The book arrived over the weekend. To follow up on our post, Blurb BookSmart Software: Publish Your Own Home, we wanted to share the quality of our friends' self-published coffee table book. He ended up going with Lulu instead of Blurb...
This was for a few reasons. One was that Lulu offered a book size he preferred. But most importantly, Lulu allowed him to upload his book in any layout he came up with. In contrast, Blurb limits you to their pre-made templates (which are fine, but not always preferred by someone who's a designer by profession and has spent a great deal of effort creating the book's layout from scratch).
He ordered a perfect-bound, paperback, 7.5x7.5" book, 40 pages in length. The print quality turned out to be acceptable, but not as good as you'd get from a high quality ink-jet print. The paper is a little thin, but has a nice sheen. Fields of color and black printed very evenly (he has some pages that are entirely black, which would end up costing a lot if you printed them yourself).
With regard to the question on the Blurb BookSmart Software: Publish Your Own Home post, yes, these sites do offer the option of selling your books through them when you have them printed. But we didn't see that it was required, only an option.
In all, the book print and binding quality was acceptable, especially at a price of $11.00 for a single book. But we would not recommend this to someone looking for archival quality. Just a fun and accessible way to self-publish your own home. Photo from My Home's History, a random home book we found on Lulu. NOT our friends' book, we promise. He chooses not to make his available for purchase, as his book was printed for personal use only.
Check out this very helpful comparison at Tomorrowland. While a little bit dated (2005), it breaks down self-publishers in a way we've only dreamed of.