Blurb, the fast-growing POD self-publishing platform, is expanding the services it offers, adding broader distribution through and introducing Blurb Bookwright, a new set of free online design tools. Blurb is also adding offset printing for large book orders, launching the Agile Fulfillment program, a short-term warehousing and fulfillment service, and starting Bespoke, a service that provides customized printing.

Blurb allows anyone to create a handsomely designed book online and have the book shipped to them in about a week. Its popularity is growing beyond its original target market of “personal book creation,” or books generally for close friends, said Blurb CEO Eileen Gittins, during a recent visit to the PW offices. Blurb, she said, is attracting a growing market of self-publishers that want their books to reach an audience beyond their personal circle of friends. Blurb is expanding its services to accommodate a new kind of self-published author she called “author-preneurs,” explaining that, “we need a new term for self-publishing.”

These new services, she said, target this new class of self-published authors and are intended to provide Blurb users with better distribution and pricing. Using Bookwright provides easy production of e-books and print and the ability to publish simultaneously from the same Blurb file. The Amazon program, she said, will be free (it include a free ISBN) for an introductory period, but eventually will be priced at $29.99 per book. Blurb users, she said, upload their book and check the box for Amazon distribution. “We manage the backend and route the data, all for free, because we want people to start using it,” Gittins said.

Gittins said that Blurb customers “want their books on Amazon” and that it “opens up the discoverability of Blurb books.” Bookwright, she said, is a new set of free book design tools for “customers who need more precision in creating layouts.” The tools, she said, are easy to use, offer new licensed fonts, the ability to create fixed-format e-books, free ISBN, and built-in color proofing. Gittins said Bookwright makes it possible for the book creator to make a book once and output it to print or e-book.

Gittins noted that, “authors and even businesses are coming to Blurb for big print runs,” from a 1,000 books to 30,000 copies. Blurb now offers the ability to use short run offset printing -- with a minimum 750 copy order -- to get bigger press runs at cheaper prices than can be offered using POD. The new offset program is coupled with Blurb’s new Agile Fulfillment program, which offers short term warehousing and shipping. Blurb provides an online site to get a offset price quote -- it can take from a few minutes to a couple of hours to get a price -- from three new Blurb offset vendors. There’s one located in Hong Kong (best price, slowest delivery), the U.S. and the U.K. (higher prices, but faster delivery). Blurb’s new Agile Fulfillment program works with the offset program and offers warehousing and shipping for 35 cents to 50 cents per book for six months.

And finally, Blurb is also offering a new service called Bespoke, the ability to create highly customized books with specialized features like inserts, belly bands, cover foil, and embossment. “For a minimum run of 300 copies, we can do almost anything you need, including making books that don’t look like books," Gittins said.