sofobomo2011

  20. I haven’t even tried this and I can tell I love it. I’ve been checking ctan.org for something like this and have found the image gallery package. Your results are so much nicer. Can’t wait to take it for a spin. I prefer looking at printouts of photos to looking at online galleries and this is rejumping my wish to get family photos into albums.

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