To summarise recent decisions: my SYP publication is proposed as a combination of a virtual exhibition and a printed publication.

This post is intended to briefly summarise my thinking and research around the printed publication component.

Why a printed publication

For reasons explained in more detail in an earlier post I have decided that the exhibition component of the publication will be virtual rather than physical. However, I am also certain that there should be a physical element to the publication. In line with the overall theme of memory, I want viewers to have a physical memento of the exhibition experience.

This idea developed into producing a physical counterpart to the exhibition that I could send out to interested parties. It could be, in effect, an exhibition catalogue for the virtual exhibition.


I want to send the printed publication out to interested parties (by which I mean crowdfunding supporters in the first instance, and virtual exhibition visitors once the exhibition is live).

This means that the publication needs to strike a fine balance of a few key criteria:

  • Reasonably low cost to produce and post
    • Ballpark figure in my head: £5 per publication, posted
  • Ability to do small print runs (maybe 50 copies?)
  • Reasonably good photo reproduction quality

The first two criteria lead one towards the digital printing rather than a more traditional publication printing method. There are a few different digitally-printed formats available that I have researched:

  • Zine
  • Trade book
  • Magazine
  • Newspaper

A quick run-through of the features / pros / cons of each format follows.


A popular format with a heritage going back decades: the original low-cost printing solution! Most zines these days are digitally printed but still resemble their retro predecessors in most cases: A5 or thereabouts, staple-bound, usually 20-40 pages.

Production cost: somewhere around £2.00 to £3.00 per zine for a run of 50. Postage costs are very cheap, at least in the UK, as it comes in under the standard ‘Letter’ size (most other formats would be ‘Large Letter’).

‘this family too’ zine by Sarah-Jane Field, printed by Ex Why Zed
  • Pro: recognisable format; reasonably low cost; cheap to post
  • Con: small
  • Verdict: it’s a no for this project, I want something bigger

Trade book

I confess I hadn’t come across this term until I saw it on the Blurb website a few years ago. It seems to refer to what is basically an economy version of a small-to-medium-sized paperback book. Blurb do three sizes: 13x20cm, 15x23cm, 20x25cm.

Cost-wise there is a wide range depending on options, but for 24 pages (the minimum) and colour print it would be between £2.24 and £2.99 depending on size. Postage and envelopes would likely be a little more expensive than for a zine.

‘General Thinker’ 6×9″ trade book by Remo Giuffré, printed by Blurb
  • Pro: flexible, not too small if you choose the largest size (8×10″)
  • Con: photo reproduction not great; really better for text/graphics
  • Verdict: no, ruled out on image print quality grounds


Another format offered by Blurb is the magazine. It’s a standard magazine size (almost but not quite A4) and available on two different grades of paper, although the premium option doesn’t cost much more than the economy while having much better print quality (from online reviews: Blurb don’t provide free samples so I’ve been conducting secondary research).

For a 50x print run of a 20-page (the minimum) premium paper magazine, each one will cost £2.99. It’s worth noting that it is usually fairly easy to get a discount of at least 10-15% with Blurb, more if the timing is right. Outbound postage to be confirmed but possibly up to £1.40 per item, plus envelope.

‘LA City Guide’ premium magazine by Molly Madfis, printed by Blurb
  • Pro: looks good quality, good photo reproduction
  • Con: slightly pricey; no way to sample without making one
  • Verdict: maybe, maybe… need to make a sample


A few years ago I was at the fantastic bookshop in the basement of the Photographers’ Gallery in London and bought In Search of Beauty, a Saul Leiter publication that is, in format if not content, essentially a newspaper. It is printed on relatively thin paper and is not bound with staples or any other method, simply loose leaves of broadsheet-size paper folded together. The two middle sheets are printed as double-sided posters.

This introduced me to the whole concept of ‘newspapers’ as art publications, and shortly afterwards I discovered the aptly-named Newspaper Club, a company who specialise in this kind of printing. They do three sizes: broadsheet, tabloid and mini. The mini is essentially a slightly oversized zine, and is stapled. Broadsheet and tabloid mimic their newsstand counterparts, size-wise and in terms of being unbound. Broadsheet is only available in a fairly thin paper (55gsm) while the tabloid also allows you to upgrade to 90gsm. I have samples of both papers.

If I were to go down the newspaper route I think it would be the tabloid size with the premium 90gsm paper; the mini is too small and the broadsheet is only available in the lower paper quality. For a run of 50 premium-paper tabloids with 16 pages, the cost per item would be £4.06 a copy. Reducing the paper quality to 55gsm would bring the unit price down to £3.26 (so still more expensive than a 20-page magazine…)

Sample digital tabloids printed by Newspaper Club
  • Pro: lightweight (cheaper to post); reasonable print quality; not bound so could use middles pages as removable poster
  • Con: expensive for number of pages; least durable of the four formats
  • Verdict: I still like them! It’s between this and the Blurb magazine

Next steps

It’s between the Blurb magazine and the Newspaper Club digital tabloid.

There will be an overall price difference (approx £4.50 posted for a magazine vs £5.00 posted for the tabloid) but for the purposes of budgeting and a fundraising proposal I can use the higher figure for now.

Next step on making a firm decision would be to order a single copy of a draft magazine from Blurb. Ideally I’d like to do this when I’ve made a bigger edit of the series for the virtual exhibition (it is 15 images in its current format but I plan to extend it to at least 20 for the publication).

This would mean that I will most likely make my final decision on the publication format after Assignment 2 is submitted.