Blurb Offers $25,000 for the Best Self-Published Photography Book


Photography Courtesy of Blurb

Digital imaging has changed photography in all sorts of ways but perhaps one of the most surprising has been its effect on photography books. The fact that anyone can now upload their photos to the Internet and show them to everyone who wants to view them hasn’t harmed the appeal of seeing your own images on bound pages.

If anything, the accessibility of sites like Flickr has only increased the value of displaying your best photos in printed form.

At the same time that having your own photography book has become more desirable though, the books themselves have become easier to create. Blurb is probably the leading provider in this field, offering photographers — and others, but mostly photographers — free software to help them design their books, low cost on-demand printing, and even an online store that lets them sell their products with a mark-up of their choice.

Win $25,000 and Send your Book around the World
And now Blurb is organizing a competition to celebrate what it calls “the modern photography book movement.” The first prize is $25,000, and winning submissions will also be exhibited in an international salon that will travel from San Francisco to New York, London and Cologne.

“[It’s]a chance for people to think about their work differently in the context of a book – then be celebrated for their creativity,” Eileen Gittins, Blurb’s founder and CEO told us. “We’re looking for the high-end enthusiast photographers all the way up through the working professional. Fine art students are welcome too… If photography is your day job or you wish that it could be, submit a book and best of luck!”

The competition’s judges haven’t been announced yet but a press release confirms that the jury will be led by Darius Himes, the founding editor of “photo-eye Booklist,” a magazine about photography books.

So what would it take to win the competition and scoop the grand prize?

According to the competition’s website, judges will give equal weight to: “cover design, strength of the photography, subject matter of the book, page layouts, editing and sequencing [and] emotional impact of the overall book.”

Watch the White Space
When we asked Blurb if they could be more specific, not surprisingly, they were a little coy, referring us back to the site’s FAQ. They did however note that Blurb’s BookSmart software “provides many hundreds of page layouts and design options” and pointed out that posts on Blurb’s forums reveal a number of useful strategies:

“[U]nder the topic ‘Book Design and Imaging,’ our community has posted many insights into these very subjects, as well as tips and tricks and ways to approach your book. We invite anyone to visit the forums before starting their book,” we were told.

In a previous interview, Eileen Gittins has also talked about the importance of white space in a book and the way in which sequencing can set the pace and tell a story. That might be particularly important in the competition’s “Thematic Photography Book” category which places an emphasis on the book’s narrative. (The other category — “General Photography” — is open to all sorts of approaches.)

Despite a $35 fee per book, Blurb says that it is expecting to see “thousands of entries.”

“We opened up the call for entries on March 18th, and we’re already seeing books pour in from photographers of all stripes,” Eileen said.

While the prize money could well give many people the motivation to download Blurb’s software and create their own book, the competition might be the least important part of Blurb’s promotion. In addition to an award ceremony to be held in San Francisco in September 2008, Blurb is also organizing meet-ups in London, New York and Cologne, and a symposium to be held in three cities in which photographers will talk about their publications, and industry insiders will discuss how to curate, design a market a photography book.

Videos of the speeches and panels at each symposium will also be available for viewing online, for those who can’t make it in person.

Much of this seems to follow the formats of the town hall meetings that Photoshelter held recently about the effect of the Internet on photography. That might suggest that Blurb sees the creation and marketing of photography books as important as other online sales methods currently being used by photographers. If they’re right, that prize money should only be one reason to create your book.

Check out the competition here and tell us what you think.

[tags] blurb [/tags]

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