Onwards to print-on-demand books.
This post will have no illustrations, you can find those out there on the webernet by the trainload. These things look like books, you make them with more or less intuitive software tools, and you press print. A while later a box turns up with books in it. I own several, but they're either too boring or too intimate to share.
These things have their own satisfaction, less in the making but more in the holding. I may be more likely to pull my own book from the shelf, everyone else is more likely to pull the Blurb book. They look and feel more like ordinary books, and are much more approachable. The page weight, while heavy, is within normal range rather than the massive chunky stuff I use.
Overall I have been pleased with the results I've gotten from blurb. At the cheaper end, there's a little show-through from back to front which can be a good thing or a bad thing, but knowing about it seems to me important. The blacks (and my photographs often have huge areas of black and near black) sometimes show a very slight mechanical pattern from, I suppose, inkjet printing. The print quality, while excellent, occasionally falls visibly short of the basic machine print. Not that I care, much, but again something worth mentioning.
Book design tools for print-on-demand books seem to be universally awful, I've test driven several. Blurb's deprecated program (booksmart?) was better on the design front. It had a library of decorative elements and so on, the newer one lacks these and has reverted to the industry standard "you can drag and drop photos one by one, and shove in rectangles of text". Blurb's text management is atrocious, by text editing standards, but I think fairly good in terms of PoD "book design" tools.
What they are good for, as Mike "Chiz" Holmes mentioned somewhere in my hearing a while ago, is in sequencing photos. Being able to slosh photos around, even clumsily, on a set of virtual "pages", is tremendously helpful. For making a basic sequence of photos bound into a basic codex, PoD is absolutely adequate.
For my next trick I am going to start experimenting with modifying these things. I have some slight experience popping paperback/perfect-bound text blocks into hand built hard cases. Daniel Milnor says, and he is right, that blurb books are an obvious starting point for cutting things up, for painting and writing on, for remixing, rebuilding, remaking. Getting a bunch of prints onto a decent "book weight" paper is powerful. You can treat it as a book. You can cut it up into a pile of lightweight prints. And anything in between. Go over to Daniel's site at Shifter Media to get some ideas.
I'm kind of excited to see where it goes.