with your very own book

This week we’re taking a moment to reflect on where we’ve been—through the pages of beautiful books. You don’t need to go back to school to get a history lesson; just take a look through our newsletter.


Collage photo books

Collage photo books: the ultimate way to preserve your most cherished memories

These days, photo prints are almost obsolete. With the advent of digital photography, most of us keep our recent vacation shots on our computers. But what about those pre-digital glossy prints yellowing in the closet? They represent years of lost memories unless they get digitized. We think those memories are worth preserving. And if you’re going to go to all that scanning work, you may as well get a beautiful hardcover book out of it.

Your first step towards getting your photos in order is to pull all your photo-filled shoeboxes out of the basement (or wherever you store them). Next: Enlist other family members to pass their prints along as well. This way you have any shots you might have missed along the way. Then go through all the photos and decide which are keepers. Umpteen shots of that one amazing turkey you made? Probably unnecessary. But a group of shots documenting your son or daughter’s first birthday? That’s what we’re talking about. Once you’ve got all your photos in order, you’re ready to get busy making your book.

How to make a photo collage book

  1. Scan all your photos onto your computer and gather all the JPG files in a folder
  2. Arrange photos in groups of four, five, or six and name the files by group (e.g. Bill_21st_bday_01.jpg and Bill_21st_bday_02.jpg)
  3. Download BookSmart
  4. Start a new book, choose your book size, and choose “photo book” as your starter layout
  5. Add an image to your front and back cover, and name your book
  6. Choose collage layouts, and alternate between layouts where you can combine between four and six photos per page
  7. Drag your images into layout
  8. Proof your book, and order away!


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Make a book for your family (without stressing out)—we walk you through it

We know your family loves you. But this year, give them one more reason to adore you by making the family book to end all family books. Here’s how it goes: You collect the photographs and stories, and we show you how to put the whole thing together, step by step. From designing your cover to arranging your pages to choosing a book size (Big for grandpa? Small for the little ones? Huge for the coffee table or small for the backpack? All of the above?), we make it almost effortless to create something really special. Just follow the screenshots, read the directions (and more than a few helpful tips), and get started making a great gift.

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Family photo book BookSmart tutorial



Making family history books

Look back in wonder: Making a history book with Blurb

As we look back and take stock of the past year, it’s also a perfect opportunity to look even further back in time. Blurb is the perfect self-publishing platform for people who want to put together a unique book of history. Whether it’s your own biography, your family’s story, your town’s history, or just a historical subject about which you’re passionate, Blurb gives you everything you need to bring that history to life in a beautiful book. With your research and collection of memorabilia and our book-making tools you can create a history book for the ages.

History is so much more than just a chronological narrative. Here are a few ideas for things to include in your book of history:

  • Photos
  • Letters
  • Documents
  • Maps

All of these items can be scanned—or carefully photographed—and placed into our pre-designed layouts that mix images with explanatory text. Or you can create your own custom layouts—it’s up to you. You’ll probably want to use our most popular book-making tool, BookSmart, to lay out your pages, but you can even make a simple photo book with our online book-making tools that has a very basic picture/caption layout, if you wish.

If you’ve got experience with Adobe® InDesign®, you can lay out your book directly within the software. Just download our free plug-in.

And if you’re making an ebook (and you should definitely be making an ebook), you can even enhance it with audio recordings and videos of the historical figures in your particular story. Imagine how much more impressive grandma and grandpa’s wedding photo will be if you can click on it and hear grandma telling the tale of how it felt to walk down the aisle back in the day, speaking about what life was like those many years ago. Or a collection of video interviews featuring town elders, recounting the evolution of the town over time.

Feeling ambitious? You can sell your book to fellow enthusiasts of the subject. Just put the word out on blogs, message boards, and other places people who are interested in your historical topic gather. Our Set Your Price program makes it easy.


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Jackie Foster - Fascinating families

Fascinating families: Telling your history with Blurb

“Who do I think I am?” It’s a question most of us have asked ourselves at least once in our lives. And a lot of us probably think about it for a little while. Then we change the channel. But for 70-year-old Jackie Foster, the question ultimately spawned a massive family history book. Spanning over 300 years and 180 pages, the book combines photos, documents, letters, and Foster’s unique and articulate writings.

Foster talked to family members and friends of the family, as well as to records offices and genealogical societies in order to build her narrative. When it came time to make her book, she teamed up with her brother, photographer Roger Stowell. Roger had—unbeknownst to Jackie—been creating a family history book of his own. The two combined forces, with Foster providing the words and Stowell cleaning up and sharpening his photos for printing. Stowell also designed the book.

Who do I think I am? will be fascinating not only to those who know Foster, but to anyone who’s ever asked that question. It’s a labor of love and a testament to the importance of family, rich in history and full of the nuances, textures, and artifacts that help shape who we are.

As the holidays approach, and your family comes together, invite them to share their stories and their photos, so you can make a family history book of your own.


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Telling historical tales - Leslie Couture

Telling historical tales with Blurb

We recently spoke with the author of one of our favorite made-with-Blurb history books to get some insight into the process of what it takes to put together such an interesting document. Texas librarian Leslie Couture is not a trained historian, but with a little effort and research she was able to build a marvelous book around photographer Alec Williams’ photos of Denton, TX in the 70s and 80s. Though Alec had been taking the photos for years, he’d never considered making a book of them. Here’s our conversation with Leslie.

Blurb: What inspired you to put these photos and stories into a printed book?

Leslie: Well, Alec, and his Fry Street collection. I had never appreciated the role a photographer had in history until I began scanning his photographs. The one thing I admire and appreciate about Alec is that not only did he take hundreds of photographs of an area that no longer exists, but he also saved all of his negatives and then he physically brought them to the library after we asked him to. That is huge.

After I’d scanned around 500 photographs, I realized there was enough content to tell a story. The book idea evolved because I wanted to make an “artifact” that would be unique to our library and be of interest to the community. People come into the Special Collections Department with expectations of finding things that may not exist anywhere else. We do have those items, but the only way that happens is if people donate them, or we stumble upon something. I looked at all of those photographs and thought: Why hasn’t someone already done something with this? And then I thought, why not us? An experiment you might say.

Blurb: What was the process of actually putting the book together like? Which tools did you use?

Leslie: I was a beginner at everything when it came to this project. I had just learned to scan things and we just purchased Photoshop Elements (which I would have to learn how to use). This was also my first time using Blurb software, so I had to get used to it.

Scanning negatives is very different from scanning photographs. There were 35mm negatives and some odd sized ones that Alec had done himself that I would have to “find” on the glass. Many of the negatives were cut wrong and as a result (and me being a beginner) I had a hard time distinguishing just where one photo ended and the next began, especially on the nightclub shots. Then there were all of the discolored or dusty negatives…

In the end, the book still didn’t look polished, so I asked one of our volunteers, Erin Mazzei, who’s a professional photographer and teaches at Texas Woman’s University, to take a look at the layout. Erin went through the book and gave me tips, such as making sure the photos were uniform on both pages.

Blurb: Leslie, did your library science training help you make this book?

Leslie: I have worked in a library for twenty-one years now. I will say that working in the Special Collections Department of the Denton Public Library made me aware of the interest of the community in this subject and others. We do try to offer programs that might interest people on the history of Denton, or Denton County. I have done lots of exhibits and have some artistic abilities. Our resources make researching very easy and quite addictive.


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Great books of history from the Blurb Bookstore

The Fry Street Neighborhood - Photographic Memoir

The Fry Street Neighborhood 1977-1986: a photographic memoir | Alec Williams & Leslie Couture

First up is a book of photos from the bohemian neighborhood of Denton, TX (home of the U of North Texas) in the 70s and 80s, with some amazing shots of street festivals, bands, and general good times. Want to learn more? Read an interview with the authors.

Salvaged Moments: photographs from a Barcelona garbage pile

Salvaged Moments: photographs from a Barcelona garbage pile | Clive Gracey

Each of the photographs in this marvelous book was torn in half, thrown in the garbage, and then recovered and restored. Gracey carefully pieced these photos back together (no small task) to create an intimate portrait of a family in the first half of the 20th century.

the 1970s: a collection of photographs

the 1970s: a collection of photographs | Miro Simko

This album of well-preserved photographs was curated into a “picture excursion into the 1970s” in what was Czechoslovakia at the time. Neatly composed family portraits mix with street scenes and shots of remarkably well-dressed mountaineers.

Anatomy of an Avenue

Anatomy of an Avenue | Barbara J. Miner

This book tells the story—in pictures—of a long, interesting street in Milwaukee, WI that stretches from the inner city all the way to the outer suburbs. As a result, we get a fascinating illustration of the way our surroundings are constantly connecting (and dividing) our diverse neighborhoods, communities, and cities.

Floyd Bennett Field

Floyd Bennett Field | Elisabetta Di Stefano

Author Elisabetta Di Stefano assembles maps, diagrams, and contemporary and historical photos to tell the story of a key World War II airfield. And yet it’s more than a history book. This ode to a place contrasts wartime industry with peacetime ecology, and is ultimately a plea for a revitalized park, accessible for all.

Vietnam - Hiep Duc - LZ West

Vietnam - Hiep Duc - LZ West | James Allen Logue

Vietnam - Hiep Duc - LZ West details life in the field in the Vietnam War for an entire year with US Army Alpha Company 4/31st Infantry via words, pictures, and detailed maps. A compelling, intimate look at an important time in history that’s engrossing as well as educational.



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