MagCloud vs. Blurb

The similarities and differences of two great self-publishing options.

At the beginning of January I wrote about what I learned from self-publishing through MagCloud. It was written as an explanation to why one would self-publish. It has done well with views, highlights, responses, etc. Now that I have self-published two books with Blurb this year I want to follow that story with one that highlights the similarities and differences of MagCloud and Blurb.

A little on my history with both of these services. I have printed almost 20 books in various sizes from MagCloud. My experience with Blurb is more limited at around 10 books mainly with their standard paper with the exception of the premium paper magazines and one book on economy black and white paper. I printed gig magazine in both platforms. I started with MagCloud and switched over to Blurb for their premium paper option.

Blurb bought MagCloud from HP back in 2014. That purchase didn’t change much of MagCloud’s offerings, but if my memory serves me right Blurb started to offer magazines around then too. Although the final trim sizes are slightly different, the size of the magazines feel very similar in the hand. The magazine option is just one of a multitude of print options that overlap on the platforms.

The big (and little) differences seem to stem from both companies origins. Blurb is a photo book company that has expanded out into written word book options. MagCloud on the other hand is a company that catered to companies that needed flyers, leave behinds, and other printed materials. It now caters to a wide variety of creatives and their printing needs. So the result is that Blurb offers a limited number of sizes but various different paper types and print qualities. Magcloud on the other hand offers no paper choices but various sizes and binding options.

Before starting your next project I recommend that you spend some time studying their product charts here: 
and here

One tip I will give you about MagCloud’s paper quality. If you select saddle stitch, the cover is just another page (very zine) and the paper stock changes depending on the number of pages. But if you select perfect or wire-o binding, the cover stock is thicker. It is closer to a Blurb softcover without the extra glossy coating that Blurb does.

The next big difference only applies to people creating their books in the free programs available. I am embarrassed to say that I do not have any current experience in layout tools like InDesign.

With Blurb, I recommend getting their BookWright software. It is simple, intuitive for most people, and full of clean templates that are a great starting point. There are also plenty of tutorials over on their website to help you get familiar. One feature I really love is the auto-enhance button. When I selected it on my last two books the changes in the application seemed a bit dramatic but when I received the hard copy the images were damn near spot on to what I envisioned. Especially with my black and white images. BookWright handles the process of uploading the final product and it also throws on an ISBN and bar code on the back cover. All of which make your book look even more legit.

MagCloud on the other hand just needs a PDF that is the right size and number of pages. How you get there is up to you. They do offer templates for various different programs that get you started. For me, I used Pages. Not the current version, but version 4.3 as I found it more suitable for laying out books. The main reason is the fact that this is the last version that lets you view your facing pages two-up.

One big thing to think about when making your PDF for MagCloud is that page 1 is the cover, page 2 the inside cover, page 3 the first inside page, etc. In BookWright page 1 is the same as page 3 of a MagCloud PDF. It is a small detail, but depending on how you want to take your book to be, the ability to fill the inside cover in MagCloud or the traditional end page of Blurb really can drive style you book has. Another is if you pick MagCloud’s saddle stitch binding your book will open near flat. And right in the middle of your book, where the staples are, it will lay even flatter. Perfect for a double truck.

Of course both platforms offer ebook/pdf formats. Blurb’s BookWright software creates an ebook version from the file you are working on. In the background. I haven’t really explored the ebook format but I know it is there and possible. MagCloud offers a PDF download. The files is much smaller than the one you uploaded and it also has some info added encouraging people not to print it.

It might go without saying but I will say it anyway. Both platforms are print on demand with no minimums. Each giving you a personal storefront for selling your books directly to customers.

All these things are what I have found. I probably forgot some important things and have purposely left out the mundane. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, etc. please let me know.