Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Scribus and POD output

I've just received my first Blurb book, formatted in Scribus and output in jpeg for inclusion in Blurb's Booksmart software. The book is a 7" square soft back, premium paper, printed in the Netherlands.

I came across an issue that is worth mentioning for others doing POD books.

My process was this: create all the layout in Scribus to correct sizes, export all pages (including text) as high quality jpegs, import these jpegs into Booksmart using full-bleed image layout. This way I get all my layout & fonts without having to worry about Blooksmart options. Simple and hopefully effective.

What happened? I received the book pretty quickly. First inspection is that this is a quality product: it's nicely bound, the paper has a good weight to it and the black and white is truly neutral. So far, so good. But closer inspection revealed very poor printing - jaggies and aliasing on all the diagonals and details. Ugh!

I trawled the Blurb forums for evidence of similar problem, nothing doing. However, before racing off to complain at Blurb I decided to double check the input files for a comparison. It turns out this problem is entirely user generated (i.e. my fault).

The problem is this: the output jpegs from Scribus are of pretty low quality. Despite setting high quality compression and 300dpi, the base jpegs look like 100dpi (or lower) versions. Not good. I wondered what had happened, so I did a few trials.

It turns out that when exporting pages from Scribus as jpegs, it uses the preview quality as the basis for generating the output, not the base image quality. I had been using medium preview quality for program speed throughout the process of generating the layout. Thus, the jpegs that were output had very low resolution quality. On switching to full quality previews, the jpeg output is as it should be. This is entirely different behaviour to the pdf output, which always uses original image quality for output.

Needless to say, I'll be reordering but I'm pretty confident results will be very good this time around.


  1. Thanks for the heads up. I was using Adobe InDesign today for yearbook production. Talk about overbuilt.... I'm planning to use scribus for future (simple work), since I'm retiring from teaching to write software.

  2. It's probably better to use a separate program like ImageMagick's convert to convert the postscript output to JPEGs, especially if the output is dependent upon a preview setting.

    I'll be interested in your results, I used Scribus for my SoFoBoMo book last year and liked it a lot. However, I didn't like the POD publisher I used (Viovio). I've heard good things about Blurb books, and would like to give it a try.

    Do they have a completely blank full-bleed layout?

  3. Eric, yes, Blurb has a full bleed blank layout, that is what I an using.
    I don't see a problem continuing to use Scribus for jpeg output now I know the issue with preview settings.
    If I wasn't using a custom page layout (e.g. just straight photos with no borders, colours etc) I would output my image pages from Lightroom - just what I will be doing with the next book.

  4. Martin, thanks a lot for this post. I am just in the process of creating a book with scribus, and I probably would have fallen into the same trap.
    Did you file this as a bug with the scribus devs? They might probably fix it in the next release.

  5. Markus, nope didn't file the bug. I've got out of the habit of filing bug reports for personal software, I spend enough of my working time doing that. Now I have a work-around, I'm happy.

  6. Thanks for the hint. I did one photobook with Blurb using their software, but this way of working interests me as a good alternative.

    In doing the full bleeds, how reliable were the margin cuts, i.e. were your photos always in the same position on the page (and where you thought they should be), or were there individual differences?

  7. Juhaa - trims are very consistent, with a few mm of each other, certainly on a par with any traditionally published book. That was one thing that was very pleasing.


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