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Book Review: 56 Broken Kindle Screens

A couple weeks ago I posted on a new art book called 56 Broken Kindle Screens. This book attempted to separate the the artistic value of broken Kindle screens from the mechanical fact of their brokenness. That was an interesting concept, so I ordered a copy of the book.

It was sold via the POD service Lulu, and cost around $9 with shipping. The book arrived today, and I am deeply disappointed. I had been planning to discuss the artistic merit of the images but I cannot. IMO the book itself – the physical details of the book – is making a statement which is so loud that I cannot focus on the images.

This book has a markedly cheap print quality, and any time I try to pause and consider one of the images I cannot help but notice the poor print job. It frankly looks like someone printed it in their basement.

First and foremost, the screen shot images are printed in the book at rather low resolution. I don’t have any way to directly measure the DPI but it’s my guess that the resolution of the ink on the paper is not too much better than what you would expect in a newspaper. Given that I expected this to be an art book, I should have been able to hold this up to my nose and still not been able to see the individual dots.

And the color quality is also poor; it would best be described as splotchy. For example, the color black is not consistent across an image. Some parts will have a richer color while others will have a faded color. This is a detail which is obvious at arm’s length and it is unacceptable.

To put it in perspective, I’ve seen consumer grade inkjet printers which could have offered a better print quality than Lulu provided with this book. And I’m not being insulting; it is that poor.

Before writing this post I contacted the creators of the book. It turns out that releasing this as a cheap POD book was part of the artistic statement. They thought it was the closest to making a cheap ebook in the Kindle Store.

I can understand why they made the artistic decision to print a cheap POD book. But speaking as someone who can differentiate reading a book for entertainment vs perusing it for art’s sake, I think they missed the point. Cheap ebooks are not meant to be perused. They are consumed and then discarded. But that isn’t the purpose of this book, is it?

I think this book should have been printed at the highest quality possible. That would have removed the distraction of the poor print job and allowed the reader to contemplate the images.  As it stands, whenever I take any time to peruse a single picture i cannot get past the poor print job.

The physical details of the book are making a statement which drowns out that of the images themselves. And there is no way for me not to see it.

P.S. While I find this book disappointing I’m not sure whether the poor print job was deliberate or simply the best that Lulu could offer. I know that other POD services like Blurberati can do art books and coffee table books, but I don’t know much about Lulu. If anyone can tell me about your experiences with Lulu, I would appreciate it.

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carmen webster buxton September 22, 2012 um 12:39 am

I have used Lulu only to create ARCs for reviewers who would not accept ebooks. Most of the copies were quite decent, especially the covers and bindings. However, sometimes it seemed like the edges of the letters didn’t print clearly. It was an odd effect, not that obvious, but noticeable when you stared at a page.

Tim Gray September 22, 2012 um 3:21 am

Well, Lulu prints at 300dpi like other PoD printers I know of. So if you get your nose right up close you may be able to see resolution in the lettering.

It sounds like maybe the creators didn’t format the images correctly.

My experience suggests that Lulu printing can be a bit more variable than some; but I haven’t had copies direct from the US operation.

Ken Harrison September 24, 2012 um 12:35 pm

The image supplied also has to be 300 dpi for the image to print at 300 dpi. It’s a shame the authors went with a cheaper product and didn’t look into the proper file format, dpi, etc… They really should have done their homework, because I don’t believe it was their intent to put out a shoddy product. They probably could have used a little hand holding during the process.

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