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Hey, How'd You Build an Entirely New Publishing Business, Eileen Gittins, CEO of Blurb?

Disrupting the ecosystem of traditional publishing, this book industry entrepreneur talks about crafting a viable business model

By E.B. Boyd - May 4, 2010
As publishing houses struggle through the current industry upheavals, new contenders are quietly emerging, both stealing some of the traditional firms' business as well as creating entirely new markets. One of them is three-year-old Blurb, based in San Francisco. Helmed by Mediabistro Circus speaker Eileen Gittins, the company has emerged from the sidelines to make it possible for anyone to publish a professional-quality book.

But this is no dubious self-publishing venture of the old model. It was started when Gittins, a technology entrepreneur by vocation and photographer by avocation, got frustrated after she created a book of photographs and profiles of former colleagues -- to give as gifts -- but couldn't find a way to publish it both professionally and economically. In this day and age, especially to a Silicon Valley denizen, that just didn't make sense. So Gittins rolled up her sleeves and created a company that now enables anyone to do just that. Last year, the company shipped about 1.3 million orders to customers in 70 countries and enjoyed revenues of $45 million.

The way it works: Users download Blurb's free software application to design their books. They then upload the resulting file to the site and place their order. Blurb sends the order to one of its printer partners, which publishes the book. Users who want to make the book available to others -- whether family members in the case of personal books or complete strangers in the case of commercial books -- place the book in the store, for easy ordering.

Ahead of her Mediabistro Circus talk, "The 21st Century Book," Gittins tells us how she did it....

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