FOWA: From Moo cards to Blurb books

Despite not having a stand at FOWA, innovative personal web printing service Moo (based in the UK) certainly made its presence felt. Everywhere, people were exchanging the company’s cool mini-cards, which it prints on demand in batches of 100 with a picture (or funky text) on the reverse of each, all of which can be different if you want. You can upload images from your computer, or allow Moo to link to your Flickr account, social network, blog, etc. I had a batch delivered on Wednesday, handed out about 15 on Thursday and came back from FOWA with as many new ones. They’re wonderful, visually interesting, tactile objects and such a refreshing change from the clunky white cards favoured by the corporate set.

Another innovative on-demand web printing company (this time from the US) did have a stand at the EXPO, however – Blurb. For a very reasonable sum, the company will print single copies and short runs of beautiful ‘coffee table friendly’ hardcover or softcover books with full-colour photos and/or text. Like Moo, Blurb will link into your Flickr account or blog if you want. It also offers pre-designed templates to ensure a professional finish even if you wouldn’t know a block of white space when it hit you round the head.

More interesting still, the site also features a social network for those making Blurb books – ‘Blurbarians’ – and offers their works (from photography to poetry to cookery to cartoons) for sale at a price set by the author, with the option for potential buyers to preview online. Sold books are then printed on demand and dispatched, with Blurb taking only the first $25 of the author’s profits plus a $5 processing fee.

Some have compared the venture to vanity publishing, but while the service can certainly be used in that way by the terminally deluded, I think Blurb is more accurately described as the first true ‘long-tail’ publisher. The quality of some of the books on the site (although admittedly not all) is testament to the fact that there are plenty of talented people out there whose appeal may not be wide enough to interest a traditional publisher, but who certainly deserve a niche audience. And under Blurb’s model, they can find it.


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