I’ll admit that I hadn’t even heard of Blurb’s Bookify and when I read their announcement of a Lightroom 3 to Bookify Plug-In I wasn’t particularly interested. Just another dumbed-down online service? Instead what I focussed on was the closing comment:

… very soon, we’ll be bringing you more exciting ways to use Lightroom and Blurb together – including integration with Blurb BookSmart®.

It’s a hint of the not-too-distant future – assuming books do survive, that is. As Lightroom becomes more and more dominant, so we’ll soon benefit from third parties like Blurb exploiting its extensibility, the SDK, to offer integrated book creation services. It’s taking some while to catch up with Aperture here, but do you really prefer a solution that depends on using software that forces you to buy one brand of computer and until recently only offered that same brand’s books? Or would you prefer the open market? It’s been a long time coming, but I look forward to what Blurb do next. My guess? A Publish service.

In the Export dialog you can define book types and various features such as front and back covers

Now, I did say what my first thoughts had been. But after having had a good play with the Bookify plug-in, I’m not at all sure that my “just another dumbed-down online service” is fair to it. Right now I have a pressing need to produce a simple book, and I may as well give this a try. This is what they say the plug-in can do:

  • Flow edited Lightroom images into Bookify™ (our online tool for simple photo books).
  • Choose your book’s layout and style from within Lightroom.
  • Stream photo captions automatically into your book’s text boxes.
  • Automatically capture file data for the images in your book.

The upload process went smoothly and I did like choosing some initial settings such as adding the IPTC title and description to each page. After a “Woohoo! We’ve finishing cooking up your book now” message (makes a nice change) you can then edit the book in Bookify’s Flash-driven site. You can easily change page layouts by typing into a box, or by choosing one layout style after another, but it did feel quite dumbed-down – design by trial and error – and when I decided I no longer wanted titles for each picture, I had to remove them one by one. While catering for the thicko, it’s a touch long-winded if you have more DTP experience.

The workflow also seemed unnecessarily awkward when I wanted to add extra images to the book. The plug-in only allows you to start new books, not update existing ones. This meant I then had to export the extra pictures to the desktop and upload them through Bookify’s web interface, and then add the titles and descriptions to each page. It wasn’t too big a problem though, but the Bookify plug-in really should support adding extra images to a book.

I was also a bit disappointed they hadn’t added an idiot proof way to make an image fit a double page spread. Currently I’m adding the same picture to both left and right pages, and then using the keyboard arrows to nudge each image – essentially doing the bleed by eye. The spread looks right on a large screen, but I’ll only really know when the book arrives and I keep thinking Bookify seems so well thought-out I’m surprised they haven’t made this as easy as the rest of the process. Overall, Bookify is never likely to give you anywhere near the level of control that you’d have with Blurb’s InDesign to PDF workflow, but it’s not really that much less functional than their BookSmart – which I can’t see myself using again. For simple Blurb books, I suspect Bookify is all you really need.

Some other Blurb links may be interesting:

  • Series of videos by John Paul Caponigro here
  • Lawyers may have made its title look faintly ®idiculous, but “Adobe® Lightroom® to Blurb BookSmart®” has a lot about profiling, X-Rite colour profiler, which some may find useful, and the Lightroom stuff only starts half way through

On a big screen, Bookify's great use of Flash makes it easy to change the order of pages or do other basic layout work. Now if only Lightroom's SDK allowed you to create a module with a browser....