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View Full Version : The Great Photo Book Round-Up Review: Who Makes The Best Photo Books?


Jason Dunn
04-06-2010, 02:30 PM
<p><img alt="Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1270563157.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em><strong>This review has been updated as of July 2014. Short on time? <a href="http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/97676/13/1/15" target="_blank">Skip to the conclusion</a>, or do what I do: sign up for discounts from <a href="http://click.linksynergy.com/fs-bin/click?id=E9EmfDpHZ*g&amp;offerid=318006&amp;type=3&amp;subid=0&amp;LSNSUBSITE=LSNSUBSITE" target="_blank">Photobook America</a> and <a href="mypublisher.com" target="_blank">MyPublisher</a>. Both are superb choices!</strong></em></p><h2><em><strong>Looking for the 20% discount on FotoFusion? Use code DHT20-2 on the <a href="http://www.lumapix.com/web_store/store_newlicenses_online.shtml" target="_blank">Lumapix site</a>.</strong></em></h2><p>&nbsp;</p><p>My <a href="http://www.jasondunn.com/say-hello-to-logan-robert-dunn-1945" target="_blank">son Logan was born on August 16th</a>, 2009, but long before that I started work on a very special project: a baby book that would chronicle the process of my wife's pregnancy, our preparations for his arrival, and the first couple of weeks after he was born. This wasn't going to simply be a bunch of photos; I wanted to create a truly <em>epic</em> baby book, something that was off-the-charts unique and something that would become a family treasure.</p><p>I've wanted to use <a href="http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/31340/gorgeous-photo-layouts-with-lumapix-s-fotofusion-v4.html" target="_blank">FotoFusion</a>&nbsp;(<em>see below for a discount coupon</em>) to create customized page layouts for a long time now, because I knew it would allow me to break the limited confines of what typical photo book software permitted. I had carefully created all the pages in FotoFusion, exported each page as a high-resolution JPEG file, and dropped the images into full-page layouts. I incorporated my <a href="http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/88544/green-screen-scanning-makes-for-easier-object-extraction.html" target="_blank">green-screen scanning technique</a> to add objects to the book, and once I was finished - a process that took eight months of work and around 200 hours in total because I wanted it to be perfect - I had the book printed with <a href="http://www.picaboo.com" target="_blank">Picaboo</a>. The results were a complete disaster. The details are below under the review section for Picaboo, but the short version is that I was really unhappy with the physical representation of all my hard work and I wanted to get the books re-printed using a different service. But which service should I use?</p><p><MORE /></p><p>I searched online for a comprehensive review of photo book printing services, and wasn't able to find any that answered this question: who makes the best consumer-grade photo books? It's not an easy question to answer, which is probably why I wasn't able to find any articles tackling the subject. In order to compare photo book printing services, someone would have to contact a broad cross-section of service providers in the USA and Canada (let's say a dozen in total), arrange for a free sample to be provided (because buying a 60-page photo book twelve times over would be $800+), build the same book with all of thetm (or as close as possible), factor in the book-building software component, then compare the eventual results of the physical books. Who'd be crazy enough to take on such a huge task? That would be me.</p><p>This review is likely the most intense writing project I've ever undertaken short of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Faster-Smarter-Digital-Video-Bpg-Other/dp/0735618739/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;s=books&amp;qid=1268889233&amp;sr=8-1" target="_blank">writing my last book</a>. This project was six months in the making, required multiple re-workings of the baby book in FotoFusion to accommodate differences in book size/aspect ratios, and I believe is a unique effort on the Internet today in terms of scope and depth.</p><p>I hope you find it useful, and if you do, please share it with your friends and family - and if you feel like the review saved you money or time, <a href="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_donations&amp;business=P9HE9MNDCWUDA&amp;item_name=Photo Book Review by Jason Dunn&amp;currency_code=USD&amp;bn=PP-DonationsBF:btn_donateCC_LG.gif:NonHosted" target="_blank">a tip would be really nice</a>. :-)</p><h1>A Quick Word About FotoFusion</h1><p>By far one of the top questions I've gotten asked since publishing this review is how I created the pages in the book. The process I used isn't typical. I've you've never heard of FotoFusion before, <a href="http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/31340/gorgeous-photo-layouts-with-lumapix-s-fotofusion-v4.html" target="_blank">check out my review</a> to understand what it can do - it's <em>insanely </em>powerful software, yet still fairly easy to use. When you see an image like the one below from my photo book, it's just one big picture - the "text" you're seeing is actually part of the image:</p><p><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1296879490.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p>Everything in the image above was assembled in FotoFusion: the images were dropped into the six custom-sized frames I'd created, the text was typed up in FotoFusion (and spell-checked in Microsoft Word), and the yellow note was scanned and added to the FotoFusion layout as a transparent PNG file. When I finished the page layout, I exported it as an 8 megapixel JPEG (3300 x 2550) with minimal compressions, then dropped it into the photo book making software as a full-page image. It's important to understand that FotoFusion can export pages at extremely high resolutions; you just punch in the resolution you want, and it does it. Note that the Extreme version offers unlimited resolution exports; the Enhanced version is limited to&nbsp;3900 x 5700, but that's 22 megapixels and more than enough for even the biggest photo book on the market. FotoFusion will not magically allow you to use low-resolution images though; you need to give it high quality images to get high quality output.</p><p>I can't stress enough what a powerful tool FotoFusion is for creating photo books that are unique and special. If all you want to do is have a book full of photos, the software from any of the companies in this review will do the job. But if you want to combine photos, text, and scanned objects into a single, creative layout, you'll want FotoFusion.</p><p>If you're interested in <a href="http://www.lumapix.com/web_store/store_newlicenses_online.shtml" target="_blank">purchasing FotoFusion</a>, use the coupon code <strong>DHT20-2</strong> to save yourself 20% off the price. This discount works for both the Windows and OS X versions. The coupon is valid until October 31st, 2014. I use the Extreme version, but you can do everything you need with the Enhanced version - just be aware that you'll be doing it one page at a time (an unfortunate limitation in that version). If you're planning on making photo book creation a big part of what you do, the Extreme version is worth the investment in my opinion. There's nothing else like it, anywhere.</p><h1>How To Read This Review</h1><p>Because of the length of this review, there are three different ways to read it. If you're interested in seeing how each photo book printing service compares to each other, I encourage you to read it all the way through from start to finish. If you manage to do that, you're a superstar (this review clocks in at over 15,000 words). If you're interested in how a particular book building service is rated because you're interested in using them for a book project, jump to the individual section below:</p><ul><li><a href="http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/97676/1/1/15" target="_self">Picaboo</a>&nbsp;(here's their high-end <a href="http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/100402/photo-book-luxury-picaboo-s-ranch-style-book-reviewed.html" target="_blank">Ranch style book reviewed separately</a>)</li><li><a href="http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/97676/2/1/15" target="_self">Treasure-Book.com</a></li><li><a href="http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/97676/3/1/15" target="_self">Blurb</a></li><li><a href="http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/97676/4/1/15" target="_self">Inkubook</a></li><li><a href="http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/97676/5/1/15" target="_self">Shutterfly</a></li><li><a href="http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/97676/6/1/15" target="_self">AdoramaPix</a></li><li><a href="http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/97676/7/1/15" target="_self">Kodak Gallery</a></li><li><a href="http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/97676/8/1/15" target="_self">MyPublisher</a>&nbsp;(updated April 2011)</li><li><a href="http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/97676/9/1/15" target="_self">SnapFish</a></li><li><a href="http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/97676/10/1/15" target="_self">ArtsCow</a></li><li><a href="http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/97676/11/1/15" target="_self">Photobook Canada</a>&nbsp;(here's their <a href="http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/99951/photobook-canada-s-big-and-bold-square-photo-book-some-strategy-required-for-success.html" target="_blank">11" x 11" book reviewed separately</a>)</li><li><a href="http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/97676/12/1/15" target="_self">Mpix</a></li></ul><p><em>[Other book services we've reviewed here on this site include <a href="http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/107199/viovio-free-your-photos.html" target="_blank">Viovio</a>.]</em></p><p>Lastly, if you want to just <a href="http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/97676/13/1/15" target="_self">skip to the conclusion</a> to see the results of my tests (which includes an executive summary of each service), please feel free to do so.</p><p>One thing to note is that I'm not factoring in the "order to ship time" for this review. The reason why? Some of the vendors provided me with a coupon code that I could use to get my book printed for free, while others had me upload my book, processed my order, and manually discounted it later. This created a scenario where it was impossible for me to accurately gauge when the process truly started and finished.</p><p>Let's get started!</p><p><a href="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_donations&amp;business=P9HE9MNDCWUDA&amp;item_name=Photo Book Review by Jason Dunn&amp;currency_code=USD&amp;bn=PP-DonationsBF:btn_donateCC_LG.gif:NonHosted" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//wpt/auto/1288981300.usr2.gif" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></a></p><p><PAGE /></p><h1>Picaboo Photo Book Review</h1><p><a href="http://www.picaboo.com" target="_blank">www.picaboo.com</a></p><p><img alt="Picaboo Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1259900076.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 1: The Picaboo Web site. </em></p><p>Picaboo was the company I selected first when I decided I wanted to make Logan's baby book - I'd never used them before, and frankly did zero research before choosing them. I liked the look of their Web site and their downloadable software looked simple to use, so I figured I'd give them a try. They offer photo books in 8.5" x 11" hardcover, 6" x 8" hardcover, and 6" x 8" softcover. Those aren't a lot of book size options, but at the time 6" x 8" seemed like the perfect size for a baby book, and that's the page size I used in <a href="http://www.fotofusion.com" target="_blank">FotoFusion</a> when creating my layouts. Picaboo offers great custom-cover options: any picture you want on the front and back&nbsp;covers. They use 100 lb. archival quality paper.</p><p><strong>September 2010 Update: </strong>For a look at Picaboo's high-end Ranch Style photo book, and their Picaboo X software, <a href="http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/100402/photo-book-luxury-picaboo-s-ranch-style-book-reviewed.html" target="_blank">please read this review I've written</a>. I had a much better experience with them the second time around!</p><h2>Building the Book</h2><p>The Picaboo software is fast and easy to use - but on the first computer I installed it on, a bit unstable. It worked great for a couple of weeks, then all of a sudden it would crash immediately after I started it up. No amount of un-installing and re-installing could get it to work, so I installed it on another computer, and it's worked flawlessly there since. The software has a peer to peer social aspect as well; you can share books you've created with other users that have Picaboo installed and are your "pals" (the Picaboo term for being connected with another person). I'm not sure as to the usefulness of this feature - perhaps for collaborative book-building projects? Regardless, I didn't test this feature.</p><p><img alt="Picaboo Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1259900102.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 2: The Picaboo book-building software. </em></p><p>The software - a fast download - is quite flexible, fast, and fun to use. You can choose from 10 different cover options, a full-page image with room for three text boxes to a collection of six images with text above and below. Or you can choose any of the dozens of preset page layouts - so you can make a very unique front and back cover. Just like the other book-building tools here, a lot of clicking is involved if you wish to have page after page of full-page images. I'm just glad I was only doing a 60 page book, and not a 120 page book!</p><p><img alt="Picaboo Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//dht/auto/1265990596.usr1.png" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 3: I saw this a lot until I installed the software on a different computer. </em></p><p>If I were creating a photo book from scratching and wanting multi-image layouts with fun visual elements, the Picaboo software would be a great tool for it. In addition to offering dozens of great page layouts with a huge variety of image arrangements on the page, there are dozens of backgrounds to choose from, dozens of image corners, and the opportunity to adjust your images: brightness, contrast, border style, black &amp; white, sepia. About the only thing missing are drag-and-drop scrapbook-style embellishments.</p><p>Unfortunately, Picaboo's software has the same fatal flaw all the others do as well: there's no visual guide indicating the space needed for the book spine. There's no visual trim guide for the outside edges either. This would prove to be a big problem for me as you'll see below. After I completed the project, I uploaded it and paid for the books.</p><h2>The Results</h2><p>My very first book order for Logan's baby book came from Picaboo, so I was really looking forward to seeing the results. I'd emailed Picaboo before starting to ask them how large of a margin I needed to leave around the edge of each page. They told me 0.25 inches, so I went with 0.30 inches just to be on the safe side. I remember feel a thrill as I uploaded the images - eight months of hard work was finally going to pay off! I'd managed to keep this whole project a secret from my wife; I wanted to surprise her with the baby book. I'd casually mentioned the day before I placed the order that it might be "neat" to create a baby book for Logan. She excitedly agreed, and I said I'd throw together a few pictures and get a book printed. Yes, I was <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montgomery_Scott" target="_blank">pulling a classic Scotty</a> - vastly under-promising and then over-delivering.</p><p>When the books arrived, I was extremely excited to rip open the package and see how they turned out - so I was equally crushed when I looked at the books and saw they were ruined. The 0.25 inches was the correct margin measurement for the top, bottom, and outside edge of the pages (though some pages were tight), but not the spine-side of the page. Every single page had large portions of images missing, swallowed by the spine-binding process. It's obvious that Picaboo uses a completely automated process where no human being looks at the results before they get shipped to the customer, which is really unfortunate.</p><p><img alt="Picaboo Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1263671364.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 4: That's not how it looked in the software preview! </em></p><p><img alt="Picaboo Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1263671396.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 5: Yes, it was as bad as it looks. </em></p><p>In addition to disaster with the photos and text getting cut off by the spine, the images on my first set of three books were shockingly dark. Photos printed out on the page always look darker than how they look on the screen - paper doesn't have the natural luminescence of an LCD monitor - but these were dark in a "What the heck? Those look awful!" sort of way. I'd spent $169.43 getting three copies of the book - one for us, one for each set of grandparents - and that's <em>after </em>a $69.59 discount from a coupon. To say I was upset is putting it mildly.</p><p>I contacted Picaboo tech support over the phone, and the person I dealt with was very helpful and understanding. I emailed him photos of how the books turned out, along with screen shots showing that the software did nothing to warn me this was going to happen, and he agreed to give me a full credit to reprint the books again. I painstakingly modified the layout of every single page in FotoFusion, this time opting for a full inch of gutter space on the spine side and increased margins on all other sides just to be safe. It took me at least five hours of work to modify the pages inside FotoFusion, and I checked them over and over again. I also boosted the brightness of most of the images using the brightness adjustment tools inside FotoFusion. This wasn't ideal, but I wasn't going to go back to Lightroom and re-edit all my raw photos, re-export them, and re-import them into FotoFusion. By this point, I was trying to make the best of a bad situation.</p><p><img alt="Picaboo Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269978634.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 6: The Picaboo book cover. <a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/PICABOO1.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><img alt="Picaboo Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269978680.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 7: The Picaboo back cover. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/PICABOO2.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><object width="600" height="360" data="http://www.youtube.com/v/zFf4Ab7STjQ&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" type="application/x-shockwave-flash"><param name="src" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/zFf4Ab7STjQ&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" /></object></p><p><em>Please click on the video above to watch it on YouTube in 1080p full screen mode.</em></p><p>When the second set of books arrived, I was pleased to see that the images were all safe from the gutter. The brightness boost also helped make the images brighter, but some of them were a bit washed out. I also couldn't help but feel like the overall page layout felt squished because I brought all the elements in toward the centre. The pages didn't have a lot of white space between the images, and many of the images looked muddy. I wasn't very happy with the quality, so I started down the path of writing this review.</p><h6><strong>Book Details:</strong> 60 page, hardcover, custom cover</h6><h6><strong>Book Cost:</strong> $119.59 USD (11" x 8.5"), $69.59 (8" x 6"), $11.08 shipping to Canada</h6><h6><strong>Paper Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; <strong>Average</strong> &gt; Excellent &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Print Quality: Poor</strong> &gt; Average &gt; Excellent &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Cover Quality: </strong>Poor &gt; <strong>Average</strong> &gt; Excellent &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Overall Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; <strong>Average</strong> &gt; Excellent &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Spine Printing:</strong> No</h6><p><a href="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_donations&amp;business=P9HE9MNDCWUDA&amp;item_name=Photo Book Review by Jason Dunn&amp;currency_code=USD&amp;bn=PP-DonationsBF:btn_donateCC_LG.gif:NonHosted" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//wpt/auto/1288981300.usr2.gif" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></a></p><p><PAGE /></p><h1>Treasure-Book.com Photo Book Review</h1><p><a href="http://www.treasure-book.com/" target="_blank">www.treasure-book.com</a></p><p><img alt="Treasure-Book.com Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1259895358.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 8: The Treasure-Book.com Web site.</em></p><p>Treasure-Book.com was a company I hadn't heard of before doing a Google search for photo book companies. After doing a search&nbsp;for Canadian photo book companies, they came up (they're based out of BC) so I thought I'd give them a try. Treasure-book.com does 4" x 6" landscape or portrait, 8.5" x 11" landscape or portrait, 8.5" x 8.5" square, and 12" x 12" square photo books in hard cover leatherette or suede. The photo wrap covers are available in 8.5" x 11" landscape or portrait, 8.5" x 8.5" square, and 11.5" x 11.5" square.</p><p>Treasure-Book has provided a coupon for Digital Home Thoughts readers to use: <strong>DigiHthoughts15</strong> will get you 15% off your order, valid until April 6th, 2012.</p><h2>Building the Book</h2><p>After downloading the 86 MB software, it installed without incident. When I started it up, which strangely requires a User Access Control prompt every time you load it, it looked familiar. It turns out that "My Photo Books" is photo book making software licensed by several online photo book makers. Developing software is hard work, and if the expertise of the photo book company is presumably in printing and binding, there's a certain logic in not focusing on the software. The key then is whether or not the My Photo Books software is good software for making photo books.</p><p><img alt="Treasure-Book.com Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1259895442.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 9: The My Photo Books software.</em></p><p>For the most part, it is. The user interface is a bit strange - it has a bottom-left pointing arrow for the minimize button, and it doesn't look like your typical Windows application. At first I thought it was a Java app because it seemed a bit sluggish, but it's not Java - it's just not that snappy. When you first start it up, you have three options: Create New Book, Fast Track, or Open Saved Book. Create New Book allows you to create a new book from scratch, where the first option is selecting the size (4" x 6" up to 12"&nbsp;x 12") and type of cover (Custom Softcover, Keyhole Hardcover, or Standard Hardcover). Once you pick the size, the software loads the book template, and the rest is largely up to you. The Fast Track option is a wizard-based approach to building a photo book. You select the size of book you want, the book cover type, a theme (Baby Boy, Clean, Travel, Wedding, etc.), the photos you want, and boom - it creates the book for you. You can fine-tune it all later.</p><p><img alt="Treasure-Book.com Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//dht/auto/1259895525.usr1.png" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 10: Getting started with the project.</em></p><p>You can drag and drop your images directly onto the page - there's a nice "Single Page Background" option that comes up when you drag and drop an image that will fit the image to the page. This method is much easier than most of the other software I used - such as Picaboo - which required many clicks to accomplish the same thing. There's also a "Two Page Spread Background" option that would be great for panoramic photos. A welcome feature is the ability to drag your background around on the page to fine-tune the layout - this was especially helpful in my case where every page had a single image applied as a background. There's unfortunately no page trim indicators, or spine gutter indicators, so you don't really know what's going to get cut from the edge of the page or be hidden by the spine.</p><p><img alt="Treasure-Book.com Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1259895634.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 11: Various layouts are offered.</em></p><p>The My Photo Book software is surprisingly sophisticated in how it allows for the resizing, creation, rotation, and re-positioning of image frames. If you come up with a page layout you like with certain image frames at certain sizes, and in specific locations, you can save that as a page layout. This gives you quick one-click access to it for future pages. Very handy stuff! There's also one-button black and white or sepia options, and an enhancement function called "Perfectly Clear Images"&nbsp;which is&nbsp;essentially an auto-adjust feature.</p><p>It would have been nice if the My Photo Book software asked you up front how many pages you needed, but CONTROL+I allows you to insert a page, so pressing and holding CONTROL+I inserted all the pages I needed in a matter of seconds. Other programs weren't nearly as streamlined. I did notice a peculiar glitch with the My Photo Book software where sometimes I'd click on an image to select it before dragging and dropping it into the layout and the selection would de-select itself and move to the previous image. It was like a game of whack-a-mole. I found that if I clicked on another part of the program, then clicked back onto the image, it would let me select it again.</p><p><img alt="Treasure-Book.com Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1264461235.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 12: Creating a photo cover took much more effort than it should have.</em></p><p>Creating the front and back covers was a bit tricky. The My Photo Books software isn't geared up for easy cover creation; when you drag and drop an image onto the cover, there's no option for "Single Page Layout". The only way to fill the cover is to re-size and re-position the image over and over, and because the trim lines are dark gray, if you have a black background, they're impossible to see. This software needs some serious improvements related to full-page photo covers.</p><p>Once I finished dropping in all the images, I clicked the "Send to Treasure-Book" button, and the software processed the file. This is a CPU-intensive task, pegging one CPU core, but only one CPU core, at 85% to 99% usage. After that process completed, which took under three minutes, the preview process kicked off: the software provides you with a PDF preview of the final output. This is useful, and&nbsp;in looking at the preview I noticed it was missing one critical thing: there's no indication of the space required for adequate clearance on the book spine. If you're printing full-page single-photo images where there's no action around the edges, it won't matter. But if you're printing a custom book with text, not being able to see how much space you need to avoid having your images or text swallowed by the spine is a bit frustrating.</p><p>Once the upload completed, I was taken to an order page on Treasure-Book.com. Here I was given the choice between Tan Suede, Charcoal Suede, Blue Suede, Black Leatherette, Navy Leatherette, and Burgundy Leatherette covers. There's no image preview in the order process, so I had to open up a new tab and visit the home page to figure out which colour I wanted. The images showing the cover types are all a little small, but Navy Leatherette looked like a good match for my book design. I had my book printed by Treasure-Book.com first out of all the companies in this review, and at the time they didn't offer custom hard covers like some other book makers do - <a href="http://www.treasure-book.com/Photo-Books.aspx" target="_blank">but now they do</a>. They offered to send me another copy of my book, this time featuring the photo cover, so that's what I used for the evaluation portion of this review.</p><p>I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the very hands-on customer service that Treasure-Book.com offers - I found them very responsive and helpful when I had questions about building my book, and I love that they offer spine printing on special request given that neither Mpix nor Photobook Canada does and they're all using the same book-building software.</p><h2>The Results</h2><p><img alt="Treasure-Book.com Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269978715.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 13: My </em>Treasure-Book.com<em> photo book, front. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/TREASUREBOOK1.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><img alt="Treasure-Book.com Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269978778.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 14: My </em>Treasure-Book.com<em> photo book, back. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/TREASUREBOOK2.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><img alt="Treasure-Book.com Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269978815.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 15: My </em>Treasure-Book.com<em> photo book, spine. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/TREASUREBOOK3.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><object width="600" height="360" data="http://www.youtube.com/v/kFgLNbn03lk&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" type="application/x-shockwave-flash"><param name="src" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/kFgLNbn03lk&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" /></object></p><p><em>Please click on the video above to watch it on YouTube in 1080p full screen mode.</em></p><h6><strong>Book Details:</strong> 8.5"&nbsp;x 11", 60 pages, custom photo wrap hard cover</h6><h6><strong>Book Cost:</strong> $79.59 CAD + $9.35 shipping</h6><h6><strong>Paper Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; <strong>Excellent</strong> &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Print Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; <strong>Average</strong> &gt; Excellent &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Cover Quality:</strong> Poor<strong> </strong>&gt; <strong>Average</strong> &gt; Excellent &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Overall Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; <strong>Average</strong> &gt; Excellent &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Spine Printing:</strong> Yes (upon special request)</h6><p><a href="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_donations&amp;business=P9HE9MNDCWUDA&amp;item_name=Photo Book Review by Jason Dunn&amp;currency_code=USD&amp;bn=PP-DonationsBF:btn_donateCC_LG.gif:NonHosted" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//wpt/auto/1288981300.usr2.gif" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></a></p><p><PAGE /></p><h1>Blurb Photo Book Review</h1><p><a href="http://www.blurb.com" target="_blank">www.blurb.com</a></p><p><img alt="Blurb Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1259897007.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 16: The Blurb Web site.</em></p><p>Blurb is a company big on personality - <a href="http://www.blurb.com/about/ceo" target="_blank">just check out this letter from their CEO</a> - and a company that prints "real" books and not just photo books. They have options for allowing authors and photographers to sell their books and earn a mark-up, along with other interesting offerings. For the purpose of this review, however, I'm focusing strictly on their photo book offerings. Their photo book offerings are a 7" x 7" square, 8" x 10" standard portrait, 10" x 8" standard landscape, 13" x 11" large landscape, or 12" x 12" large square. Blurb offers discounts on 10 or more of the same book and cover type, and they also have a premium paper option.</p><h2>Building the Book</h2><p>Blurb uses stand-alone software to design books, and the Blurb BookSmart 2.5 software client was a quick download at 43 MB in size. It installed quickly and easily, without a single User Access Control prompt. The software is a bit sluggish to launch, but once it loads, it's fast and easy to use. The initial step when creating a book is to select the size - Blurb offers 5"&nbsp;x 8" landscape, 7" x 7" square, 8" x 10" portrait, 10" x 8" landscape, 13"&nbsp;x 11" landscape, and 12"&nbsp;x 12" square books. After you pick the size, several different layouts are offered. I selected Photo Book, which looked to be a good choice for full-page layouts. Photos can be selected from your local hard drive, or from Flickr.com, Photobucket.com, Picasa Web Albums, or SmugMug.com. Importing the photos from the hard drive is a somewhat slow process, but thankfully the Blurb software is multi-threaded, using both CPU cores on my test machine.</p><p><img alt="Blurb Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1259897123.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 17: The Blurb BookSmart software.</em></p><p>Blurb's software is definitely one of the more sophisticated programs that I've used. The proof is that there's an option for trim guidelines; when you turn this feature on, you see a pink box around the outside of your image. As long as you keep your image away from the pink area, you won't lose any of it. This is something that every other program I looked at lacked. While seeing the page trim lines is helpful, there's no preview for the book spine - I had to guess how far away from the inside margin to position the images. I'm amazed that no one gets this part right.</p><p><img alt="Blurb Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1259897178.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 18: The Trim Guidance info.</em></p><p>Another helpful feature is the ability to use the arrow keys to control fine-grained movement of your image. This was especially helpful when I dropped in my full-page images, formatted for 11" x 8.5" inches, into their 8" x 10" book size. Unfortunately many of my images were too wide for the trim lines at this size, so I had to go back to my source project in <a href="http://www.lumapix.com" target="_blank">FotoFusion</a> and re-format my book for 8" x 10". Let this be a lesson to everyone out there: before you even start a project like this, make sure you decide up front what book size you're going to be creating.</p><h2>The Results</h2><p>Blurb went above and beyond for me in this review: I had requested their ImageWrap cover, but they ended up sending me all three of their cover types; softcover, hardcover dust jacket, and hardcover ImageWrap. All three cover types were printed from the same project I uploaded. Each type of book has a distinctive look; of the three, the ImageWrap is my favourite.</p><p><img alt="Blurb Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269978867.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 19: Blurb photo book, hardcover with ImageWrap, front. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/BLURBWRAP1.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><img alt="Blurb Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269978906.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 20: Blurb photo book, hardcover with ImageWrap, back. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/BLURBWRAP2.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><img alt="Blurb Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269978934.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 21: Blurb photo book, hardcover with ImageWrap, spine. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/BLURBWRAP3.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p>The ImageWrap cover is a matte cover, with just a hint of gloss, and it's smooth and almost soft to the touch. Small scratches aren't visible on the cover; it holds up quite well to wear and tear. There were some minor layout quirks on this cover though - the book title, printed on the spine, was shifted upward slightly. The back photos were shifted downward, getting dangerously close to the bottom.</p><p><img alt="Blurb Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269978961.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 22: Blurb photo book, hardcover with dust jacket, front. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/BLURBHARD1.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><img alt="Blurb Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269978991.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 23: Blurb photo book, hardcover with dust jacket, back. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/BLURBHARD2.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><img alt="Blurb Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269979050.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 24: Blurb photo book, hardcover with dust jacket, spine. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/BLURBHARD3.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p>The hardcover with the dust jacket is about what you'd expect: a high-gloss cover printed on thick card-stock.The glossy cover jumps out at you, making your image look great. Like most glossy surfaces though, it shows scratches and fingerprints. The spine printing was perfect on it, as were the photos printed on the back. Under the dust jacket, the Blurb book is black and covered in a tough woven material. The dust jacket version of the book was the one that Blurb printed on their premium paper, which is described as "100-pound text silk-finish paper". The premium paper feels ever-so-slightly heavier to the touch than the regular paper, but despite much eye-straining, I really couldn't see any difference in the image quality. This option is useful if you want your book to feel more luxurious to the reader flipping through it, but don't buy it expecting to have better-looking images. Compared to the photo paper used in most of the other books, Blurb's premium paper felt much thinner. Don't waste your money on this upgrade.</p><p><img alt="Blurb Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269979095.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 25: Blurb photo book, softcover, front. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/BLURBSOFT1.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><img alt="Blurb Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269979115.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 26: Blurb photo book, softcover, back. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/BLURBSOFT2.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><object width="600" height="360" data="http://www.youtube.com/v/TxH2Nq3aex4&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" type="application/x-shockwave-flash"><param name="src" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/TxH2Nq3aex4&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" /></object></p><p><em>Please click on the video above to watch it on YouTube in 1080p full screen mode.</em></p><p><em>Note: After shooting the video, I re-considered my opinion on Blurb's paper; compared to the paper used by the other companies in this round-up, Blurb's paper, even their premium paper, can only be described as average. The paper rating of average impacted some of the overall ratings.</em></p><p>The softcover book is glossy, and quite a bit thinner than the other books because it lacks a hard spine. The glossy cover looks great, but it's highly vulnerable to damage. After a week or so, the cover had visible scratch marks on it. There's something innately fun about a softcover book however - it's more approachable than a hard-cover book. I think a Blurb softcover book at 7 inches by 7 inches, and 100+ pages thick, would be a great combination. I noticed something immediately on inside pages of the softcover version though: at the bottom of every single page, there was a white line of varying thickness where the image didn't cover the whole page. Baffled, I returned to my Blurb source file and examined the layout on every single page. With the exception of one page where I clearly wasn't paying attention, the images were well inside the trim lines. Here's an example of how far the image was inside the trim lines according to the software:</p><p><img alt="Blurb Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1259897301.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 27: My image is inside the trim line.</em></p><p>And here's a photo of how that page printed out in the softcover book:</p><p><img alt="Blurb Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1259897287.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 28: The result is nothing like the preview.</em></p><p>As you can see this isn't a thin, barely-visible line: it's quite obvious on every single page. When I asked Blurb for comment, they didn't reply to my email. I emailed them again, and after more than three months, I still hadn't heard back at the time this article went live. I would hope that, as a paying customer, if Blurb sent a book out with an obvious printing error like this, they'd allow the customer to get a reprint.</p><p><strong>APRIL 15th, 2010 UPDATE:</strong> After this article went live, Blurb notified me that they'd offer any customer a reprint if this page trimming problem happened to one of their books, so they sent me a new book and it looks great! Good to know that if I had contacted Blurb's customer service rather than their PR people, I'd have had this issued fixed. Nicely done Blurb!</p><h6><strong>Book Details:</strong> 8"&nbsp;x 10", 60 pages, ImageWrap</h6><h6><strong>Book Cost:</strong> $24.95 USD for softcover, $35.95 for hardcover with dust jacket, $37.95 for hardcover with ImageWrap; $6 USD for premium paper option on hardcover with dust jacket, $7.99 CAD for shipping to Canada (covers up to five books).</h6><h6></h6><h6><strong>Paper Quality (Softcover):</strong> Poor &gt; <strong>Average</strong> &gt; Excellent &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Print Quality <strong>(Softcover)</strong>:</strong> Poor &gt; <strong>Average</strong> &gt; Excellent &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Cover Quality <strong>(Softcover)</strong>:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; <strong>Excellent</strong> &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Overall Quality <strong>(Softcover)</strong>:</strong> Poor &gt; <strong>Average</strong> &gt; Excellent &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Spine Printing:</strong> No</h6><p>&nbsp;</p><h6></h6><h6></h6><h6></h6><h6></h6><h6><strong>Paper Quality (Dust Jacket):</strong> Poor &gt; <strong>Average </strong>&gt; Excellent &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Print Quality <strong>(Dust Jacket)</strong>:</strong> Poor &gt; <strong>Average</strong> &gt; Excellent &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Cover Quality <strong>(Dust Jacket)</strong>:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; <strong>Excellent</strong> &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Overall Quality <strong>(Dust Jacket)</strong>:</strong> Poor &gt; <strong>Average </strong>&gt; Excellent &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Spine Printing:</strong> Yes</h6><p>&nbsp;</p><h6></h6><h6></h6><h6></h6><h6></h6><h6><strong>Paper Quality (Hardcover):</strong> Poor &gt; <strong>Average</strong> &gt; Excellent &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Print Quality <strong>(Hardcover)</strong>:</strong> Poor &gt; <strong>Average</strong> &gt; Excellent &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Cover Quality <strong>(Hardcover)</strong>:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; Excellent &gt; <strong>Superb</strong></h6><h6><strong>Overall Quality <strong>(Hardcover)</strong>:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; <strong>Excellent</strong> &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Spine Printing:</strong> Yes</h6><p><a href="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_donations&amp;business=P9HE9MNDCWUDA&amp;item_name=Photo Book Review by Jason Dunn&amp;currency_code=USD&amp;bn=PP-DonationsBF:btn_donateCC_LG.gif:NonHosted" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//wpt/auto/1288981300.usr2.gif" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></a></p><p><PAGE /></p><h1>Inkubook Photo Book Review</h1><p><a href="http://inkubook.com/" target="_blank">www.inkubook.com</a></p><p><img alt="Inkubook Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1259897813.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 29: The Inkubook Web site.</em></p><p>Inkubook ranks high in the "quirky company name" category, but they also have a lot to offer and are worth considering. They offer books in several sizes; the Mini Brag (7" x 5" landscape), the Simple Square (8.5" x 8.5"), th Ultimate Portrait (8.5" x 11" portrait), the Classic Landscape (11" x 8.5" landscape), and the Great Big Square (11" x 11"). Their books are printed on 100 lb., "archival-quality silk paper". I should note that Inkubook offers coupons via email quite frequently, which is a big money saver if you're printing multiple books.</p><p>Inkubook has provided a discount coupon specifically for Digital Home Thoughts readers; use the coupon code<strong>&nbsp;DIGIHOME30&nbsp;</strong>to get 30% off any order. This coupon is limited to one per customer, to a maximum of $100 in value, and is valid until December 31st, 2011.</p><h2>Building the Book</h2><p>Unlike most photo book printing sites, Inkubook uses a browser-based book creation tool. Surprisingly, it's not Flash-based: they're using Microsoft's Silverlight technology. After you create your free account and log in, there's a big orange "Start a New Book" button. Step two is picking the book size: they offer 7" x 5" landscape, 8.5"&nbsp;x 8.5" square, 8.5" x 11" portrait, 11" x 8.5" landscape, and 11"&nbsp;x 11" square. Strangely, not all sizes are available in softcover, but all sizes are available in hardcover. 12" x 12" is an industry standard size based on all the sites I've looked at, so it's curious to see Inkubook go with an 11" x 11". Thankfully, square is square, so there's no need to re-format your layout if you've gone square.</p><p><img alt="Inkubook Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1259897882.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 30: The Inkubook book-building process.</em></p><p>I selected the 11" x 8.5" landscape, which is only available in hardcover, and browsed through their themes next. They offer a variety of categories - photo book, wedding, travel, cookbook, etc. - and each category has a variety of themes and backgrounds associated with it. I wanted to keep things simple, so I selected Photo Book as the category, and Photobook as the theme. Next came picking between "Starting from Scratch" and "Autofill My Book". I selected Autofill, hoping that it would be smart enough to fill each page completely with an image. Photos in the next step are pulled from Flickr, your local computer, or Inkubook - the last option meaning, I presume, previously uploaded images.</p><p>Here's where having a browser-based system becomes problematic: uploading your images can take quite a while, and their system doesn't seem to be very robust at recovering from problems. In my case, I kicked off the upload of my 62 images, which were a total of 170 MB in size, and left for an appointment. I came back, and my computer had gone to sleep - I woke it up, and saw that the upload hadn't completed. It was stuck on "Building Your Book: 56 of 58". Here's one of the error messages that popped up while I was building my book:</p><p><img alt="Inkubook Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//dht/auto/1259897988.usr1.png" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 31: One of several error messages the Inkubook site presented.</em></p><p>The good news is that when you add a new page, it's based on the page before it - so it "only" took me 40 or so clicks of the Add Page button. It would have been easier if part of the book setup was "How many pages do you want?" and a default selection for each page. One of the things I really liked about Inkubook's Web-based process is that after an image has been uploaded, you can immediately drop it onto your page. Other services make you wait to upload all the images, then allow you to start building your book. The Inkubook method is vastly superior and allows the user to build each page as the images become available.</p><p>At the end of the process, after you put in your shipping information, you have two options: black or white end leaf colour (the sheet that is attached to the inside page of a case-bound book), and a matte or glossy cover finish. And that's it!</p><h2>The Results</h2><p><img alt="Inkubook Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269983448.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 32: The Inkubook photo book, front. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/INKUBOOK1.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><img alt="Inkubook Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269983480.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 33: The Inkubook photo book, back. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/INKUBOOK2.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><object width="600" height="360" data="http://www.youtube.com/v/mbd1r2onjRg&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" type="application/x-shockwave-flash"><param name="src" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/mbd1r2onjRg&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" /></object></p><p><em>Please click on the video above to watch it on YouTube in 1080p full screen mode.</em></p><h6><strong>Book Details:</strong> 8.5"&nbsp;x 11", 60 pages, ImageWrap</h6><h6><strong>Book Cost:</strong> $42.95 USD, $18.99 shipping (2-7 days to Canada)</h6><h6><strong>Paper Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; <strong>Excellent</strong> &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Print Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; <strong>Excellent</strong> &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Cover Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; <strong>Average</strong> &gt; Excellent &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Overall Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; <strong>Excellent</strong> &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Spine Printing:</strong> No</h6><p><a href="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_donations&amp;business=P9HE9MNDCWUDA&amp;item_name=Photo Book Review by Jason Dunn&amp;currency_code=USD&amp;bn=PP-DonationsBF:btn_donateCC_LG.gif:NonHosted" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//wpt/auto/1288981300.usr2.gif" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></a></p><p><PAGE /></p><h1>Shutterfly Photo Book Review</h1><p><a href="http://www.shutterfly.com" target="_blank">www.shutterfly.com</a></p><p><img alt="Shutterfly Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269845225.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 34: The Shutterfly Web site.</em></p><p>Shutterfly has been in the photo book business for a long time; I used them to create a small wedding album for my wife nine years ago, but haven't used them since. They offer books in a variety of sizes; softcover 5" x 7", and softcover 7" x 9". The 8" x 8", 8" x 11", and 12" x 12" books are available in softcover, hardcover with a photo wrap, or a padded photo cover. There are also options for fabric hard covers and leather hard covers with a die-cut window on some sizes. I ordered the padded cover for this review.</p><h2>Building the Book</h2><p>Shutterfly's book-building system is entirely Web-based, so the first thing you're in for is a potentially long wait as you upload your images. Unlike Inkubook, there's no way to build your book as each image uploads - Shutterfly has a traditional pop-up window for uploads, and until that's finished, you can't close it or do anything else with your book.</p><p><img alt="Shutterfly Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//dht/auto/1259898971.usr1.png" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 35: Building your book with Shutterfly's Web-based tool.</em></p><p>Shutterfly's browser-based book builder isn't very feature-rich, but it does all the basics quite well. You can select from among several book styles, or create your own from scratch. The page previews are unfortunately quite small - the Shutterfly system is designed to work on fairly low-resolution monitors - but you can click on the Zoom button to see larger previews of how your pages look. Like every other process reviewed here, if you're doing a 60 page book where every page is a full-page image, be prepared for a lot of clicking as you apply a full-page layout style to each page. There are options for getting creative; Shutterfly offers a selection of page backgrounds and photo edges. The front and back covers can be full-page images.</p><p><img alt="Shutterfly Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//dht/auto/1269845692.usr1.png" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 36: The spine printing function was obvious to see, and easy to use.</em></p><p><img alt="Shutterfly Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//dht/auto/1259899005.usr1.png" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 37: Ooops - error!</em></p><p>After I'd spent some time creating the book, I wanted to save my progress, so I clicked the Save button. More than 60 seconds passed as I waited and waited for the project to save - eventually the error message above (Figure 36) popped up. I added another couple of pages to my book project, then clicked Save again - this time, it worked. There doesn't appear to be an auto-save function, which is a dangerous shortcoming for any browser-based book-building system. Any number of things can take a browser down, and you don't want to lose all the work you've put into the book. Remember to save often!</p><p>After I completed my book, I used the preview function to ensure it looked the way I wanted, and proceeded with the order.</p><h2>The Results</h2><p><img alt="Shutterfly Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269983510.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 38: The Shutterfly photo book, front. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/SHUTTERFLY1.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><img alt="Shutterfly Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269983530.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 39: The Shutterfly photo book, back. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/SHUTTERFLY2.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><img alt="Shutterfly Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269983556.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 40: The Shutterfly photo book, spine. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/SHUTTERFLY3.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><object width="600" height="360" data="http://www.youtube.com/v/3JqAaiJc1Hs&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" type="application/x-shockwave-flash"><param name="src" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/3JqAaiJc1Hs&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" /></object></p><p><em>Please click on the video above to watch it on YouTube in 1080p full screen mode.</em></p><p>The images were slightly warmer in tone than I was expecting - on some pages the images looked almost orange. This is from an automatic image enhancement Shutterfly offers called "Vivid Pics". This option can be turned off on your Shutterfly account, but nowhere during the book building and ordering process was I presented with the choice to turn this off or on. I'd like to see Shutterfly allow users to select this feature on a per-book basis.</p><h6><strong>Book Details:</strong> 8"&nbsp;x 11", 60 pages, padded photo cover</h6><h6><strong>Book Cost:</strong> $61.59 USD, $6.99 shipping (4-10 days to Canada)</h6><h6><strong>Paper Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; <strong>Excellent</strong> &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Print Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; <strong>Average</strong> &gt; Excellent &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Cover Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; <strong>Excellent</strong> &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Overall Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; <strong>Excellent</strong> &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Spine Printing:</strong> Yes</h6><p><a href="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_donations&amp;business=P9HE9MNDCWUDA&amp;item_name=Photo Book Review by Jason Dunn&amp;currency_code=USD&amp;bn=PP-DonationsBF:btn_donateCC_LG.gif:NonHosted" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//wpt/auto/1288981300.usr2.gif" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></a></p><p><PAGE /></p><h1>AdoramaPix Photo Book Review</h1><p><a href="http://www.adoramapix.com" target="_blank">www.adoramapix.com</a></p><p><img alt="AdoramaPix Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1259899830.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 41: The AdoramaPix Web site.</em></p><p>I'm familiar with <a href="http://www.adorama.com" target="_blank">Adorama</a> from years of reading <a href="http://www.popphoto.com/" target="_blank">Popular Photography</a> and seeing their ads in it, but I've never had the opportunity to check out their photo printing services before now. <a href="http://www.adoramapix.com/" target="_blank">AdoramaPix</a> is the photo-printing arm of the parent company, Adorama, and they offer a variety of photo printing products. Their photo books are printed on Fuji Crystal Archive Album photo paper, and they use Leporello bindings that allow for lay-flat pages. I was excited to check out the lay-flat pages, because that's something that most photo books at the consumer price point don't offer - you typically only see lay-flat pages in the $200+ wedding albums. Book sizes are 6" x 4" portrait, 8" x 5.5" portrait, 12" x 9" portrait, 6" x 6" square, 8" x 8" square, 12" x 12" square, 6" x 7.5" landscape, 6" x 9" landscape, 8" x 10" landscape, and 8" x 12" landscape.</p><p><strong>July 2010 Update:</strong> AdoramaPix now offers a 76-page option for their lay-flat books.</p><p><strong>August 2010 Update:</strong> If you live outside the USA (say, Canada), and you ask AdoramaPix if they'll ship a book to you, they'll say no, they don't ship to that country. However, if you build a book and go to their ordering page, if your country is listed, they'll <strong>will</strong> ship it to you (they <strong>do </strong>ship to Canada for instance). Makes no sense, right? Indeed - yet this is the explanation I received from my contact at AdoramaPix. This is quite a confusing mess, so I recommend you skip AdoramaPix if you live outside the USA - they really don't seem to want your business, so why give it to them?</p><h2>Building the Book</h2><p>AdoramaPix uses a browser-hosted Flash-based system for building the book. The first choice was to select the size; I chose 8" x 10" as it was the closest to the 8.5" x 11" layouts I had built. There are two page-count options: 26 pages, or 50 pages. I guess that means you'd better have either 26 or 50 photos page layouts exactly! They offer a couple dozen themes, but I chose to build my book from scratch. I have to say that it was painful to delete ten pages from my baby book project - every page was important to me, so I was really disappointed that AdoramaPix has a limit of 50 pages on their books.</p><p><img alt="AdoramaPix Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//dht/auto/1260057779.usr1.png" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 41: Uploading the images.</em></p><p>The next step was uploading the images. You're given four options; AdoramaPix Galleries, Upload from Computer, Import from Flickr, and Import from Picasa. I'd like to have seen Smugmug in that list, but since I had all my photos on my local computer, I went with that option. I initially selected my photos and dropped them in the right-hand zone which said "Drag and drop photos here to add to project", but it turns out that's not really what they mean - this zone is where your photos appear automatically after they've been uploaded. Not a great user interface decision here!</p><p>After browsing to the folder with my images, the Flash-based uploader immediately started to upload my images. As you can see in the screenshot above, after each upload completed, it marked the upload with a yellow warning sign. Mousing over the warning sign gives no detail as to what it means; eventually after all my uploads completed - which took about 9 minutes with my 2mbps upstream speed - and by the end two of the images still had the yellow warning sign. Irritatingly, the NAME column in the uploader can't be resized, so I was unable to determine which of the two files were problematic - even when I stretched the IE8 window across the entire width of my two 24" monitors, which is 3840 pixels, and I still couldn't see the file name. Again, this is just bad design - if you're going to show someone a yellow warning icon, you should tell them what it means when they hover their mouse over the error.</p><p><img alt="AdoramaPix Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1260059330.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 42: Building the book with AdoramaPix.</em></p><p>Once I got into the editor, it was pretty simple to layout the photos - I dragged each photo from the images tab over onto the page, then clicked again to make each image fit to the page. It would be nice to see the editor offer that as part of the click and drag process (like the My Photo Books software does), or have an Auto-Fill function that works. I couldn't figure out how to auto-fill the pages because there was no way to select all my images. I also wasted several minutes trying to get rid of the green border surrounding my front and back cover (see above), thinking that it was some sort of border, only to discover in the preview mode that the three I was seeing wasn't actually part of the book. It's baffling that the editor would show a thick green border around the cover of your book, then when you're viewing the inside pages, it switches to a thin green border. This only serves to confuse the user - why show something that isn't part of the final product?</p><p>On the plus side, the editor offers nearly 2000 "stickers", which are everything from clip-art Christmas ornaments to photo-realistic seashells and crayons. There are also 21 image frames, and over 500 backgrounds for your pages. I can definitely see someone creating some interesting scrapbook pages with all the content that AdoramaPix offers as part of this tool. The editor also offers the ability to save your book, zoom in and out, and even display a grid for precise layout decisions. In the preview mode there's also a slick animation showing page turns. For a browser-based Flash application, it's quite sophisticated.</p><p>Once the book is finished, clicking on Order brings you to a page where the size and number of pages are confirmed - and you have an option of having Adorama's Photo Correction applied (which is recommended), or having them not touch your images. Though I'm confident in the quality of my images, I was curious to see what this option would do to my images, so I opted to have the photo correction applied to my book.</p><h2>The Results</h2><p><img alt="AdoramaPix Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269983584.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 43: The AdoramaPix photo book, front. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/ADORAMAPIX1.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><img alt="AdoramaPix Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269983604.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 44: The AdoramaPix photo book, back. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/ADORAMAPIX2.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><img alt="AdoramaPix Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269123950.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 45: The AdoramaPix photo book, inside pages.</em></p><p><object width="600" height="360" data="http://www.youtube.com/v/X3Vlao6liL0&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" type="application/x-shockwave-flash"><param name="src" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/X3Vlao6liL0&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" /></object></p><p><em>Please click on the video above to watch it on YouTube in 1080p full screen mode.</em></p><p>Before publishing this article, but after shooting this video, I changed my mind and bumped the print quality from average to excellent. I spent some more time comparing print quality between the books, and the AdoramaPix book is in the top four - though I'd still have liked to seen how my images looked without their photo correction turned on because some pages looked a little more dull than I expected. There was a white line at the top of every page as well, and I don't believe it was like that in my layout. Still, when looking at the book, you can't help but see how much it stands out from the other books in this price range.</p><p>In discussions with my contact at AdoramaPix, it turns out that I could have had printing on the spine - if I had realized that I needed to create a text box, drop it on the black bar that represents the spine, rotate it 180 degrees, then type in my text. Not exactly intuitive! They definitely need to make this part easier.</p><h6><strong>Book Details:</strong> 50 page, custom hardcover book, 8" x 10"</h6><h6><strong>Book Cost:</strong> $65.58 USD + $24.95 for US Mail shipping to Canada (flat-rate international shipping)</h6><h6><strong>Paper Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; Excellent &gt; <strong>Superb</strong></h6><h6><strong>Print Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; <strong>Excellent </strong>&gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Cover Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; Excellent &gt; <strong>Superb</strong></h6><h6><strong>Overall Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; <strong>Excellent</strong> &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Spine Printing:</strong> Yes, but not easily.</h6><p><a href="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_donations&amp;business=P9HE9MNDCWUDA&amp;item_name=Photo Book Review by Jason Dunn&amp;currency_code=USD&amp;bn=PP-DonationsBF:btn_donateCC_LG.gif:NonHosted" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//wpt/auto/1288981300.usr2.gif" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></a></p><p><PAGE /></p><h1>Kodak Gallery Photo Book Review</h1><p><a href="http://www.kodakgallery.com" target="_blank">www.kodakgallery.com</a></p><p><img alt="Kodak Gallery Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269846440.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 46: The Kodak Gallery Web site.</em></p><p>"Kodak" and "photos" still go together in the minds consumers like peanut butter and jelly, and Kodak has parlayed that brand recognition into a strong online presence for photo sharing, printing, and book making. Kodak offers 5" x 7" or 8.5" x 9.5" softcover books, and 9" x 10.25" or mammoth 12" x 14" hardcover books. In terms of covers, they offer the old-school picture-window style and the imagewrap style.</p><h2>Building the Book</h2><p>Kodak Gallery uses a Web-based system, and the first step in building a book is to upload the photos - so in my case, the first thing I had to do was upload 667 MB of images. The uploader was multi-threaded, uploading four images at a time, but there's literally nothing you can do while the images are uploading, except wait. In my case the upload took about 45 minutes, and when it was done, I had my 62 images loaded into an album.</p><p><img alt="Kodak Gallery Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1260655908.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 47: Picking your cover.</em></p><p>Putting the photo book together was a little different than the other sites I've covered in this review. You need to go into the Photo Books category, then click on Shop Photo Books, and then select your book type. It's a bit different from the photobook-centric approach other sites use, but it works.</p><p><img alt="Kodak Gallery Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1262483972.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 48: This is the best I could do for the cover.</em></p><p>Another difference is that the printed hardcover doesn't have an image that fills the front. Your image gets printed on about 70% of the cover, and there's a strip up top where your text gets printed (see above). You get to pick the colour of the cover, choosing from between five solid colours, and ten designs. The back has a tiny square for a photo, and a small bit of text below it. Compared to the other services that let me put an image on the entire cover, front and back, this was quite disappointing. And there's no spine printing either. Next, you get to select from among 35 page designs. Since I'm doing full-page photos, this step doesn't matter to me, but there are some nice page designs to choose from.</p><p>I ran into a significant snag trying to get the baby book printed with Kodak Gallery: their book size of 9"&nbsp;x 10.25" wasn't a similar enough aspect ratio to fit either the 8" x 10" or 8.5" x 11" versions of the book that I had. I didn't want to go through the painful amount of work to re-format the book for yet another size, so I opted instead to get a 60 page book printed with individual&nbsp;full-page photos rather than the premade images I'd created for the othe books. I used many of the same photos, so for comparison purposes, I don't expect to run into any trouble. It never occurred to me that there would be such "creativity" when it comes to book sizes amongst all the major players.</p><p><img alt="Kodak Gallery Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1262483704.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 49: Building your book using Kodak Gallery's Web-based system.</em></p><p>The Kodak book builder is a Flash-based tool, and while it's easy to use, the word that best describes it is "ponderous". Rather than having your photos be available for instant drag and drop, they're at the top of the screen in a fly-out panel that appears after you mouse over it and wait for a second. It's neat the first five times you see it, but after that, it's tedious. There's no option for a book that's populated with full-page layouts, so for every page I had to click on the layout tool and drag and drop the full-page option. You can't drag and drop the same full-page option onto both pages in the layout either; you have to click and drag the left one onto the left page, then move over to the right page and find the full-page option there. Doing this 60 times was mind-numbing.</p><p>After you drag and drop the image onto the page, there are some basic options: you can re-position it on the page, and the tool helpfully doesn't allow you to expose any of the background, which is great. There's no preview of the book spine, however, so if you have an image with detail you don't want to get cut off spine-side, you have no way of knowing what it's really going to turn out like. You can zoom in on the image, and there are options for sepia and black and white-toned images. The Kodak tool is simple enough that I could see my mom using it, but for a power user looking to build a book quickly, it's monotonous.</p><p>Thankfully, once the book-building process was complete, it was fast and simple to place the order.</p><h2>The Results</h2><p><img alt="Kodak Gallery Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269122113.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 50: Extra points for presentation - I really liked this added touch.</em></p><p><img alt="Kodak Gallery Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269983646.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 51: The Kodak Gallery photo book, front. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/KODAK1.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><img alt="Kodak Gallery Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269983667.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 52: The Kodak Gallery photo book, back. Check out that huge bar code! </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/KODAK2.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><object width="600" height="360" data="http://www.youtube.com/v/F8fwINdF1P0&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" type="application/x-shockwave-flash"><param name="src" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/F8fwINdF1P0&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" /></object></p><p><em>Please click on the video above to watch it on YouTube in 1080p full screen mode.</em></p><h6><strong>Book Details:</strong> 9" x 10.25" hardcover book with imagewrap cover, 60 pages</h6><h6><strong>Book Cost:</strong> $74.59 + $14.99 shipping (1st class mail to Canada)</h6><h6><strong>Paper Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; <strong>Excellent</strong> &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Print Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; <strong>Excellent</strong> &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Cover Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; <strong>Average</strong> &gt; Excellent &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Overall Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; <strong>Excellent </strong>&gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Spine Printing:</strong> No</h6><p><a href="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_donations&amp;business=P9HE9MNDCWUDA&amp;item_name=Photo Book Review by Jason Dunn&amp;currency_code=USD&amp;bn=PP-DonationsBF:btn_donateCC_LG.gif:NonHosted" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//wpt/auto/1288981300.usr2.gif" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></a></p><p><PAGE /></p><h1>MyPublisher Photo Book Review</h1><p><a href="http://www.mypublisher.com" target="_blank">www.mypublisher.com</a></p><p><img alt="MyPublisher Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269926399.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 53: The MyPublisher Web site.</em></p><p><strong><em>This section of the review has been updated as of April 2011 with new book options. MyPublisher now has photo finish (image wrap) covers, lay-flat pages, and a Super Gloss Printing option that has to be seen to be believed.</em></strong></p><p>MyPublisher is one of the heavyweights in the photo book industry - they've built and shipped more than 5 million books since 2002. They offer hardcover books in 11.25" x 8.75" (Classic), 15" x 11.5" (Deluxe), and 5.75" x 7.75" (Pocketbook) sizes. Softcover books can also be created at the 7.75" x 5.75" in size. They also offer a book style called the "My Mini" which is a small 2.75" x 3.5", 20 page softcover book. The quarter-inch and three-quarter inch sizes are curious - there are only so many brands of high-end printing presses in the world, so I wonder why MyPublisher has such unique sizes? MyPublisher uses "premium 115-pound high-gloss archival quality paper" in their <a href="http://www.mypublisher.com/products/classic" target="_blank">Classic Hardcover books</a>. They now offer photo finish (image wrap), book jacket, linen or leather covers.</p><h2>Building the Book</h2><p>After downloading the 11 MB MyPublisher 4.0 software client (the current version as of April 2011 is version 6.0), it installed quickly and I was starting to build my book within a couple of minutes. The first few screens are selecting the product you want to build - photo book, calendar, greeting cards, or book jacket - followed by the size. This visually-driven approach is much nicer than the text-based drop-down menu approach from the companies that use the My Photo Books software. After selecting the books size, I was presented with a choice of ten different book styles, including Bestseller, Wedding, Baby Boy, Travel, Collage, and others. I selected Just Photos, since all my photos are full-page images, and opted for the Book Jacket as the cover style. They also offer the typical picture window option, but I've never been a fan of those. Selecting the images was next, but I discovered that MyPublisher doesn't like PNG images:</p><p><img alt="MyPublisher Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//dht/auto/1260120809.usr1.png" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 54: No PNG files for you with MyPublisher.</em></p><p>The back of my book was a PNG file, so after I converted it to JPEG, the book-building process could continue. It's a bit odd that PNG isn't supported by the software - it's not as though it's an unusual or rare format.</p><p><img alt="MyPublisher Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1260130444.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 55: The MyPublisher book building software.</em></p><p>The MyPublisher software has a nice user interface, but it's pretty sluggish and can become unresponsive at times. I saw the spinning blue <em>"This application is doing something, hang on"</em> Vista circle icon more than once, and this is on a system with a Core 2 Extreme X6800 CPU at 2.97 Ghz, 4 GB of RAM, and a Western Digital Raptor 15,000 RPM hard drive. It looks like it's multi-threaded, because when I dropped an image onto the page, I saw overall CPU usage shoot up to 69%. Dropping an image onto the page and waiting for it to resolve takes 5 seconds...I shudder to think how slowly this software would be on a single-core, lower-speed CPU. On the plus side, the images in the layout are crisp and clear, and seem to be full resolution, so you can see all the details of your images on the page.</p><p><img alt="MyPublisher Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1260130945.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 56: Selecting the page layout.</em></p><p>A source of frustration with this software is how it locks the page into using certain photo layouts. Instead of assuming full-page images and customizing from there, or at the very least allowing a full-page layout to be implemented with a couple of clicks, the MyPublisher template makes all right-hand pages multi-image layouts. And, bizarrely, there's not even an option to force the page layout to a single full-page image. The only thing I could think of doing was deleting all the pages, then inserting new pages that are set to a full-page image. That's an ugly approach to take; the developers of MyPublisher 4.0 should re-work how this part of the software works.</p><p><img alt="MyPublisher Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1260132400.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 57: Is that thin white line going to show up in my photo book?</em></p><p>Another point of curious design is the decision to show the user a thin white line next to where their image is on the page. At first I thought this meant that my image didn't cover the entire page, and that white line was showing me that I'd have a white line on my page - that's the whole idea behind WYSIWYG interfaces after all - but when I tried to move my image on the page toward the white line, it didn't cover it up - meaning it's not really part of the layout. I think MyPublisher is trying to make the book as realistic-looking as possible, but that shouldn't come at the expense of usability. And speaking of moving the image, it's irritating not to be able to move the image with the keyboard - it's easy to nudge an image around using the arrow keys in other applications, but in MyPublisher 4.0 you have to click on the image, then click on the hand icon, then click and drag your photo - and watch it move up or down even if you only meant to move it left&nbsp;or right.</p><p>One of the nice touches is the ability to customize the inside of the dust-jacket; you can add three blocks of text and one image on the inside-left flap, and the same for the inside-right flap. If you were creating a collection of your photos, this is the place you'd put your photo and bio. There's also a toolbar that pops up when you click on any of your images, and this toolbar can be used to rotate your image left or right, mirror it horizontally, convert it to black and white, auto-adjust your photo, crop, remove red eye, resize an image, zoom in or out, and move the image around on the page. I had to click on some of those icons to figure out what they did because the MyPublisher 4.0 software lacks pop-up tool tips to tell the user what each icons means.</p><p>When I finished previewing my book and clicked on the Purchase button, the software informed me that there was a typo - my last name of "Dunn". Having a spell checker built into the software is a great touch - there's nothing worse than paying a bundle of money for several copies of a photo book and then finding a typo in them. The order process is fast and efficient - it's not until the very end that the software uploads the book, and depending on the speed of your connection, it might take a while.</p><h2>The Results</h2><p><img alt="MyPublisher Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269983695.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 58: The MyPublisher photo book, front. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/MYPUBLISHER1.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><img alt="MyPublisher Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269983714.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 59: The MyPublisher photo book, back. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/MYPUBLISHER2.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><img alt="MyPublisher Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269983736.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 60: The MyPublisher photo book, spine. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/MYPUBLISHER3.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p>Even before I got the book, I was impressed with MyPublisher's ordering process - their system is very communicative about the status of the order. As I mentioned earlier, I'm not tracking the printing and delivery speed of each book publisher, but I will say that MyPublisher was the fastest overall process from when I clicked Order in the software to when the book showed up. We're talking days when most of the other companies took a week or more.</p><h2>MyPublisher Classic Hardcover with Dust Jacket Cover</h2><p><object width="600" height="360" data="http://www.youtube.com/v/Zsj5VVWCoW0&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" type="application/x-shockwave-flash"><param name="src" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/Zsj5VVWCoW0&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" /></object></p><p><em>Please click on the video above to watch it on YouTube in 1080p full screen mode.</em></p><h6><strong>Book Details:</strong> 11.25"&nbsp;x 8.75" hardcover book with book jacket, 60 pages</h6><h6><strong>Book Cost:</strong> $60.59 + $12.99 for shipping to Canada (FedEx, 3-5 business days)</h6><h6><strong>Paper Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; <strong>Excellent</strong> &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Print Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; <strong>Excellent</strong> &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Cover Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; <strong>Average </strong>&gt; Excellent &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Overall Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; <strong>Excellent</strong> &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Spine Printing:</strong> Yes</h6><p>&nbsp;</p><h2>MyPublisher Classic Hardcover with Photo Finish Cover</h2><p><object width="600" height="360" data="http://www.youtube.com/v/tJV88FFVCuE&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" type="application/x-shockwave-flash"><param name="src" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/tJV88FFVCuE&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" /></object></p><p><em>Please click on the video above to watch it on YouTube in 1080p full screen mode.</em></p><p>In late 2010, MyPublisher started offering a photo finish (photo wrap) cover, so they sent me another copy of the baby book with this new cover. I loved it! MyPublisher already had excellent paper quality, and superb print quality; the only thing I didn't like was the dust jacket. It's a personal preference thing of course, but having a photo right there on the permanent cover of the book is great - so this new addition from MyPublisher scores very high in my books!</p><h6><strong>Book Details:</strong>&nbsp;11.25"&nbsp;x 8.75" hardcover book with book jacket, 60 pages</h6><h6><strong>Book Cost:</strong>&nbsp;$60.59 + $12.99 for shipping to Canada (FedEx, 3-5 business days)</h6><h6><strong>Paper Quality:</strong>&nbsp;Poor &gt; Average &gt;&nbsp;<strong>Excellent&nbsp;</strong>&gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Print Quality:</strong>&nbsp;Poor &gt; Average &gt;&nbsp;<strong>Excellent&nbsp;</strong>&gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Cover Quality:</strong>&nbsp;Poor &gt; Average &gt;&nbsp;<strong>Excellent&nbsp;</strong>&gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Overall Quality:</strong>&nbsp;Poor &gt; Average &gt;&nbsp;<strong>Excellent&nbsp;</strong>&gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Spine Printing:</strong>&nbsp;Yes</h6><p>&nbsp;</p><h2>MyPublisher Classic Hardcover with Photo Finish Cover, Lay-Flat Pages, and Super Gloss Printing</h2><p><object width="600" height="360" data="http://www.youtube.com/v/AjuePG_pBuU&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" type="application/x-shockwave-flash"><param name="src" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/AjuePG_pBuU&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" /></object></p><p><em>Please click on the video above to watch it on YouTube in 1080p full screen mode.</em></p><p>In early 2011, MyPublisher added two exciting new options to their books: <a href="http://www.mypublisher.com/products/options/layflat" target="_blank">lay flat pages</a>, and <a href="http://www.mypublisher.com/products/options/supergloss" target="_blank">super gloss printing</a>. The combination of these two options makes for an expensive ($129.35) 60 page book, but the results are jaw-dropping. The lay flat pages make for an impressive visual, and the paper and print quality of the images on the super gloss printing is simply stunning. Everyone I've showed this vacation book to has been wowed - they've never seen anything like it. Other book publishers might catch up one day, but for now, MyPublisher has something very unique in the market. Remember that coupons change everything - if you order two copies of your book during a BOGO (Buy One Get One) promotion, you'll effectively get them for 50% off.</p><p>One thing worth noting: the paper that comes with the super gloss printing option isn't very thick (heavy), so a 60 page book doesn't get very thick and lacks the, shall we say, "gravitas" that a 60 page book from Photobook Canada with the upgrade paper would have. There's a certain association of quality we associate with an object's weight, so this is something to keep in mind if you're doing a wedding album or something that you want to feel "serious". The super gloss printing looks insanely good for the paper being so thin!</p><h6><strong>Book Details:</strong>&nbsp;11.25"&nbsp;x 8.75" hardcover book with book jacket, 60 pages</h6><h6><strong>Book Cost:</strong>&nbsp;$129.35 + $12.99 for shipping to Canada (FedEx, 3-5 business days)</h6><h6><strong>Paper Quality:</strong>&nbsp;Poor &gt; Average &gt;&nbsp;Excellent&nbsp;&gt; <strong>Superb</strong></h6><h6><strong>Print Quality:</strong>&nbsp;Poor &gt; Average &gt;&nbsp;Excellent&nbsp;&gt; <strong>Superb</strong></h6><h6><strong>Cover Quality:</strong>&nbsp;Poor &gt; Average &gt;&nbsp;<strong>Excellent&nbsp;</strong>&gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Overall Quality:</strong>&nbsp;Poor &gt; Average &gt;&nbsp;<strong>Excellent</strong>&nbsp;&gt; <strong>Superb</strong></h6><h6><strong>Spine Printing:</strong>&nbsp;Yes</h6><p><a href="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_donations&amp;business=P9HE9MNDCWUDA&amp;item_name=Photo Book Review by Jason Dunn&amp;currency_code=USD&amp;bn=PP-DonationsBF:btn_donateCC_LG.gif:NonHosted" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//wpt/auto/1288981300.usr2.gif" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></a></p><p><PAGE /></p><h1>SnapFish Photo Book Review</h1><p><a href="http://www.snapfish.com" target="_blank">www.snapfish.com</a></p><p><img alt="SnapFish Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269926641.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 61: The Snapfish Web site.</em></p><p>Snapfish, an online photo service owned by HP, offers a variety of photo book options: 8" x 11" and 8" x 8" Personalized Cover Books, 8" x 11" Classic Photo Books, 12" x 12" Signature Photo Books, 5" x 7" Everyday Photo Books, 4" x 6" and 5" x 7" Flip Books, 5" x 7" Paperback Custom Cover Books, and some neat-looking Picture Me Photo Books where you put a photo of your child's face in the character of the book.</p><h2>Building the Book</h2><p>Like most of the Web-based book-building tools, the first step is to upload your images. Unlike most of the Web-based tools, Snapfish offers two choices for uploading: an optimized upload appropriate for prints and photo books, and an original resolution upload for larger prints. The default is the optimized upload, so I opted for that. The optimization process is quite effective: it took 15 seconds to process a 12 MB JPEG file, and only three seconds to upload it. This is on a 3.2 Ghz Core 2 Extreme CPU, where the optimization process is only using a single core, but it uses 99% of that one core. This isn't a process you'd want to initiate on your netbook, that's for sure.</p><p><img alt="SnapFish Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//dht/auto/1261204764.usr1.png" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 62: Uploading your images.</em></p><p>After the upload completed, which took less than 10 minutes, the Snapfish Web site presented me with options to order a coffee mug, a greeting card, or a photo book. I selected photo book, and was taken to a page where I could select the type of photo book I wanted. Opting for the 8" x 11" size, the next step was selecting from among the 56 photo book designs. Lots of choices! The next step was to select the type of cover, and choices included leather, linen, custom dust jacket, and a custom cover. When you select a custom cover, you then select from the type of cover - a full-cover image, a collage, or several other choices. The final part of this stage was clicking on Create...and that launched the browser-based tool for building the book.</p><p>After loading the Flash-based book-building tool, I was immediately prompted to auto-fill the book. Curious to see if this actually worked, or if it was a complete disaster like it normally is when I've tried this option in other book building tools, I selected yes. It was exactly as bad as I expected. It didn't respect the order of my photos - even though they're all named in sequential order - and worse, it assumed that I wanted multiple photos to a page. Thankfully, there's an undo button - but just once I'd like to see an auto-fill function that asks you if you want to auto-fill based on full-page layouts, asks for your front and back covers, then auto-fills based on file name. That would save so much time when building a book!</p><p><img alt="SnapFish Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1261208304.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 63: Building the Snapfish book.</em></p><p>Building the book was a fairly straight-forward affair. My uploaded photos showed up on the right, the blank pages of the book were in the middle, and below that there were options for page layouts, backgrounds, and photo borders. You simply drag your images from the right over to the blank page on the left. Unfortunately the default isn't full-page, so after dragging the image over you need to go into page layouts, find the full-page layout option, and drag and drop it onto the page to have your image cover the page. It's a bit tedious, but it works well enough...except for the frustrating bug where I'd drag and drop an image onto the page, only to have it be the same as the image next to it.</p><p>I'd click on the image I wanted, then drag it over to the page, dropping it - and watch as it loaded as a completely different image. Some pages took me five drag and drop attempts before it loaded the correct image. There's also the bug where you'd select an image by clicking on it, then proceed to drag and drop it, and have it not be "picked up" for dragging and dropping. And, let me tell you from experience, it's pretty frustrating when you get to the end of a 60-step drag and drop session, made into a 240-step drag and drop session due to glitches, only to find that you somehow have more images than remaining pages. I had to go back twice to get fix errors from having the same image on multiple pages, and some of those pages with the wrong images caused the whole order of the book to be incorrectly set. Building this book was a little frustrating - Snapfish needs to take a hard look at the bugs in their software.</p><p><img alt="SnapFish Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//dht/auto/1261208120.usr1.png" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 64: Problems saving.</em></p><p>Like most Flash-based book-building tools, the Snapfish tool has a Save function - but after clicking it and waiting more than five minutes, I saw the above error. Thankfully, the next time I tried, the book was saved. Adding more pages is a simple one-click affair per page, but sadly the new pages don't match the layout of the pages before it, so every new page added was a combination of photo and text blocks. That meant several minutes of clicking and dragging the full-page layout option onto each newly created page, one at a time. And you sensing a theme here? So much clicking and dragging!</p><p><img alt="SnapFish Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1261372588.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 65: Selecting my cover. Really? No full-page photo for the front and back cover?</em></p><p><img alt="SnapFish Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1261372136.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 66: The best I could do. At least the front cover is full-page...</em></p><p>Clicking and dragging I can live with, but what I didn't like was what Snapfish considers a "custom cover". Every other company that has offered this option has allowed me to select a custom front and back cover. Strangely, Snapfish allows a great full-page custom cover, and printing on the spine, but on the back cover you only get a tiny image and room for two lines of text. Why not a full-page image on the back? No idea. Worse, if you want a full-page front cover, the back cover has to be white. If you want a black back cover, the front cover has to be an image inside a frame that doesn't fill the whole page. I found this frustrating, and I'm not sure why Snapfish is unable to deliver something that nearly every other big player in the industry can.</p><p>Another frustration I had with the cover was the incredibly inaccurate cover preview. If you look at the preview of the cover above, you'll see that there seems to be a large amount of space to the left of the text - so it shouldn't be cut off, right? Wrong. Check out that print preview below.</p><p><img alt="SnapFish Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1261373273.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 67: The Print Preview function isn't very accurate.</em></p><p>When I looked at the print preview, I was shocked to see that the text on the cover was cut off. I printed a copy of the cover on my printer, and sure enough, the cover was chopped off. I emailed my contact at Snapfish and she said they were aware of some bugs with the print preview function. I hoped that the WYSIWYG preview in the book-building tool was accurate and ordered the book.</p><h2>The Results</h2><p><img alt="SnapFish Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269983759.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 68: The Snapfish photo book, front. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/SNAPFISH1.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><img alt="SnapFish Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269983821.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 69: The Snapfish photo book, back. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/SNAPFISH2.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><img alt="SnapFish Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269983837.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 70: The Snapfish photo book, spine. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/SNAPFISH3.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><object width="600" height="360" data="http://www.youtube.com/v/ROcA0YbinKg&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" type="application/x-shockwave-flash"><param name="src" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/ROcA0YbinKg&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" /></object></p><p><em>Please click on the video above to watch it on YouTube in 1080p full screen mode.</em></p><h6><strong>Book Details:</strong> 8" x 11", custom cover book, 60 pages</h6><h6><strong>Book Cost:</strong> $69.79 USD + $6.99 USD shipping to Canada</h6><h6><strong>Paper Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; <strong>Average</strong> &gt; Excellent &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Print Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; <strong>Average</strong> &gt; Excellent &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Cover Quality:</strong> <strong>Poor</strong> &gt; Average &gt; Excellent &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Overall Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; <strong>Average</strong> &gt; Excellent &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Spine Printing:</strong> Yes</h6><p><a href="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_donations&amp;business=P9HE9MNDCWUDA&amp;item_name=Photo Book Review by Jason Dunn&amp;currency_code=USD&amp;bn=PP-DonationsBF:btn_donateCC_LG.gif:NonHosted" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//wpt/auto/1288981300.usr2.gif" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></a></p><p><PAGE /></p><h1>ArtsCow Photo Book Review</h1><p><a href="http://www.artscow.com" target="_blank">www.artscow.com</a></p><p><img alt="ArtsCow Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269927285.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 71: The ArtsCow Web site.</em></p><p>Artscow is one of the more quirky companies that came up in my search for photo book printing companies; they not only do a limited number of photo book sizes (7" x 5", 8" x 8", 12" x 12"), they also do photo prints on bags, mugs, t-shirts, tote-bags, playing cards, greeting cards, photo watches, CD wallets, folding umbrellas, digital camera leather cases, mini-coin purses, pencil cases, and sleeping masks. <a href="http://www.artscow.com/photo-gifts/Sleeping-Mask/Sleeping-Mask-460" target="_blank">I kid you not</a>. They're based in China (Hong Kong), which isn't apparent unless you go digging for info on their site. That plays an important role later in my experience with them (watch the video below to find out more). Artscow is also the only company that talked about their printing press: a Xerox iGen4 Digital Press that apparently sells for $640,000 USD. Sounds impressive, right? Keep reading.</p><p>ArtsCow has provided two coupons for Digital Home Thoughts readers to use:&nbsp;<strong>30PBOOK1199</strong> will get you an 8" x 8" photo book, 30 pages in length, for $11.99 each, with free shipping (expires December 31st, 2011).&nbsp;<strong>30PBOOK2499</strong> will get you a 12" x 12" photo book, 30 pages in length, for $24.99 each, with free shipping (expires December 31st, 2011).</p><h2>Building the Book</h2><p>Like many other companies in this review, Artscow offers a browser-based tool to customers for building their book. Before you can do anything at all, you need to upload all your images. Unlike most of the others, the Artscow tool is based on Microsoft's Silverlight technology. And, unfortunately, unlike all the other browser-based tools, the Artscow book-builder looks incredibly amateurish. It didn't inspire much confidence in me as a user as to the quality of their end product if this was the user interface they presented to customers. The tool is called "Photobook Designer" and the logo has a gradient that looks like WordArt from Word '97.</p><p><img alt="ArtsCow Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1263539483.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 72: The ArtsCow book-building process.</em></p><p>Although it's not much to look at, it does get the job done. I was able to drag and drop my images one by one onto the page - and by default, all the pages are designed for full-page images. That's a nice touch I wish more photo book companies would emulate. Page numbers can be toggled off or on with a simple click, and the performance of the Silverlight-based tool was excellent. It was fast and easy to move images around the page, and swap them with another image via a quick drag and drop. Artscow offers drag and drop embellishments - hearts, buttons, butterflies, etc. - along with page backgrounds, themes, borders, and page layouts. Spine printing customization involves a single click and some typing - another thing more book companies should emulate.</p><p>The tool informed me that some of my images were of insufficient resolution for high-quality printing (below 200dpi), which I thought was a bug at first, but after <a href="http://www.mattspinelli.com/ppicalc.html" target="_blank">consulting an online PPI calculator</a> I understood. To print at at 300dpi on a 12 inch by 12 inch page, you'd need an image of about 16 megapixels in size. My highest-resolution camera, a Nikon D300, is 12.1 megapixels. Most consumers aren't going to have a 15+ megapixel camera, but most consumers getting 12" x 12" books created are likely doing scrapbook-style layouts with multiple pictures to a page. My use of full-page images is a bit unusual. There's also an unfortunate bug in their system that sorts images in the album in reverse. So BOOK-060.JPG was listed first, and BOOK-001.JPG was listed last. This meant that the autofill function, which would have otherwise worked, filled my book in the opposite order.</p><p>After I finished building the book, there was&nbsp;a preview function that gave&nbsp;me a decent idea of how&nbsp;the book would look. Everything looked OK, so I placed the order.</p><h2>The Results</h2><p><img alt="ArtsCow Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269983859.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 73: The ArtsCow photo book, front. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/ARTSCOW1.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><img alt="ArtsCow Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269983894.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 74: The ArtsCow photo book, back. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/ARTSCOW2.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><img alt="ArtsCow Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269983912.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 75: The ArtsCow photo book, spine. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/ARTSCOW3.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><object width="600" height="360" data="http://www.youtube.com/v/YiyrpWYT2yw&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" type="application/x-shockwave-flash"><param name="src" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/YiyrpWYT2yw&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" /></object></p><p><em>Please click on the video above to watch it on YouTube in 1080p full screen mode.</em></p><h6><strong>Book Details:</strong> 12"&nbsp;x 12", 60 pages, hardcover with custom cover,</h6><h6><strong>Book Cost:</strong> $64.99 USD, $19.99 shipping to Canada</h6><h6><strong>Paper Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; <strong>Excellent</strong> &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Print Quality:</strong> <strong>Poor</strong> &gt; Average &gt; Excellent &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Cover Quality:</strong> <strong>Poor</strong> &gt; Average &gt; Excellent &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Overall Quality:</strong> <strong>Poor</strong> &gt; Average &gt; Excellent &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Spine Printing:</strong> Yes</h6><p><a href="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_donations&amp;business=P9HE9MNDCWUDA&amp;item_name=Photo Book Review by Jason Dunn&amp;currency_code=USD&amp;bn=PP-DonationsBF:btn_donateCC_LG.gif:NonHosted" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//wpt/auto/1288981300.usr2.gif" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></a></p><p><PAGE /></p><h1>Photobook Canada</h1><p><a href="http://www.photobookcanada.com/?pg=index" target="_blank">www.photobookcanada.com</a></p><p><img alt="Photobook Canada Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269927704.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 76: The Photobook Canada Web site.</em></p><p>Photobook Canada offers three different styles of photo books: hardcover books with a debossed window, hardcover books with an imagewrap hardcover, and softcover books. Book sizes vary by type, but in general they offer everything from 7.87"&nbsp;x 5.91" up to 12.76" x 10.79", in several aspect ratios including square books. All three of their book types use Premium European 115 lb. silk acid-free paper. That caught my attention because most of the books I looked at user 100 lb. paper at most, and the Photobook Canada paper is from Italian paper manufacturer <a href="http://www.fedrigoni.com/eng/home.aspx?L=eng" target="_blank">Fedrigoni</a>. I have no idea what that means, but it sounds impressive, right?</p><p><strong>August 2010 Update:</strong> With the new version 5.0 of their software, Photobook Canada now supports spine printing.</p><p><strong>September 2010 Update:</strong> I built an 11" x 11" book with Photobook Canada for a vacation project; <a href="http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/99951/photobook-canada-s-big-and-bold-square-photo-book-some-strategy-required-for-success.html" target="_blank">check out the full review here</a>.</p><h2>Building the Book</h2><p>Photobook Canada uses desktop software, but it was a lengthly 86 MB download at a relatively slow 250 KB/s download speed. Does that file size look familiar? That's right, Photobook Canada uses the My Photo Books software, just like several others in this review. Everything was the same as my other uses of the software, with the exception of the front and back covers. When you drag and drop an image onto the front of back covers, it drops into the layout at whatever size is specified by the page layout. To change the page layout, you go to the Page Layouts tab, pick the layout you want, and drag it onto the page. The My Photo Books software from Photobook Canada lacks a full-page photo layout! I thought at first I was doing something wrong, but I started up the Mpix version of My Photo Books and confirmed that it had a full-page layout option. So why was it missing from the Photobooks Canada software?</p><p><img alt="Photobook Canada Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1260587157.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 77: Building the photo book using the Photobook Canada version of the My Photo Books software.</em></p><p>I had the same glitch with this version of the software as I did with the Treasure-Book.com photo software, where I'd click on one of the images to drag it into the layout and the selection of the photo would jump to another image. It happened eight times when I was doing the layout for the book, and the only fix was to click over to the Page Layouts tab then click back again to the Book Pictures tab. It was a little wearisome.</p><p><img alt="Photobook Canada Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1260587320.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 78: Where's the full-page image option for the cover?</em></p><p>The most puzzling thing about building the book though was when I dropped the photo on the cover, I couldn't find a way to make the image take up the full cover. In other versions of the My Photo Books software - the one from Mpix for instance - there's a Page Layout option for a full-page image on the cover. As I mentioned above, that option is missing from the My Photo Books software that I downloaded from the Photobook Canada site. When I contacted Photobook Canada, they said they weren't sure why their version of the software was missing this function, but that I could create the same effect by creating an image frame and dragging it to be the same size as the cover. I managed to make this work, but it was a tedious process that involved a lot of clicking and dragging (especially on the back cover). Wanting the front cover of your book to be a full-page image doesn't seem like a radical concept, so I'm puzzled as to why Photobook Canada doesn't make this easier for their customers.</p><p>Similarly, when I asked how to create a caption on the book spine because I couldn't figure out where the feature for that was, I was told I'd have to create a text box, rotate it, and place it at the furthest-left point on the cover. And then what, hope for the best? The problem is that there's no line telling me where the spine fold for the cover is, so I wasn't willing to "wing it" and hope for the best. Even with the PDF preview, there are no layout lines showing the exact position of the book spine. The PDF preview shows trim lines, but guess what colour they are? Black. So on my back cover, I couldn't see the trim lines. I had to be over-cautious then: I dropped in a black background, and make my back cover image smaller than full-page, all to ensure that it wouldn't get chopped off. Can you sense that I found building this particular book more than a little hassle?</p><p>After the upload completed, which was fairly quick, I was taken to the ordering page. There are three paper options: Premium Smooth (170gsm/115lb T), Premium Smooth (200gsm/70lb C) at a $6 up-charge, and Matte Textured at a $4 up-charge. Surprisingly, they had two colour options: 4-colour CMYK or 6-colour CMYK plus Light Cyan/Magenta...but on that option it said it wasn't available in the US or Canada. Pretty strange to show the customer something that they can't order! Look up the customer's IP address, and only offer options that are available to them. There were also options for photo book cases and boxes, but they were confusing - a slip case in the US or Canada cost $30, while the same thing in Asia, Europe, Australia or Africa only cost $5. There was no preview of what these cases and boxes looked like.</p><h2>The Results</h2><p><img alt="Photobook Canada Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269983931.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 79: The Photobook Canada photo book, front. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/PHOTOBOOKCANADA1.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><img alt="Photobook Canada Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269983949.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 79: The Photobook Canada photo book, back. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/PHOTOBOOKCANADA2.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><object width="600" height="360" data="http://www.youtube.com/v/duydjB1IR9g&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" type="application/x-shockwave-flash"><param name="src" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/duydjB1IR9g&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" /></object></p><p><em>Please click on the video above to watch it on YouTube in 1080p full screen mode.</em></p><h6><strong>Book Details:</strong> 11" x 8.5", 60 page, hardcover with imagewrap, premium smooth paper (200gsm/70lb C)</h6><h6><strong>Book Cost:</strong> $106 CAD + $12 shipping within Canada</h6><h6><strong>Paper Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; Excellent &gt; <strong>Superb</strong></h6><h6><strong>Print Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; <strong>Excellent</strong> &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Cover Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; <strong>Excellent</strong> &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Overall Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; <strong>Excellent</strong> &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Spine Printing:</strong> Yes</h6><p><a href="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_donations&amp;business=P9HE9MNDCWUDA&amp;item_name=Photo Book Review by Jason Dunn&amp;currency_code=USD&amp;bn=PP-DonationsBF:btn_donateCC_LG.gif:NonHosted" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//wpt/auto/1288981300.usr2.gif" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></a></p><p><PAGE /></p><h1>Mpix Photo Book Review</h1><p><a href="http://www.mpix.com" target="_blank">www.mpix.com</a></p><p><img alt="Mpix Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1259900177.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 80: The Mpix Web site.</em></p><p>I've seen the name Mpix in photography magazines for years, but have never ordered anything from them. I figured this review would be a good excuse to check out what they have to offer in the way of photo books. They offer photo books in the following sizes: 5" x 5", 8" x 8", 10" x 10", 8.5" x 11", and 11" x 8.5". I chose to build the 11" x 8.5" landscape book. Unfortunately they have a 50-page limit on their photo books, so I had to delete ten pages from my book. Deleting 10 pages from a baby book where every page is precious was quite difficult - it's frustrating that Mpix has this limitation. Their books are printed on 100 pound text stock, pearl, or linen paper. Mpix offers custom printed covers bonded to the outside of the book, and their books start at 20 pages.</p><h2>Building the Book</h2><p>Mpix uses the My Photo Books software, so everything I said in the Treasure-Book.com and Photobook Canada segments applies here. The Mpix software client has a red border - and that's about the only difference I could see. I built my book fairly quickly by adding a bunch of pages, then dragging and dropping each image onto the page and selecting Single Page Background. The software had some bizarre moments of sluggishness, but overall it performed fairly well. Once the book was completed, I selected the Send to Mpix button, and the software created two PDF previews for me: one PDf of the front and back covers, and one PDF of the inside pages. The PDF previews show page trim marks, which is great, but they lack a preview of the book spine, so it's guess-work when it comes to determining how close your text or images will end up being to the spine.</p><p><img alt="Mpix Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1260047419.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 81: Building the book using the Mpix version of the My Photo Books software.</em></p><p>After I approved the PDF files, the software informed me it would open up a browser window and I could proceed with my order. The browser window opened, then&nbsp;asked me to log in, but since I didn't have an Mpix account yet, I had to create one. After I created the account, I clicked around my account, looking for my uploaded book. It was nowhere in sight. Thankfully, the software recognized that something went wrong, so it gave me the option to try again, or to give me an URL to copy and paste into my browser. The lesson here? Register an account with Mpix and log in prior to starting a book project.</p><p>After my book had been added to the cart, I saw there was an option for the paper type: stock, pearl, or linen. There was no information on the ordering page as to what the differences were. I opened up another browser window and scoured the Mpix site for any details about the different paper stocks, without any luck. A Google search brought me to a <a href="http://community.mpix.com/forums/p/53956/481864.aspx" target="_blank">discussion thread</a> where people were talking about the different paper stocks. I opted for the stock paper after reading different opinions about the linen and pearl papers. Ultimately Mpix should offer information and photos of the different paper types.</p><p>A day or two after I placed my order, I was notified that there was a problem with my book, but it was caught during inspection. They emailed me to say there would be a slight delay as the book got re-printed. That really impressed me; the fact that Mpix does a physical inspection of the book, and automatically re-prints it if there's a problem, makes them stand out from many of the photo book companies in this review.</p><h2>The Results</h2><p><img alt="Mpix Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1268890040.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 82: The Mpix photo book arrived in this box. A nice touch!</em></p><p><img alt="Mpix Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269983972.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 83: The Mpix photo book, front. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/MPIX1.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><img alt="Mpix Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269983997.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 83: The Mpix photo book, back. </em><em><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/MPIX2.jpg" target="_blank">[HIGH-RES IMAGE]</a></em></p><p><object width="600" height="360" data="http://www.youtube.com/v/81d5cVajFXw&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" type="application/x-shockwave-flash"><param name="src" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/81d5cVajFXw&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" /></object></p><p><em>Please click on the video above to watch it on YouTube in 1080p full screen mode.</em></p><p>Since shooting the video and considering how Mpix stacks up against the competition, I gave them an overall rating of Excellent...as long as you have a project 50 pages or less.</p><h6><strong>Book Details:</strong>&nbsp;11" x 8.5", 50 page, custom hard cover book</h6><h6><strong>Book Cost:</strong> $65 USD + $30 FedEx Next Day shipping to Canada</h6><h6><strong>Paper Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; <strong>Excellent</strong> &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Print Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; <strong>Excellent</strong> &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Cover Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; <strong>Excellent</strong> &gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Overall Quality:</strong> Poor &gt; Average &gt; <strong>Excellent </strong>&gt; Superb</h6><h6><strong>Spine Printing:</strong> No</h6><p><a href="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_donations&amp;business=P9HE9MNDCWUDA&amp;item_name=Photo Book Review by Jason Dunn&amp;currency_code=USD&amp;bn=PP-DonationsBF:btn_donateCC_LG.gif:NonHosted" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//wpt/auto/1288981300.usr2.gif" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></a></p><p><PAGE /></p><h1>Picking the Best Book Maker Isn't Easy</h1><p>There are a lot of different ways to answer the question of who makes the best photo book, because everyone has different values. Some people may value ease-of-use above all else; others, paper and print quality; while for some, price is king. In light of this, I've broken down the results of this review in a few ways. First, an executive summary of each photo printing company.</p><p><img alt="Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1270072986.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 84: Photo books reaching to the sky...</em></p><h2><a href="http://www.picaboo.com/" target="_blank"><img alt="Picaboo Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1270092065.usr1.jpg" style="border: 0;" /></a></h2><h2><strong>Picaboo (<a href="http://www.picaboo.com" target="_blank">www.picaboo.com</a>)</strong></h2><p>Great desktop software that's easy to use, but dark, muddy printing quality and only average paper and cover quality coupled with a lack of spine printing and extremely high prices ($119.59 USD) seal the deal in a bad way. You don't want to order a book from Picaboo. <strong>OVERALL RATING: POOR to AVERAGE</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.treasure-book.com/" target="_blank"><img alt="Treasure-Book.com Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//dht/auto/1270097547.usr1.png" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></a></p><h2>Treasure-Book.com<strong> (<a href="http://www.treasure-book.com/" target="_blank">www.treasure-book.com</a>)</strong></h2><p>Solid desktop software makes book building easy, and the excellent paper quality combined with average to excellent printing quality and spine printing make this a decent choice. The cover quality doesn't quite measure up to others in this review, however - they need to improve the image printing quality. Slightly higher-than-average pricing ($79.59 CAD), but if you live in Canada, shipping isn't very expensive and there's no hassle with cross-border fees. <strong>OVERALL RATING: AVERAGE to EXCELLENT</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.blurb.com/" target="_blank"><img alt="Blurb Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1270092112.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></a></p><h2><strong>Blurb (<a href="http://www.blurb.com/" target="_blank">www.blurb.com</a>)</strong></h2><p>The powerful book-building software combined with a variety of book options - including the superb imagewrap hardcover - make Blurb a real contender. The paper is a little cheap-feeling compared to the others in this round-up, and their $6 premium paper is a waste of money - but Blurb's prices can only be described as "Crazy Cheap!" ($24.95 to $43.95 USD), so there's a lot of value for the dollar. <strong>OVERALL RATING: AVERAGE to EXCELLENT</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.inkubook.com/" target="_blank"><img alt="Inkubook Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1270092143.usr1.jpg" style="border: 0;" /></a></p><h2>Inkubook (<a href="http://www.inkubook.com/" target="_blank">www.inkubook.com</a>)</h2><p>Despite a few bugs, the Web-based book building experience was quite excellent, and the paper and print quality are excellent. The otherwise nicely-done cover is dragged down by the lack of spine printing and the Inkubook logo on the back, but the price is in the same ballpark as Blurb ($42.95 USD), meaning it's quite affordable and well worth your consideration. <strong>OVERALL RATING: AVERAGE to EXCELLENT</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.shutterfly.com/" target="_blank"><img alt="Shutterfly Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1270092187.usr1.jpg" style="border: 0;" /></a></p><h2>Shutterfly (<a href="http://www.shutterfly.com" target="_blank">www.shutterfly.com</a>)</h2><p>The Web-based book building process isn't fancy, but it gets the job done with minimal effort. Excellent paper quality and cover quality (along with spine printing) are held back by the average print quality due to the too-warm implementation of their Vivid Pics system. If you've done a good job pre-processing your images, turn off Vivid Pics and you'll likely be quite happy with the print quality. Average pricing ($61.59). <strong>RATING: AVERAGE to EXCELLENT</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.adoramapix.com/" target="_blank"><img alt="AdoramaPix Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1270092213.usr1.jpg" style="border: 0;" /></a></p><h2>AdoramaPix (<a href="http://www.adoramapix.com" target="_blank">www.adoramapix.com</a>)</h2><p>Bringing lay-flat pages to the game at a price point no one else can match, AdoramaPix stands out with superb paper quality and superb cover quality (despite the lack of easy spine printing). The print quality is more of a mixed bag - my test book came with Photo Correction turned on, and the resulting images look a bit muted in tone, though not seriously so. The AdoramaPix books have a real "WOW!" factor that's impossible to ignore. Average pricing ($65.58 USD). The 50 page limit caused me emotional pain, but as of July 2010, they now offer a 76 page option. <strong>OVERALL RATING: EXCELLENT to SUPERB</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.kodakgallery.com/" target="_blank"><img alt="Kodak Gallery Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1270092238.usr1.jpg" style="border: 0;" /></a></p><h2>Kodak Gallery (<a href="http://www.kodakgallery.com" target="_blank">www.kodakgallery.com</a>)</h2><p>A big-gun in the photo printing industry, Kodak offers excellent paper quality and excellent print quality - but surprised me with restrictions on the front and back covers; you can't do full-cover images, there's no option for spine printing, and there's a big, ugly bar code on the back cover (though the bar code will be removed by summer 2010). Fairly expensive ($74.59 USD). <strong>OVERALL RATING: AVERAGE to EXCELLENT</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.mypublisher.com/" target="_blank"><img alt="MyPublisher Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1270092261.usr1.jpg" style="border: 0;" /></a></p><h2>MyPublisher (<a href="http://www.mypublisher.com" target="_blank">www.mypublisher.com</a>)</h2><p>Although fairly expensive compared to some other options, MyPublisher has top-notch print quality and excellent default paper. Their reproduction of my photos was flawless in every version of the book they printed. It's also worth noting that their paper is better quality than basically every other paper I saw, short of the upgraded paper from Photobook Canada. MyPublisher has also upped their game since I first wrote this review, now offering photo finish covers, lay-flat pages, and the insanely great-looking super gloss printing. It's still generally cheaper to go with AdoramaPix for lay-flat pages, but MyPublisher supports books up to 100 pages in size, and discount coupons radically change the cost comparisons (especially if you're doing more than one book).&nbsp;<strong>OVERALL RATING: EXCELLENT to SUPERB</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.snapfish.com/" target="_blank"><img alt="SnapFish Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1270092297.usr1.jpg" style="border: 0;" /></a></p><h2>SnapFish (<a href="http://www.snapfish.com" target="_blank">www.snapfish.com</a>)</h2><p>A middle-of-the-road offering with average paper quality, average print quality, and less than stellar cover quality. Every other book came to me with a black and white cover; the SnapFish cover was tinged purple. Spine printing is a plus, but the lack of flexibility with the back cover is irksome. Expensive ($69.79 USD) given the quality you get, and the Web-based system is buggy. <strong>OVERALL RATING: AVERAGE</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.artscow.com/" target="_blank"><img alt="ArtsCow Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//dht/auto/1270092410.usr1.png" style="border: 0;" /></a></p><h2>ArtsCow (<a href="http://www.artscow.com" target="_blank">www.artscow.com</a>)</h2><p>ArtsCow might use excellent-quality paper, but everything else about their photo book falls into the poor category. They offer spine printing, but the front cover has horizontal streaks running through the image, the back can't have a custom image, and the interior printing is less than impressive. The images have horizontal lines going through them, and given the average cost of $64.99 USD, ArtsCow isn't a good choice for someone who cares about quality. Their Web software is fast and easy to use, but looks like it was created as part of a high-school computer science project. It's worth noting though that the $65 price does get you a 12 inch by 12 inch book, so if you need to go big on a budget and don't care too much about quality... <strong>OVERALL RATING: POOR</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.photobookcanada.com/" target="_blank"><img alt="Photobook Canada Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//dht/auto/1270573026.usr1.png" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></a></p><h2>Photobook Canada (<a href="http://www.photobookcanada.com" target="_blank">www.photobookcanada.com</a>)</h2><p>Boasting the nicest non-lay flat paper in this whole review, Photobook Canada makes an extremely high-quality book - the printing is excellent, the cover is excellent (despite the lack of spine printing). You pay for it though, with a book cost of $106 CAD, but the cost can be mitigated by good coupon code. Their software is capable, but needs work; the back cover&nbsp;images&nbsp;on my book were nearly printed right off the edge. If quality is what you care about the most, this company is worth considering - just be careful with that back cover. <strong>OVERALL RATING: EXCELLENT to SUPERB</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.mpix.com/" target="_blank"><img alt="Mpix Photo Book Review" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//dht/auto/1270092557.usr1.png" style="border: 0;" /></a></p><h2>Mpix (<a href="http://www.mpix.com" target="_blank">www.mpix.com</a>)</h2><p>Mpix impressed me when they caught a printing error and re-printed my book, but their 50 page limit forced me to make the hard choice of cutting out 10 pages from the baby book. That's not cool - and neither is the lack of spine printing. On the plus side, excellent paper and excellent print quality - along with a price of $65 - make a compelling offering if you design your project from the start to be no more than 50 pages. Mpix uses the same desktop software as several others here, which is a good thing - it's capable. <strong>OVERALL RATING: AVERAGE to EXCELLENT</strong></p><p><strong><a href="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_donations&amp;business=P9HE9MNDCWUDA&amp;item_name=Photo Book Review by Jason Dunn&amp;currency_code=USD&amp;bn=PP-DonationsBF:btn_donateCC_LG.gif:NonHosted" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//wpt/auto/1288981300.usr2.gif" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></a></strong></p><p><PAGE /></p><h1><strong>Which One Did We, the Parents, Pick?</strong></h1><p>Since the impetus for this review grew out of my dissatisfaction with the books I received from Picaboo, my wife and I have spent quite a bit of time looking at each of the books. At the final stage of this review, we looked through all of them and selected the one that we wanted to put on our coffee table. Which one did we pick? If Mpix and AdoramaPix were able to print all 60 pages, I guarantee it would have been down to those two - so that tells you what I think of the overall quality of both, even if both books lacked spine printing. They're both excellent, but I don't want to show people a truncated version of the baby book, so they were out of the running immediately.</p><p>Picaboo, ArtsCow, Snapfish, and Shutterfly, were also off the list immediately due to print quality issues. The Photobook Canada book was excellent in every aspect except the back cover which looks like a printing mistake, and the perfectionist in me won't allow that to go on display. The Blurb offerings all looked nice, but the paper quality simply didn't measure up to the better quality books - and they're a bit physically small compared to the other books. MyPublisher? An excellent all-around book, but both my wife and I strongly prefer the photo-wrap covers instead of a dust jacket (which they now offer). The Treasure-Book.com photo book cover just didn't measure up to the rest, despite excellent paper and good printing. Kodak Gallery prints a great book, but because of their page size I didn't print the baby book with them - and I'd have wanted to use my own cover anyway.</p><p><img alt="Photo Book Review" height="399" src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1269983448.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" width="600" /></p><p><em>Figure 85: The "winner" through the process of elimination.</em></p><p>Who's left? Inkubook. Though there's no spine printing, the excellent paper quality and good-quality printing make for an impressive book. The logo on the back isn't too big, and it boils down to this: when I pick up the Inkubook version of this baby book and flip through it, I feel like it's a good representation of the effort I put into creating the book in the first place. That's about all you can ask for, right?</p><p><strong>APRIL 2011 UPDATE:</strong> If I were doing this review over from scratch, I suspect I'd end up picking MyPublisher as the all-around favourite. The addition of the photowrap cover and new super gloss paper/lay-flat page options changes everything.</p><p><strong>JULY 2014 UPDATE:</strong> I've used Photobook America a couple of times, and their overall quality is great, and the cost isn't bad as long as you use a coupon (which is easy).</p><h1>When Family Members Weigh In...</h1><p>Beyond my own opinion of book quality, I wanted to get some outside opinions of the photo books. I laid them all out on a table and asked my mother and mother-in-law to look at the books and select their favorites. When this review is finished I'll be giving them each a copy of the baby book, so I wanted to know which ones they liked the most. I was expecting a fairly cursory examination, but instead I got a 20 minute surprisingly in-depth effort from Mom #1 and Mom #2. They looked at every aspect of the books; cover quality, spine printing, print quality, and paper quality. I didn't mention price to them. Mom #1's top three picks, in order, were Mpix (#1), AdoramaPix (#2), and Snapfish (#3). Mom #2's top three picks were AdoramaPix (#1), Photobook Canada (#2), and the Blurb imagewrap hardcover (#3). I found it interesting that AdoramaPix was the only pick in common with both moms (or proud grandmas!); the lay-flat pages were a big plus with both of them. Once you factor in the fact that both AdoramaPix and Mpix only contain 50 of the 60 pages from the baby book, Mom #1 ends up with the SnapFish book, and Mom #2 ends up with the Photobook Canada book.</p><h1>Factoring in Cost: Whose Book&nbsp;Offers The Best Value?</h1><p>I had the luxury of getting a bunch of copies of this baby book for this review, but the average person is going to pay for every copy, so book cost matters. If I were a mathematically-oriented person, here's the part of the review where I'd create a scatter graph and plot intersections between cost and quality. Since I barely passed high-school math, here's the written breakdown instead:</p><ul><li><strong>If your book project can fit in 50 pages</strong>, MyPublisher, Mpix and AdoramaPix represent extremely high quality, with surprisingly affordable prices. You can't go wrong with any of those. If you've got the budget for it, MyPublisher's lay-flat pages and super gloss printing can't be beat.</li><li><strong>If your book requires more than 50 pages</strong>, <strong>or you're on a tight budget,</strong> look to Blurb or Inkubook. Blurb is a bit less expensive between the two, but the books are smaller (8" x 10") compared to Inkubook's 8.5" x 11" books that are only a few dollars more. The paper and print quality of Inkubook is superior to Blurb.</li><li><strong>If money is no object and you have a big (50+ page) book project,</strong> go with Photobook Canada or MyPublisher.</li></ul><p>Shipping costs also play a factor; for instance, as much as I like the quality of the Mpix books, they charge $30 shipping to Canada, which is expensive compared to other services. Ditto for AdoramaPix - they charge $24.99 for shipping to Canada (and will claim they don't ship here if you ask). Those of you in the US get less expensive shipping options, and don't have to deal with the brokerage fees that couriers charge when products come into Canada. Factoring in the complexities of world-wide shipping and brokerage fees would have made my head explode, so all I'll say is to do your research before ordering your book (try to get shipments via the US Postal system, which come in brokerage-charge free), or you might be in for an ugly surprise when your photo book arrives.</p><p><strong>Here's a cost-saving tip that will help protect your wallet:</strong> sign up for an account at all of the book-printing companies you're interested in potentially using, including any newsletters they have, and wait for coupons. I get 2-4 emails a week from the book printing companies in this review, and often there are "2 for 1" or 30% to 40% discount coupons sent out. As you can imagine, a good coupon can radically alter the value proposition - they're worth waiting for.</p><h1>So Who Makes The Best Photo Books?</h1><p>As you can tell, there's no clear answer of who's best - each company offers something different, and even if you pick the top six from this review, all six will give you an excellent quality photo book. It all depends on the size of your book project, the budget you have, and which features are most important to you. I hope this review has been helpful, and all the best in your photo book making endeavours. Please leave a comment and let me know how your photo book turned out!</p><p><a href="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_donations&amp;business=P9HE9MNDCWUDA&amp;item_name=Photo Book Review by Jason Dunn&amp;currency_code=USD&amp;bn=PP-DonationsBF:btn_donateCC_LG.gif:NonHosted" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//wpt/auto/1288981300.usr2.gif" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></a></p><p><em>Jason Dunn owns and operates </em><em><a href="http://www.thoughtsmedia.com/" target="_blank">Thoughts Media Inc.</a></em><em>, a company dedicated to creating the best in online communities. He enjoys </em><em><a href="http://photos.jasondunn.com/" target="_blank">photography</a></em><em>, mobile devices, </em><em><a href="http://www.jasondunn.com/" target="_blank">blogging</a></em><em>, digital media content creation/editing, and pretty much all technology. He lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada with his lovely wife, his wonderful son Logan, and his sometimes obedient dog. The next time someone mentions the words "photo book review", he's likely going to go into shock and pass out.</em></p><p><em></em><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//ppct/auto/1240336793.usr1.gif" /></p><p><strong>Do you enjoy using new hardware, <a class="iAs" href="http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/93798/dell-s-inspiron-mini-10-reviewed.html" target="_blank">software</a> and accessories, then sharing your experience with others? Then join us on the <a href="http://www.thoughtsmedia.com/reviewteam.php" target="_blank">Thoughts Media Review Team</a>! We're looking for individuals who find it fun to test new gear and give their honest opinions about the experience. It's a volunteer role with some great perks. Interested? <a href="http://www.thoughtsmedia.com/reviewteam.php" target="_blank">Then click here for more information.</a></strong></p><p><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//ppct/auto/1240336793.usr1.gif" /></p>

Chris Gohlke
04-06-2010, 02:49 PM
Holy Cow! That is quite the review. Good Job! You should have a photo book printed of the entire review. ;)

Jason Dunn
04-06-2010, 03:03 PM
Holy Cow! That is quite the review. Good Job! You should have a photo book printed of the entire review. ;)

Hehe. Yeah. If the contents of this review were pasted into a Word document, it would be 85 pages long. It's a bit over 15,000 words long. I hope people find it useful, because it took me 7 months to create. :D

As for making a photo book out of this review...let's just say I won't be making ANY photo books for a while. :)

ptyork
04-06-2010, 03:16 PM
Great googly moogly!! What a review!

And you've already found someone who found it useful. We do photo books at least twice a year, but have never really taken the time to compare the results, so we don't know what we're missing. Thanks for all that great work!

Jason Dunn
04-06-2010, 03:28 PM
And you've already found someone who found it useful. We do photo books at least twice a year, but have never really taken the time to compare the results, so we don't know what we're missing. Thanks for all that great work!

Glad to hear it - if you find it useful, please share it with others. I'd really like this review to be seen by people who normally wouldn't visit this site.

Jason Dunn
04-06-2010, 04:45 PM
Worth noting is that Kodak has a Canadian site: www.kodakgallery.ca. Saves money on brokerage fees, etc.

Lee Yuan Sheng
04-06-2010, 07:03 PM
That is one epic review. :eek: Well done Jason!

Jason Dunn
04-06-2010, 07:52 PM
Oh, I should also note that there were about three or four other companies I contacted to be included in this review, but they never got back to me. In retrospect, I'm kind of glad they didn't. :D

Jason Dunn
04-06-2010, 09:32 PM
For anyone who's interested in ordering a book from one of these companies, several of them are ready to offer discount coupons for Digital Home Thoughts readers, so watch the front page for those in the next couple of days (I'll also post a link here). :)

And thanks to the people all around the world who are posting links to this article in forums, blogs, etc. As a writer it's great to see my work being appreciated. :D

MrBloggerificHimself
04-06-2010, 10:15 PM
First time visitor from Lifehacker.com and I totally Evernoted (it's a word! well, should be) this article and *will* be coming back to check it out further. This would have been SOOOO helpful about a year ago heh, but is still very useful.

I love these photo books and while I've only done one, this article will help me do my 2nd. I was impressed with the results I got from Kodak (I still miss the name Ofoto...but Kodak has done quite well by them) but yeah...no full photo cover? :confused:

Thanks! :)

Andy Dixon
04-06-2010, 10:59 PM
Awesome review. I've never considered a photo book before but now you've given me some ideas to take forward and perhaps try to do one. Great job.

Show the Story
04-06-2010, 11:01 PM
Thanks for your hard work on this article. Great job. I've been self publishing books for several years using Apple's iPhoto program. I'm a mac guy, and I have found it easy to use the iPhoto program to design and order Apple Books. There is a 100 page limit, and I like the results. Apple has changed/improved its printing process over the years. Now, you get a hard bound book with a wrap-around cover, spine printing, a printed dust cover. I find the color to be pretty darn good.

I would be very interested in knowing how you think the Apple Book stacks up against the top books in your article.

Thanks,

Jeff Weeks
Colorado Springs, CO

Jeff Campbell
04-06-2010, 11:10 PM
I would be very interested in knowing how you think the Apple Book stacks up against the top books in your article.

I would as well. It has been the only service I used because, like you, I am a Mac guy ;).

Regardless, this is a FANTASTIC review of what is out there so thanks for doing all the heavy lifting Jason!

adeybaby
04-06-2010, 11:29 PM
Just wanted to quickly jump on and say I REALLY appreciated the quality and the detail of your review. I've posted your review to a mothers' group so no doubt you will get many readers that are not normally on your site. I look forward to perusing your other thoughts.

I'm only partway through but had to send my thanks!!

Quick question to clarify (and sorry if you addressed it somewhere)...when you did the books subsequent to 2nd Picaboo printing did you use the "brightened" photos or did you use your originals?

THANKS!!!

skyes
04-06-2010, 11:56 PM
Great review and congrats on making Lifehacker's post.

Specific question: I'm considering making a travelogue that would combine diary-type entries with lots of photos. Do any of these services stand-out as having a good combo of text (beyond titles) and photos? Or any other advice on how to create such?

Laurena
04-07-2010, 01:34 AM
Thanks so much for this detailed information. I feel your pain of the frustration of spending so much time on a project and then being disappointed. In the several I've made, I've seen inconsistencies within the same company. I did ann 8 x 11 through Creative Memories that I absolutely loved (a 9 month project). Then I did one that was 8 x 8 from photos that were actually better (the other one was from many old photos) and I had to reprint it as the colors were quite dark. They looked great on the screen. I noticed you didn't review Creative Memories. Perhaps this was one that didn't get back to you. Since I also do traditional scrapbooking, I would love it if you or someone else would do a similar review of photo prints. I used to have all mine done via Snapfish, and now find the color lacking. I had the same photos printed via Kodak Gallery, Wink, Shutterfly, and none were impressive. I'd sure like to find a new source that would give me the realistic colors. I'm passing your infomation on to my scrapbooking friends who will find it most helpful. Thanks for the great job.

MrBloggerificHimself
04-07-2010, 01:40 AM
...in that when I first glanced at the review I was going to be glad I read it.

Read.

Glad.

I'm now ready to create another photo book. I loved creating the Kodak book back a year or two ago now, but found a couple minor drawbacks to the process. Those weren't enough to prevent me from going back to Kodak, but I'm extremely picky about what photos I want people to actually see, and so ...2 years later...I *might* have enough to fill a book. Maybe. (even if it's just 50 pages lol)

Thank you for the entire process you went through and for posting video and photos in with the detail. Awesome.

JonnoB
04-07-2010, 06:39 AM
Excellent review Jason. What a great thing you have done for your son. I am sure he will one day appreciate it. I have never thought of printing a photo book, but it looks like a great idea.... something that could possibly be done for birthdays or holidays. I may give it a try and will refer to this review when I do. Thanks for the monumental review effort.

Dandylyon
04-07-2010, 08:04 AM
LOVED your very thorough review! Most helpful--I love photobooks, but have been worried about putting in all the time, effort, and money for a result that may only be so-so. This will help a lot.

Philip Colmer
04-07-2010, 11:16 AM
Great review, Jason! It shows that you've put a HECK of a lot of work into it!

Personally, I've used MyPublisher before and always been pleased with the results. Over the years, they've continued to refine and improve the range and quality of the products.

One feature I found recently that I really liked was to design the book initially as a larger hardback cover and then change the book size to a smaller paperback book. The software took this in its stride and makes it possible to offer different sizes to different people as your needs change.

Digital photography has certainly led to some interesting products becoming available!

--Philip

gable
04-07-2010, 01:40 PM
Jason,

This is truly a wonderful review. I make a book at least yearly for my family and I usually use iPhoto or Kodak Gallery for convenience. Using a Mac sometimes reduces the software options as well. I'm curious, do you know which service Apple uses? Or do you think that is a different system altogether? Probably a lot of people use it.

Thank you,

Jim

ruffus
04-07-2010, 04:06 PM
I was also excited to see this review after having just returned from a trip to Japan that yielded several GB's of digital photos, but I was disappointed to see no mention of the Apple iPhoto photobooks. Did you look at this option?

Cold Flame
04-07-2010, 08:08 PM
Jason,

Thanks for the very thorough and indepth review. I have had pretty good results with Shutterfly in the past, but have had horrendous shipping experiences with them. Over Christmas I had some items printed through Walmart and I'm not overly happy with the quality at all. I know they sub the work out, but to whom I'm not sure. You definitely get what you pay for in some cases, and cheap was certainly not better when I looked at Walmarts final products.

As an aside, I just had a canvas print done via Costco.ca and it turned out wonderful. I've always wanted to do a canvas print and it turned out to be a perfect gift for my mother (it's a shot of my daughter).

Shutterfly uses Fuji Crystal Archive paper (or used to anyway) for their printed photos and I believe Costco offers the same... Something else to consider, as you did mention one of the companies printing on Fuji Crystal Archive, but neglected to mention it on a couple others. If I'm mistaken and Shutterfly doesn't print on F.C.A. paper for the photobooks, my apologies! =)

Cheers,

Jeremy

ERii
04-07-2010, 11:20 PM
This is my first time here. My daughter sent the link to me. This review is sensational and should be printed (in installments?) in one of the photo magazines. Thank you for all your hard work, and as you will see below, I have my own small understanding of what you did.

I have some points to add and ask about. I'm a photographer who exhibits two or three times a year and has a tiny following who buy my prints. I printed a book this year with MyPublisher. I was pleased it could be sold to others through the MyPublisher site, but it went against my grain that I couldn't put a markup on the book, while MyPublisher was earning profits on my work.

Then I discovered Blurb. They have worked out this part of the issue. One places whatever markup one wants on top of the low Blurb prices. Excellent! Do any other services have this kind of functionality. Blurb even provides widgets and things to help you sell and shows off the blurb books well. In the first week my book was on the site a regular graph showed 450 people had looked t it. Well, not so many bought, but I put the full thing out there for free.

So I totally remade my book on Blurb. Because every extra page in MyPublisher cost about $1 I had limited the first version to 55 pages. BLurb has two level pricing, as I rcall 40 mages and 80 pages. My new book was much larger, but with a MyPublisher 40% discount the prices were about the same for both books.

The photos from MyPublisher were sharper and brighter though they used the same jpgs. Your evaluation of print quality and paper quality is spot on.

You commented briefly on the power in the Blurb software. In fact, some of the features that you praise in other software later in your review is there or surpassed in BLurb.

One important consideration you didn't touch on was customer support. The last straw in my relation with MyPublisher was customer service. 1) They only responded when the question was easy 2) If you wrote back because they misunderstood, the message went to a different person who never read the string. As a result, in order to communicate you had to bck to square one and re-explain everything. 3) When I forgot the password they assigned, they assigned a new one, but bugs in the software (for security reasons the online password must be changed through the downloaded software) prevented me from setting my own password; I was stuck with a string of random letters and numbers. When I spoke to customer service, they repeatedly sent me to do the thing that didn;t work. Finally, they told me to send them my password and they would install it. Well, that kinda breaks down the very security that they had built into the software that was causing the problem.

The more I tried to work with customer service, the more I came to learn that they knew there were bugs in the software and many had found the work-arounds, but whether you learned the work-around or not depended on which cust serv you were connected to.

In contrast, every question I passed to BLurb was quickly answered. The software had few bugs and none that stopped me. I was impressed with the software's ability to deal with headers and footers and page numbering even when page 1 appeared 3 or 4 pages in. Except on the cover and the flaps of the cover, every page can b infinitely customized and the library of styles, borders, etc. was huge.

Given that I hope to sell a few of my books, the low cost of Blurb lets me add a small markup without pricing myself out of the market.

In addition to my question about sales, do any of the other publishers let you use any font in your computer's font library?

kathybad
04-08-2010, 12:41 AM
Hi Jason,

Many thanks for including Blurb in your very thorough review (I even learned a few things). We, like you, were dismayed to see that you received a book with clear manufacturing defects (the white line on some pages in the softcover book). We make good on any manufacturing defect, so I believe a new book is on its way to you. Phew. Also, we do print on softcover spines, just not for books under 80 pages just so your readers know. And, glad to confirm that the reason you hadn't heard back from us (as you now know) was because your marketing contact no longer works for the company. Our support team is always standing by and returns questions in less than two hours, so count on our support team from now on.

Sounds like after reading the rest of the comments, you have some more reviewing to do.

Again, thanks for including our books.

– Kathy
Blurb.com

Jason Dunn
04-08-2010, 02:18 AM
Awesome review. I've never considered a photo book before but now you've given me some ideas to take forward and perhaps try to do one. Great job.

Glad I could inspire you Andy - I've heard the same thing from a few different people. If there's one thing a writer likes to hear, it's that his words impacted others - so go make that photo book! :D

Jason Dunn
04-08-2010, 02:25 AM
I would be very interested in knowing how you think the Apple Book stacks up against the top books in your article.

I'd like to know as well, but there's one problem: I'd have to go out and buy a Mac to find out. :D I don't have a Mac, so that excluded iPhoto books from being part of this review. However, I'm thinking about maybe - just maybe - buying one, so if I do, and if someone at Apple PR decides to credit me for a book, I'll make one and update this review. That's a lot of "if's" though. ;)

Jason Dunn
04-08-2010, 02:28 AM
Just wanted to quickly jump on and say I REALLY appreciated the quality and the detail of your review. I've posted your review to a mothers' group so no doubt you will get many readers that are not normally on your site. I look forward to perusing your other thoughts.

Thanks so much for sharing the review - that was really my hope in writing this, that it would be spread far and wide and become a resource for people to use. :)

Quick question to clarify (and sorry if you addressed it somewhere)...when you did the books subsequent to 2nd Picaboo printing did you use the "brightened" photos or did you use your originals?

I used a new set of JPEGs output from Fotofusion with the brightness cranked up - so the second book looked better, but some of the images were washed out. None of the other book printing companies had trouble making my original set of images look good, but Picaboo couldn't get it right. I'm not very impressed with Picaboo as you can tell. ;)

Jason Dunn
04-08-2010, 03:17 AM
Great review and congrats on making Lifehacker's post.

Thanks, that was a very pleasant surprise! :)

Specific question: I'm considering making a travelogue that would combine diary-type entries with lots of photos. Do any of these services stand-out as having a good combo of text (beyond titles) and photos? Or any other advice on how to create such?

If memory serves, all of them handle text pretty well - I think most of them have spell checking built in, etc. I didn't do any text for my books using these services though, so I can't say for sure. I'm working on a photo book of a trip as well, and I'm going to use FotoFusion (http://www.lumapix.com) to create it. It gives me great control over all sorts of elements, though there is a learning curve (and added cost).

Jason Dunn
04-08-2010, 03:51 AM
I noticed you didn't review Creative Memories. Perhaps this was one that didn't get back to you.

No, they weren't contacted - there are easily 100+ photo book printers in North America alone, so reviewing all of them just isn't feasible. I did my best to pick the biggest players in the industry, and a few of the smaller ones. Doing a 12-way review took me 7 months...I'm scared to think of what a 24-way review would take. ;)

Since I also do traditional scrapbooking, I would love it if you or someone else would do a similar review of photo prints.

Not a bad idea, maybe I'll take that on next...after I rest for a while. :)

I'm passing your infomation on to my scrapbooking friends who will find it most helpful. Thanks for the great job.

Thanks so much, it's appreciated! :)

Jason Dunn
04-08-2010, 03:53 AM
Thank you for the entire process you went through and for posting video and photos in with the detail. Awesome.

You're quite welcome. The videos were a last-minute addition, but I'm really glad I did them - I think they add an element to the review that's hard to capture with words and photos.

Jason Dunn
04-08-2010, 03:54 AM
Excellent review Jason. What a great thing you have done for your son. I am sure he will one day appreciate it.

Thanks! Yeah, I'll have some great stories to tell Logan one day when he's grown up and his old man will tell him about this crazy review he wrote about getting his baby book printed by the best company he could find. :D

Jason Dunn
04-08-2010, 03:55 AM
Personally, I've used MyPublisher before and always been pleased with the results. Over the years, they've continued to refine and improve the range and quality of the products.

Yeah, MyPublisher rated quite well - and they've let me know they'll reprint my book with the new photo wrap cover, so I'll update the review with some new info once I get that.

Jason Dunn
04-08-2010, 03:59 AM
I'm curious, do you know which service Apple uses? Or do you think that is a different system altogether? Probably a lot of people use it.

I've just spent a few minutes trying to find the answer to that, and came up empty. Apple is a very secretive company though, so it's not too surprising that it's not easy to figure out who they farm out the book making to. One rumour I read said it was MyPublisher, but who knows...:confused:

Jason Dunn
04-08-2010, 04:00 AM
...but I was disappointed to see no mention of the Apple iPhoto photobooks. Did you look at this option?

It's unfortunate that you felt disappointed, but I don't own a Mac, so going out to purchase a new computer for $800 just to make an $80 photo book with them seems a bit extreme, no? ;)

However, you never know what the future holds...

Jason Dunn
04-08-2010, 04:03 AM
Something else to consider, as you did mention one of the companies printing on Fuji Crystal Archive, but neglected to mention it on a couple others.

Yeah, I can only describe many of the companies as being vague on this point, and a few others. Most don't give any detail about what paper they use beyond weight - if they even mention it at all - and none (that I saw at least) mentioned durability of the books in terms of how long they'd last for, etc. I imagine on the more expensive books (high-end wedding books, etc.) you'd see more details on paper, printers, printer colour profiles, etc.

Jason Dunn
04-08-2010, 04:11 AM
This review is sensational and should be printed (in installments?) in one of the photo magazines. Thank you for all your hard work, and as you will see below, I have my own small understanding of what you did.

Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'm in discussions with one photo magazine company for doing an article based on my experiences, but it would be a much shorter version (1500 words). The instalments idea is a neat idea...

Then I discovered Blurb. They have worked out this part of the issue. One places whatever markup one wants on top of the low Blurb prices. Excellent! Do any other services have this kind of functionality.

Out of the 12 companies I looked at, Blurb is the only one that offers that service - or if the other companies do, they hide it so well I couldn't find that info. Blurb has a really neat service in that regard, that's for sure.

One important consideration you didn't touch on was customer support. The last straw in my relation with MyPublisher was customer service.

Customer service is almost impossible to review across the board, because I'd have to come up with a fake problem, email them all at the same time about the problem, then time how long it takes them to respond and judge the accurate of their responses. That would be quite challenging to do. I did mention the hands-on help from Treasure-book.com and the fact that Mpix looks at every book before it ships - and how they caught an error with my book and had it re-printed - so that was my attempt to address this matter...but it's a hard one to "review".

In addition to my question about sales, do any of the other publishers let you use any font in your computer's font library?

I'm honestly not sure - my books didn't have any text (remember every image was a JPEG created in FotoFusion). I think the desktop-based clients allow for font use, but the Web versions are limited in terms of what they offer.

Thanks for your great feedback and comments! It was nice to hear about your experiences. :)

Jason Dunn
04-08-2010, 04:23 AM
Hi Kathy! Thanks for posting in the thread - I welcome all the companies involved in this review to comment. :)

We, like you, were dismayed to see that you received a book with clear manufacturing defects (the white line on some pages in the softcover book). We make good on any manufacturing defect, so I believe a new book is on its way to you.

I've been exchanging a few emails with someone from customer support after this review went live, so it's good to know that the book would have been reprinted if this was a real customer order. That's really what I wanted to know. I didn't know another book was being sent, but thank you, that's nice.

Also, we do print on softcover spines, just not for books under 80 pages just so your readers know.

Oh, that's cool! Good to know I was just 20 pages short. :D

And, glad to confirm that the reason you hadn't heard back from us (as you now know) was because your marketing contact no longer works for the company. Our support team is always standing by and returns questions in less than two hours, so count on our support team from now on.

I have a lot to say about this, but it's probably best said in private. ;) However, it's good to know that Blurb's customer service is ready and standing by. :D

Sounds like after reading the rest of the comments, you have some more reviewing to do.

Haha...maybe. Just maybe - I'm still trying to decide. ;)

04-09-2010, 03:06 AM
Thanks so much for that awesome review! We really appreciate all of the work and research that went into it!!

I am also a Mac person (in Australia) and am currently using Apple after making one Creative Memories book about two years ago. Whilst we found the Creative Memories book to be of excellent quality, we feel that the Apple iphoto books are superior and much easier to use.

I have now made eleven books with Apple and have been very happy with the quality. The hard cover extra large books are my favourites (we have printed books of up to the maximum of 100 pages). Am currently doing 3 every 3 months - one each for my kids and one for ourselves.

We are using a Canon EOS1000D (and my iphone) and are finding the Apple quality to be excellent, especially when compared to a Snapfish photobook I have seen. Shipping (with Apple) was from Singapore to us in Sydney and took about three weeks each time. Heve no idea which company they are using??

Would be most interested to find out your thoughts on Apple when compared to the others...maybe they'll send you a nice Macbook to use (hint, hint)??!!

Thanks so much,
Sarah (:

sweetandsour
04-09-2010, 08:03 AM
First things first...thank you very much for taking the time to write your comprehensive review, it is VERY MUCH appreciated. I am also in Canada and recently ordered my first photobooks, and the shipping costs were very much a factor in my decision, but it was still cheaper to print with a US-based company (I used viovio for my 10x10 book). I'm currently doing two more books and I'm trying MyPicTales this time. One of the books is the same as I did with viovio (wanted an extra copy for the grandparents) so I'll be able to compare directly :D

I noticed you didn't review Creative Memories. Perhaps this was one that didn't get back to you. Since I also do traditional scrapbooking, I would love it if you or someone else would do a similar review of photo prints. I used to have all mine done via Snapfish, and now find the color lacking. I had the same photos printed via Kodak Gallery, Wink, Shutterfly, and none were impressive. I'd sure like to find a new source that would give me the realistic colors. I'm passing your infomation on to my scrapbooking friends who will find it most helpful. Thanks for the great job.

My sis-in-law used to be a Creative Memories consultant - I think she deactivated almost 2 years ago - and she said that you couldn't upload your own pages created in Photoshop to be printed with CM photo center? (I believe it's CM digital center now)

gable
04-09-2010, 03:45 PM
I've just spent a few minutes trying to find the answer to that, and came up empty. Apple is a very secretive company though, so it's not too surprising that it's not easy to figure out who they farm out the book making to. One rumour I read said it was MyPublisher, but who knows...:confused:

My memory is that Apple used MyPublisher years ago, but I thought they switched -- judging from the flurry of emails I got from MyPublisher at that stage suggesting I use them directly. But now it could be anyone. You could take some of your test book and print a subset on a friend's Mac and see if the binding, paper etc is a dead giveaway to any of the services that you tried. Of course, it's not necessarily worth the detective work.

poster99000
04-09-2010, 05:36 PM
First - thanks for putting this together. One of the most comprehensive reviews I've seen of anything!

I'd add one thing - personally I've found all the applications, including iPhoto, really limiting in terms of layout. This is understandable but as I gfx designer I found it really frustrating so I would end up putting a page together how I wanted, regardless of any limits and then importing these collages whole. However, I recently saw that blurb has Indesign templates and will even create a book directly from a PDF. That is pretty awesome in my opinion so I was disappointed to see that their quality was not the highest. Does any other service offer this?

Anyway I thought I mention it in case any other users happen to have access to more advanced tools.

Jason Dunn
04-09-2010, 06:06 PM
In case anyone is interested in some back story around this review and some of the last-minute changes I made to it, you might find this interesting:

http://www.jasondunn.com/epic-photo-book-review-2524#more-2524

:)

anitab
04-10-2010, 04:39 AM
Thank you so much for this detailed and very complete review.

I'm curious - was Viovio one of the companies that did not respond? I was hoping to see them reviewed here.

It is possible to sell your books through Viovio, setting your own prices, as several people have mentioned they would like to do. They also have a wide range of products, with very reasonable prices.

Just today I received an email from Viovio, detailing a new printing process that is available, higher quality - I may make a heritage book I'm working on available to family members through their site; although I had previously settled on Inkubook as my preferred photobook printer. I was VERY happy with a 120 page book that I had them print last year (I used layouts I had created on Photoshop Elements.)

Again, thank you for sharing your hard work with all of us!!

Serenyd
04-14-2010, 04:21 PM
So helpful, I was thinking of using Picaboo or Snapfish, but those are out now. I am using Scrapbook Max 2.0 to create digital scrapbook pages and a family cookbook.

I really liked Snapfish's easy-to use software and leather-bound covers, but I want great print quality. I'm thinking of using AdoramaPix now. A little annoyed about the 50 page limit, but the prices are good, and quality and durability are most important to me. Also, I am in the U.S. so I don't want to pay extra to ship from Canada.

Thanks! Danielle

Jason Dunn
04-14-2010, 06:29 PM
My memory is that Apple used MyPublisher years ago, but I thought they switched -- judging from the flurry of emails I got from MyPublisher at that stage suggesting I use them directly. But now it could be anyone.

I asked MyPublisher directly if they were the printer for iPhoto books, and they said they were not - they did do it in the '90s, but haven't for quite a few years now. When I asked if they knew who Apple used now, that email didn't get responded to...so I have a feeling it's one of those "industry secrets" that people on the inside know, but they don't want to incur the wrath of Apple by talking about.

Quite silly that Apple holds that much sway over anything. :rolleyes:

Jason Dunn
04-14-2010, 06:33 PM
Thanks so much for that awesome review! We really appreciate all of the work and research that went into it!!

I'm glad you liked it. :)

Would be most interested to find out your thoughts on Apple when compared to the others...maybe they'll send you a nice Macbook to use (hint, hint)??!!

All things being equal, I'd really like to include Apple in this photo book review - but they're the only photo book maker that requires the purchase of a new computer just to make a book. ;) However, I am pondering getting a Mac Mini and if I do at some point, I'll certainly contact Apple and ask if they'd like to be included in this review.

Jason Dunn
04-14-2010, 06:39 PM
First things first...thank you very much for taking the time to write your comprehensive review, it is VERY MUCH appreciated.

You're very welcome - it was a lot of work for me, but I'm happy with the reception it's getting from people all over the world. :)

(I used viovio for my 10x10 book). I'm currently doing two more books and I'm trying MyPicTales this time. One of the books is the same as I did with viovio (wanted an extra copy for the grandparents) so I'll be able to compare directly

Indeed, I'd love to see comments attached to this article from people who have their own thoughts about who does the best books, and why. The better a resource we can make this, the more useful it will be to people reading the comments.

My sis-in-law used to be a Creative Memories consultant - I think she deactivated almost 2 years ago - and she said that you couldn't upload your own pages created in Photoshop to be printed with CM photo center? (I believe it's CM digital center now)

Indeed - every photo book company I looked at allowed full-page photos to be printed, so that means you can create your pages in any application you want and output them as JPEGs and put them into your photo book.

Jason Dunn
04-14-2010, 06:48 PM
I'd add one thing - personally I've found all the applications, including iPhoto, really limiting in terms of layout. This is understandable but as I gfx designer I found it really frustrating so I would end up putting a page together how I wanted, regardless of any limits and then importing these collages whole.

Indeed, that's the entire reason I use FotoFusion (http://www.fotofusion.com) to create my pages. It's an incredibly powerful program that allowed me to create my pages exactly the way I wanted. It takes a bit of practice to learn the program, but the basics are easy to pick up. I've been using FotoFusion for years to create large 13" x 19" collages of vacation photos. The program has a great collage function that pulls in all your photos, creates a collage, then allows you to manipulate every image. I then output the whole thing as a huge 45 megapixel image (or sometimes 70 megapixel) and get it printed.

However, I recently saw that blurb has Indesign templates and will even create a book directly from a PDF. That is pretty awesome in my opinion so I was disappointed to see that their quality was not the highest. Does any other service offer this?

There are a few places out there that offer PDF book printing, but it's mostly the companies that offer "book" printing rather than just "photo book" printing. As in, Blurb does cook books, etc. Most of the companies I looked at were focused solely on photo books. The thing is though, you don't really need the PDF angle if you assemble your pages at a high-enough resolution (300 dpi minimum) and export them as minimally-compressed JPEGs (or even PNGs if the software supports it).

Jason Dunn
04-14-2010, 06:49 PM
Thank you so much for this detailed and very complete review. I'm curious - was Viovio one of the companies that did not respond? I was hoping to see them reviewed here.

I'm glad you liked the review. No, Viovio wasn't one of the companies I contacted. There are 100's of photo book printing companies out there, so I tried to pick mostly ones I'd heard of, and a few smaller players.

I've added Viovio to my list of companies to contact if/when I update this review with new book publishers. :)

Jason Dunn
04-14-2010, 06:54 PM
So helpful, I was thinking of using Picaboo or Snapfish, but those are out now. I am using Scrapbook Max 2.0 to create digital scrapbook pages and a family cookbook.

I hadn't heard of Scrapbook Max before, but I just visited their Web site and it looks like quite an impressive product. It's similar to FotoFusion, but looks much easier to use. I might review it at some point...

I'm thinking of using AdoramaPix now. A little annoyed about the 50 page limit, but the prices are good, and quality and durability are most important to me.

If you can fit your project in 50 pages, I think you'll really like AdoramaPix - the lay-flat pages are a stand-out feature that no one else has at this price point (in my review at least).

flavor32
04-16-2010, 03:42 AM
Thank you for doing all of this work and documenting it so painstakingly!

After reading your review, I was looking on MyPublisher to find the printed hardcover option and can't find it--do they really offer this? All I can see is plain linen or dust jacket???

Also, wondering if Edition One is one of the companies that didn't respond. It seems like they are aiming at the pro/prosumer photographer market but I have yet to read any reports on how the books turn out. They do offer free test prints, but it'd be nice to know what the paper feels like etc.

Disappointing that every review of Blurb I have ever read mentions the inconsistent quality. Otherwise the software and features seem ideal. I'd rather pay a little more and be sure of results than pay less and gamble on quality.

I hope everyone reading this review contacts AdoramaPix to beg them to produce books with more than 50 pp. I did.

cec2725
04-20-2010, 01:50 AM
Thank you Jason for all your work. It's fantastic what you've done.
I have been making my own books for 3 months now and I wish I started with your review first!!!!

Here's my experience:

After getting married in December, I decided at the end of January to make photobooks for our parents and us.
I absolutely wanted a lay flat photobook. As a non professional, I had difficulties to find companies that are making lay flat photobooks for everybody. Most of them do only photobooks for registered professionals.
I found only a few companies and after reading all of the information from all of them, I decided to go with Picaboo.

Picaboo has a "flush mount" option, which is really something professional. Two sizes, 8.5 x 11 and 11 x 14. Extremely expensive though but I was willing to pay the price for a good book. $350 for the medium size for 20 pages, then $10 per additional page. $450 for the large size for 20 pages, then $14 for each additional page. Leather cover, no possibilities to print any images on the cover and the spine.

I saw some photobooks that my photographer made. They were awesome. But she was in Australia (where the wedding took place) and we were back in LA. And I wanted to save a bit of money and do it myself (hers were more than $1000). To do the design, she told me she uses a software called "You select it (http://www.youselectit.com/)". It's a wonderful software but it isn't free and I didn't want to buy the license. So I decided to use Photoshop, as I have it on my computer. I am not a professional of it, so it took me a while to get to know how to play with it.
Also, Picaboo has some cool layouts, so I used some of their pre-made designs to create some of the pages of my book.

Once my book was made on my computer, I realised that we - the customers - have to consider the margins for the edges of the book and the spine. I didn't know about it and as some of my photos/text were close to the edges and spine, I had to redo a lot of my designs to make sure they were going to be printed properly and nothing cut out.
I had a few exchanges with the customer support and I think they were pretty good people. Fast answers, and appropriate responses.
As I was telling one of the customer service guy that i was going to order a flush mount but I wanted to make sure that it would look exactly as I wanted it - in terms of designs, size of my designs (for the edges and spine), etc... he offered me to order a "template" book for half of its price. What is that? Just the cheapest book they have - the classic softcover book in 6 x 8 inches for $10 for 20 pages (and $0.99 per additional page)
The guy told me so I could see how my designs would print, if I need to rework on the edges and spine, etc....

So I ordered it. I was so excited when I got the box. And so disappointing when I first saw the book. The colors were on the yellow side and the final dimension of the book was not 6 by 8 inches but 5.5 by 7.5 inches. All of my designs had been cut off on all of the edges way more than what I expected.
The book I wanted to order was a large flush mount with about 50-60 pages... so about $800. I wanted to wait for an offer to get a discount. But even though, it would have been very expensive. There's no way I'm spending a big amount if I'm not happy with the result.
As I was super unhappy with the template book, I decided to look for other companies again to find the right company.

One evening I was speaking with a friend who told me he ordered 2 books through Mypublisher and was pretty happy with it. He even showed me his books and I was pretty impressed, I brought my Picaboo book to compare and we both agreed that mypublisher's quality was way above picaboo's.

So I decided to make our parents' books through Mypublisher. No more lay flat books.
I had to adjust my designs as the size is a bit different. Then once done, I started to make the books. As you said, Jason, I encountered the same difficulties with the software slowing down my computer to a point where I had to restart the computer. I realised after a few times that if I have photoshop AND mypublisher running at the same time, this is when my computer crashes. If I use alternatively one or the other then it is fine. Photoshop by itself has never crashed my computer but only in conjunction with mypublisher. Mypublisher by itself slows down my computer but doesn't crash it. I just have to be patient with it.
That said, I had a look at their layouts and compared to Picaboo, I prefer Picaboo's designs by far. There is way more choices and possibilities with Picaboo than Mypublisher.

I wanted to order the deluxe hardcover books 11.5 x 15, with the dust jacket as at that time they didn't have the wrapped cover (photo finish).
I did everything and then got an offer for "buy one, get one for free". Our parents's books were a bit different - I personalized them, so I didn't want to do that, but instead, decided to get books for my husband's sister and brother.
So for them, I ordered the classic hardcover photobook (11.25 x 8.75) with a dust jacket. When I got them I was super happy. My designs fit perfectly, nothing has been cut out from what I can preview on the software on the edges, and I had been told to allow about 1/2 inch for the binding which I did and came out fine.
I was very happy with the photo quality and the dust jacket looks fine. Overall very very happy.
The only minor thing I need to mention here, and I have seen it in a previous comment: the customer service is not good at all.
If you have a not too technical question: usually you get a reply pretty quickly and with an accurate answer.
If your question is more technical which was my case (I couldn't uploading my books using their software, when I clicked on the "purchase" button, nothing happened) this is when the trouble starts. First when you write, even if your problem is assign with a case number, it is not assigned to one person as it was said before, but whoever reads the email at that time answer, WITHOUT reading the whole string. It is extremely annoying when your question is very technical, you have been playing with Internet Explorer settings (like privacy, authorised website, javascript settings.... ) and someone tolds you then to empty your cache! and restart internet explorer. This sounds so dumb.
Because this person didn't read the whole thread and doesn't know what I am speaking about. Sorry I am still frustrated with the customer service and the idiots who replied without reading the whole mail and gives dumb answers.
Fortunately, they have a customer service survey, which I did and told them everything that I think is wrong with their customer service.
Then I found a few people in the customer service that seems to have a technical background and can help their customer. So I ended up writing my emails with the title "please forward this to Brian if you are not Brian". Even with that, some of the dumb employees there still replied instead of Brian (or Rob or Thomas - the 3 people that I found useful there) with some dumb answers. I eventually got their personal email address (instead of the [email protected]) and now I'm dealing only with them.

To upload my book, I had to export it from their software to my hard-drive and then upload it using a sort of FTP website (Yousendit (https://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?action=dropbox&dropbox=MyPublisher)). It took a very very long time as my file was big (about 600Mo) - The size of the book is not why the upload with their software was not working as I tried with an extremely light book and it didn't work as well.

I need to say: when the books arrived, unfortunalely both of the books were badly bumped in one of the corners, I contacted the customer service, explained what happened with photos of the books, asked for a refund or a coupon, and within 5 minutes I got an apology email with a coupon worth the price I paid with free shipping, so I was able to re-oder the same books for free. That was very good.

However, despite the communication problems with the customer service and the corner damaged (but not the second time, the books arrived in perfect condition), I decided to order more books from them: The parents' books, with the deluxe option (11.5 x 15 inches). When they arrived, I was just amazed by the size and the quality. I knew it was going to be big, but I couldn't picture how big they were going to be. So 11.5 by 15 inches is big and very impressive, in a good way! I love the books at first sight! What I didn't know was the quality of the paper. I thought the paper quality for the classic photobook was good and I thought it was going to be the same. The paper for the deluxe book is just awesome. Super thick - I can't tell how much, but it made an impressive effect on my friends when they saw it.
And still the quality of the color is super good.

Globally, I am very happy with my purchases, I just hope they will improve their customer service.

I find your review last week when the mypublisher new cover came out. After reading your review, I was very happy to see that my friend helped me to make the good choice as you seems to say that mypublisher is a good choice.

Since I read your review, I decided to order more books from mypublisher and I ordered a book with the new cover (photo finish directly printed on the hardcover) and I should receive it by the end of the week.
I'll let you know how it is.

And I'm going to make a book with adoramapix, so I'll finally have my lay flat book - I need to remove 10 pages as I have now 60 pages in my book. but you said it's very impressive so I want to get a lay flat book. I just need to decide which of my designs I'm going to not use in the new book!

Thanks again Jason for your precious help,

Cecile

Jason Dunn
04-21-2010, 06:37 AM
Thank you for doing all of this work and documenting it so painstakingly! After reading your review, I was looking on MyPublisher to find the printed hardcover option and can't find it--do they really offer this? All I can see is plain linen or dust jacket???

I'm glad you liked my review. :) As for MyPublisher, look here:

http://www.mypublisher.com/products/deluxe

They call it a "Photo Finish" cover.

Also, wondering if Edition One is one of the companies that didn't respond. It seems like they are aiming at the pro/prosumer photographer market but I have yet to read any reports on how the books turn out.

No, I didn't contact them. They look like a high-end arthouse style book service; I was aiming more at the consumer-grade companies.

I hope everyone reading this review contacts AdoramaPix to beg them to produce books with more than 50 pp. I did.

That's a great idea - I should have suggested that in my article. Maybe I'll edit that in. :D

Jason Dunn
04-21-2010, 06:48 AM
Thank you Jason for all your work. It's fantastic what you've done. I have been making my own books for 3 months now and I wish I started with your review first! Here's my experience:

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with our community Cecile, and best wishes on your future book projects! :)

flavor32
04-21-2010, 10:46 PM
No, I didn't contact [Edition One (http://www.editiononebooks.com)]. They look like a high-end arthouse style book service; I was aiming more at the consumer-grade companies.


I think their pricing is in the same ballpark as MyPublisher, though they have a 5-book minimum. Factoring the page and size flexibility they may well be cheaper than some of the vendors in this review. I just wish I could find a review of their printing, esp. given the 5-book min.. OTOH, they offer test prints so the print quality would be less uncertain.

Jason Dunn
04-22-2010, 06:30 PM
I think their pricing is in the same ballpark as MyPublisher, though they have a 5-book minimum.

Hmm. A five book minimum places them pretty firmly outside the consumer realm...95% of people aren't going to get five copies of the same book.

Cherylcs
04-23-2010, 06:53 PM
Jason, your in-depth review couldn't have been more timely! I just got married last month, and I have been trying to decide which photo book company to use to create my wedding album. Our wedding photographer recommended My Publisher over Apple iPhoto, but he did concede that iPhoto was excellent. He rated My Publisher's quality as "one notch better" than iPhoto--larger books and heavier paper.

I just recently bought a Mac and planned on ordering one album from iPhoto and the other from My Publisher, just so I could compare the quality myself.

My Publisher does indeed offer the "photo finish" cover now, but only when using the PC version of their software. The Mac version of My Publisher's software currently does not have the photo finish cover option.

I'm thinking of ordering my iPhoto album first. They offer a very reasonable shipping option to Canada, which amounts to a cheaper album than My Publisher. That said, if you want two books and MyPublisher still has their "free book" offer, it is actually cheaper to get two MyPublisher albums than it is to order two iPhoto albums.

Apple Prices:

49.99 USD for a 20-page 13x10 book ($1.49 per additional page) including photo finish cover and book jacket
8.99 USD shipping to Canada per book (add $1 per additional book) by FedEx international economy; typically 3-5 business days.

My Publisher Prices:

59.80 USD for a 20-page 15x11.5 book ($1.99 per additional page)
8.95 USD to add a book jacket (or photo finish cover if you have a PC)
15.99 USD shipping to Canada for the first book ($6.99 for each DUPLICATE book) by FedEx international priority; 3-5 business days

Note that My Publisher says they use "premium 182-pound high-gloss archival-quality paper" for their Deluxe books. Apple uses 100-pound paper.

I too would be interested in your review of Apple iPhoto's photo book. Perhaps you have a friend who'd let you use their MacBook for a few days? I would if I were in Calgary, but I'm in Edmonton…so close, yet so far away.

Thanks again, Jason!

Cherylcs
04-23-2010, 06:58 PM
I hadn't heard of many of these other photo book companies, too, so thanks to your post, I will consider Inkubook as well!

Jason Dunn
05-04-2010, 11:31 PM
I'm glad you liked the review, and congratulations on getting married. :)

I too would be interested in your review of Apple
iPhoto's photo book. Perhaps you have a friend who'd let you use their MacBook for a few days? I would if I were in Calgary, but I'm in Edmonton…so close, yet so far away

Oh, I've tried, but no takers. I guess those Mac users I know are selfish. ;) I'm about 90% sure I'll be buying a Mac Mini when they update them (this fall I'm hoping?) so if that happens, I'll contact Apple Canada and ask if they'd like to be included in my review.

Lee Yuan Sheng
05-05-2010, 02:34 AM
I'm about 90% sure I'll be buying a Mac Mini when they update them (this fall I'm hoping?)

Call the press! Buy your lottery tickets! Jason's buying a Mac!

Jason Dunn
05-05-2010, 11:05 PM
FYI: I've been updating the article with a few different coupon codes, so check each book publisher's section to see if they've given me a code. Some nice savings there! I'll do my best to keep the codes updated and current.

xrouge
06-18-2010, 09:59 PM
Thank you for the superb review!

We just got the wedding photos from our wedding. The photographer tried to sell us a 20 photos leather album for $275 CAD, including 20 4x6" photos.
I thought that we can do better by choosing a photo book online and I started researching the subject just yesterday.

Thank you also for giving special attention to shipping rates because I'm located in Canada as well (Vancouver).

I have no artistic skills, so it would be useful for me to view samples of existing albums, just to get an idea for a simple, yet attractive design.

xrouge
06-18-2010, 10:30 PM
Photobook Canada - with the 45% off coupon it's one of the most reasonable prices for their quality - is this so?

Jason Dunn
06-23-2010, 09:31 PM
Thank you for the superb review!

You're welcome - I'm glad you enjoyed it.

We just got the wedding photos from our wedding. The photographer tried to sell us a 20 photos leather album for $275 CAD, including 20 4x6" photos.

Wow...$275 for a 20 photo album? Ouch. That's pretty expensive! I definitely think you can do better than that on your own creating something.

I have no artistic skills, so it would be useful for me to view samples of existing albums, just to get an idea for a simple, yet attractive design.

There are templates and themes in every photo service I reviewed here, so that should help get you started.

Jason Dunn
06-23-2010, 09:33 PM
Photobook Canada - with the 45% off coupon it's one of the most reasonable prices for their quality - is this so?

Yes, with a good discount coupon, Photobook Canada is really a great choice for anyone in Canada - or even in the US. I used them personally for an 11" x 11" vacation book project I did recently and was very pleased with the results...the second time around. The first time they really botched the cover, but I'll be writing a separate review of the 11" x 11" book a bit later. The short version is that even though the software allows you to create pixel-perfect front and back covers, the printing process isn't quite as precise...so leave ample borders on the covers so things will look good after printing.

Lee Yuan Sheng
06-26-2010, 06:40 PM
$275 is expensive considering you're getting 20 4x6 photos... however I have been talking with a pro friend in the UK, and wedding albums with very elaborate covers made of metal or acrylic and large lay-flat pages (12x18) can go up to £500 in cost. This is before the photographer's profit margin!

Jason Dunn
06-26-2010, 06:42 PM
I'm now the owner of a Mac Mini, so I'll be contacting Apple Canada to see if they're willing to give me a credit to order an iPhoto version of my book. It will take me a month or two to get to that stage, so stay tuned...

24pfilms
06-27-2010, 04:56 PM
I'm now the owner of a Mac Mini, so I'll be contacting Apple Canada to see if they're willing to give me a credit to order an iPhoto version of my book. It will take me a month or two to get to that stage, so stay tuned...

Congrats on the MAC. I am a pro photographer, and am interested in creating a portfolio book to show to clients. I am patiently waiting for your Apple Printing review.

Question:
What is the best way to calibrate your monitor (MAC) for it to be an accurate representation for printing?

Cheers,
Taylor

Jason Dunn
06-27-2010, 09:21 PM
I am a pro photographer, and am interested in creating a portfolio book to show to clients. I am patiently waiting for your Apple Printing review.

Since you're a pro, don't wait for me to do anything - do what you need to do to make money. :) There's no guarantee I'll review the iPhoto book...we'll see if Apple decides to give me a credit to get it made. If they don't, maybe I'll take up a collection to cover the cost since some people really want to see it included.

What is the best way to calibrate your monitor (MAC) for it to be an accurate representation for printing?

You'll want to buy a hardware calibration tool. I use a Pantone Huey Pro (http://astore.amazon.com/digitalhomethoughts-20/detail/B000OFC1YY).

Roadbum
07-23-2010, 11:37 PM
After carefully reading this very-much-appreciated review of all these photo book makers, I chose Adorama and spent some tens of hours designing a book. The text inside was a type of script and carefully sized and situated to frame the photos just right. Saved. Checked. Saved again. Finally, ordered. Got an email yesterday that it had shipped. Had a last look today (using Adorama's View option) and was devasted. All the interior fonts had been changed to some huge ugly Times New Roman thing. Printed all over the photos. Has anyone else had this experience? Thanks!

Jason Dunn
07-24-2010, 08:39 PM
Had a last look today (using Adorama's View option) and was devasted. All the interior fonts had been changed to some huge ugly Times New Roman thing. Printed all over the photos. Has anyone else had this experience? Thanks!

Oh no...that's awful! :(

I didn't use any text in my book that was created with the text took - all my text was pre-rendered in the JPEGs - so that's not something I tested. There's obviously a huge flaw in Adorama's system though if it lets you select other fonts, shows you them in the preview, but then doesn't print with them. Have you contacted Adorama tech support? Did they tell you what happened and offer you a reprint? Please keep me apprised of how this plays out.

sunshine75t
08-05-2010, 04:48 AM
Jason,
Thanks so much for your monumental review. I have frequently referred to it as I have created my recent photo books. I tried Shutterfly before I read the review and was also disappointed with Vivid Pics which led me on a search for a better photobook company. I have used Inkubook twice, MyPublisher twice, and am currently making a book using Photobook America (aka Photobook Canada). All of the information you presented about each company is absolutely correct. I love MyPublisher and I hope Photobook America is even better.

I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate all of the time and effort you put into the review.

Thanks again,
Liz

Jason Dunn
08-06-2010, 01:59 AM
Thanks so much for your monumental review. I have frequently referred to it as I have created my recent photo books.

You're quite welcome - I'm glad you enjoyed it. Please do share your thoughts as you continue to use other photo book printing services. :)

rbellphoto
08-12-2010, 09:16 PM
Excellent job on these reviews. One thing I would've asked for is to show/describe the inside front/back covers. The reason this comes up is that I just received an AdoramaPix book and page 1 is actually glued to the inside front cover. Other printers that I've used insert a blank/black page at this location.

Jason Dunn
08-13-2010, 04:19 AM
Excellent job on these reviews. One thing I would've asked for is to show/describe the inside front/back covers. The reason this comes up is that I just received an AdoramaPix book and page 1 is actually glued to the inside front cover. Other printers that I've used insert a blank/black page at this location.

Thanks for the feedback - I hadn't thought of that! :) You can probably see that on some of the videos, but not all...and unfortunately most of the books have gone to other people in the family, so I can't quite figure out what the answer would be for each book. But if it helps, none of the books I have here - or any I can think of other than Adorama - put the first page on the inside cover.

Were you hoping for a blank page on the inside cover to sign the book or something similar?

davebuck
08-16-2010, 02:22 PM
First of all, I want to thank you and commend you for your outstanding efforts!
Although I wanted to read every word, I admit that I skipped the reviews with poorer ratings

I have used shutterfly, snapfish and Mypublisher. The first two were really poor so they were quickly axed form my list. Since we travel as a family 2 times a year and go to different locations, I often come home with between 300 - 800 photos. I have made 3 different Mypublisher books. The quality is good, nothing great but my biggest issue is their lack of flexibility. Either I am not using the program to its maximum capabilities or your page options are extraordinarily limited.

It is for this reason, I have spent about 10 hrs reviewing the programs. I am strictly an amateur but I don't want all of my books to look the same!!! I noticed that you didn't really comment much about that in your review. I want to be able to change the backrounds, the photo sizes, orientations and add comments or maybe occasional outside maps etc on different parts of the page. Simple requests, but somehow I don't think this can be done with MyPublisher! You seem to be tied into only a few options on page layouts.

Also, there were two other programs I am interested in and would appreciate your comments or other reviewers comments. I am a MAC user.

Aperture (MAC)
Lumapix. This is a pay program but there is a less expensive $39 versions.

As of now, I am considering using Aperture, Blurb, Adoramapix,Mpix and possbily paying for Lumapix.

THANKS!!!!

leobeach
08-17-2010, 07:52 PM
Hi Jason,

Congratulations for this amazing review, exactly what I was looking for.


I have worked hard to build some photo books with a regular image editor, and then saved the pictures as jpg with the highest possible quality, but the result I got from Photobook Canada was very disappointing: the print quality is soooo bad compared to a photo print (may be I did not choose the ultimate quality options). I tried another supplier (Jean Coutu in Quebec) and the quality was nearly the same (and they insert as last page an awful index page that cannot be deleted).

I know some provider in Europe (Pixum or Cewe) print their books on photo paper (on very thin photo paper, pages are then glued together), but they do not export to North America.


If I read correctly, the best quality print books are from Inkubook, AdoramaPix, Kodak, Mypublisher, mpix. How would you rate them compared to a photo print ?

Which one gives the best photo quality (if you do not take into account the cover, the 50-page limit, price, etc.) ?


Thanks,
Lionel

Winsunn
08-20-2010, 05:10 PM
I've made around 20 photo books using Viovio. They are the least expensive company I've found. Comparing the inner pages of Viovio to the Mac photo book, I found the page and print quality to be about the same. The covers are also about the same. Pay the few dollars extra and get Viovio's Premium Printing so your photo's have that nice saturated look. I have tried the cheaper printing and the colors were a bit dull.

Here are the pros and cons of Viovio:

Pros:
-Cheap price for good/great quality photo book
-Many different size books available
-Lots of options for covers
-allows spine printing
-Wonderful customer service, -responds to emails quickly, -works with you to fix problems


Cons:
-Confusing website, I'm not building the page layout on Viovio's website, they're already completed in Photoshop when uploaded (like Jason did with his Baby Book). However, just asking Viovio to put together a photo book from my completed pages was a challenge the first few times. They have recently updated their software to make the process easier since I last used them. I would still strongly recommend reading through the instructions before creating a photo book.

-pay attention to the page size that needs to be uploaded. For example if I want an 11 x 8 photo book, Viovio's website will tell me to create 11.35 x 8.25 pages in Photoshop. Their printing process crops 1/4 inch off the page, so you need to be carefull about having information too close to the edge of the page.


Jason, thank you for documenting your experiences with these photo book companies. Based on reading your comparisons, I'm going to try Adoramapix next. I love the pages laying flat. The best recommendation a company could get is when you said in the video that Adoramapix is the book people kept going back to again and again.

Jason Dunn
08-21-2010, 12:19 AM
First of all, I want to thank you and commend you for your outstanding efforts! Although I wanted to read every word, I admit that I skipped the reviews with poorer ratings

You're welcome, and no worries on skipping parts - I have no expectations that anyone would read ALL of it, though apparently more than a few people have. :)

I noticed that you didn't really comment much about that in your review. I want to be able to change the backrounds, the photo sizes, orientations and add comments or maybe occasional outside maps etc on different parts of the page. Simple requests, but somehow I don't think this can be done with MyPublisher!

Correct - since I created my layouts entirely in FotoFusion, I didn't spent much time exploring the layout options, though I did try to mention which ones give you lots of backgrounds, etc. It varies from provider to provider, though some are clearly better than others. Several use the same software - MPIX, Photobook Canada, Treasure-Book, etc. Ultimately, for me, FotoFusion is the best way to create the book I want.

Also, there were two other programs I am interested in and would appreciate your comments or other reviewers comments. I am a MAC user. Aperture (MAC), Lumapix. This is a pay program but there is a less expensive $39 versions.

Unfortunately you're out of luck there - FotoFusion from Lumaxpi is Windows-only, so unless you want to use Boot Camp or a virtual machine (Parallels, etc.), you can't use FotoFusion. Aperture is a raw photo editing program, not a page layout program, so I don't think that would be a good solution for you either. Ideally, if you want ultimate control over your page layouts, you'll want to get some sort of graphics program that will allow you to assemble the pages from scratch the way you want - but that also means it's a lot more work.

Jason Dunn
08-21-2010, 12:46 AM
I have worked hard to build some photo books with a regular image editor, and then saved the pictures as jpg with the highest possible quality, but the result I got from Photobook Canada was very disappointing: the print quality is soooo bad compared to a photo print (may be I did not choose the ultimate quality options).

That's quite surprising to me, because Photobook Canada has excellent print and paper quality - some of the best I've ever seen. I used them for another project and was thrilled with the results. When you talk about the poor quality result, what do you mean exactly? The clarity of the images? Are you seeing pixellation problems?

Building page layouts in an external graphics program requires very specific knowledge of DPI/PPI and how to create the pages; let's say you created page for an 11 inch by 11 inch book from Photobook Canada. It needs to be 300 dpi minimum, so you'd need a 3300 pixel by 3300 pixel file to start with - an 11 megapixel image. If you created something smaller than that (relative to whatever book size you selected), the images would have to be interpolated upward, which results in a loss in quality.

It's pretty technical stuff that I don't recommend for just anyone to do, but if you can give me some details about the exact resolution of the images you created, I can try to tell you what went wrong - but I can say that I really doubt it's Photobook Canada. :) Did they tell you what was wrong when you complained about the quality? You can even upload one of your pages using a free image upload service and send me the URL via a private message...

If I read correctly, the best quality print books are from Inkubook, AdoramaPix, Kodak, Mypublisher, mpix. How would you rate them compared to a photo print ? Which one gives the best photo quality (if you do not take into account the cover, the 50-page limit, price, etc.)?

Lots of variables here - are you thinking of a photo print on the typical high-gloss paper? Most photo book companies don't use paper that's quite that glossy, so it will look a bit different no matter what you do. MPIX is a great choice from a quality perspective, but again I'd caution you that I think there's something wrong with your source images if Photobook Canada didn't create a great looking book for you.

Jason Dunn
08-21-2010, 12:59 AM
I've made around 20 photo books using Viovio.

Viovio is on my list of future companies to try, so hopefully I'll get around to making a book with them. 20 books is a lot! :) Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts about Viovio here - that's very helpful.

Jason, thank you for documenting your experiences with these photo book companies. Based on reading your comparisons, I'm going to try Adoramapix next. I love the pages laying flat. The best recommendation a company could get is when you said in the video that Adoramapix is the book people kept going back to again and again.

Yeah, the AdoramaPix book really stood out; the cover is sort of "shimmery" and the lay-flat pages are unique at that price point. Let me know what you think of them!

leobeach
08-23-2010, 02:34 PM
That's quite surprising to me, because Photobook Canada has excellent print and paper quality - some of the best I've ever seen. I used them for another project and was thrilled with the results. When you talk about the poor quality result, what do you mean exactly? The clarity of the images? Are you seeing pixellation problems?


I cannot really explain, it's like if I had sent a very low quality photo. I'll try to scan a page to show you.
The jpg pictures I sent were 3740x2880 pixel (325 dpi). I know the original photos are not top quality (taken from a 3M pixel minolta from 2004), and I display 4 of them on a typical page. When I have them printed, the result is amazing: colours, sharpness, etc. (I even had some photo printed on a 8x10 photo paper and the result was good.), but on a photobook it's so "insipid". Maybe I did not choosed the correct options when creating the photobook (I only paid 50$CAD for 40 pages and that was last year).



Lots of variables here - are you thinking of a photo print on the typical high-gloss paper? Most photo book companies don't use paper that's quite that glossy, so it will look a bit different no matter what you do. MPIX is a great choice from a quality perspective, but again I'd caution you that I think there's something wrong with your source images if Photobook Canada didn't create a great looking book for you.

I will give a try with Mpix, or try with those european companies that print on real photo paper (too bad they do not ship overseas) for only a few more dollars.


Thanks again for your advices.
Lionel

Jason Dunn
08-23-2010, 05:56 PM
I cannot really explain, it's like if I had sent a very low quality photo. I'll try to scan a page to show you. The jpg pictures I sent were 3740x2880 pixel (325 dpi). I know the original photos are not top quality (taken from a 3M pixel minolta from 2004), and I display 4 of them on a typical page. When I have them printed, the result is amazing: colours, sharpness, etc. (I even had some photo printed on a 8x10 photo paper and the result was good.), but on a photobook it's so "insipid". Maybe I did not choosed the correct options when creating the photobook (I only paid 50$CAD for 40 pages and that was last year).

It sounds like resolution isn't a problem; 325dpi is plenty. The 8x10 photos you had printed, did you print those yourself at home? Or send them to a photo printing service? Most photo printing services do image optimization to adjust for brightness, contrast, etc. Photobook Canada doesn't do that - they print the images just as they are. So I wonder if that's a possible difference?

And because paper lacks built-in luminance like your LCD monitor has, they'll always look darker and a bit "flat". You typically need to edit your photos to look a bit too bright on the screen in order for them to look OK on the photo page. I have a friend who, when he's editing photos for use in a photo book, he'll turn his monitor brightness down to almost zero. Bottom line? It can be surprisingly hard to get great looking images printed on the page without some technical knowledge.

leobeach
08-23-2010, 07:36 PM
It sounds like resolution isn't a problem; 325dpi is plenty. The 8x10 photos you had printed, did you print those yourself at home? Or send them to a photo printing service? Most photo printing services do image optimization to adjust for brightness, contrast, etc. Photobook Canada doesn't do that - they print the images just as they are. So I wonder if that's a possible difference?

Yes, that was a photo printing service.

And because paper lacks built-in luminance like your LCD monitor has, they'll always look darker and a bit "flat". You typically need to edit your photos to look a bit too bright on the screen in order for them to look OK on the photo page. I have a friend who, when he's editing photos for use in a photo book, he'll turn his monitor brightness down to almost zero. Bottom line? It can be surprisingly hard to get great looking images printed on the page without some technical knowledge.

The photobook indeed looked darker. Next time I will try to increase the brightness. Thanks again.

Jason Dunn
08-23-2010, 07:54 PM
The photobook indeed looked darker. Next time I will try to increase the brightness. Thanks again.

If you can, try increasing the shadow/fill light value - that tends to help the image overall more than a pure brightness increase.

leobeach
08-24-2010, 02:21 PM
If you can, try increasing the shadow/fill light value - that tends to help the image overall more than a pure brightness increase.

I tried to scan the photobook but it does not give any result. Anyway, I will try to work again on my pictures and give another try.

Thanks,
Lionel

yanagapa
08-26-2010, 07:28 PM
Hi Jason,

I'm in Canada, and am trying to get a book made up by adoramapix but they tell me that they will not ship to Canada. How did you get your book? Also, would you mind sharing the method of shipping as well as any brokerage fees and duties? I know the tax part 13% HST for Ontario, but it's frustrating after spending so much time making the book only to find them so hesitant to send me my book.

Jason Dunn
08-27-2010, 12:20 AM
I'm in Canada, and am trying to get a book made up by adoramapix but they tell me that they will not ship to Canada. How did you get your book?

This is going to sound incredibly ridiculous, because it is, but since you're not the first person to ask me about this, I asked my contact at AdoramaPix about this. She told me that their official policy is that if an order is placed with shipping to Canada, they'll ship it, because their system supports it (I just double-checked, and it does). However, if you ask if they ship to Canada, they'll tell you no, they don't. Which isn't true. :confused:

Apparently they are "not looking for that business". I personally find this whole thing quite ridiculous - I'll update the AdoramaPix section on the Web site so people outside the USA don't have to go through the same confusion you did.

Also, would you mind sharing the method of shipping as well as any brokerage fees and duties? I know the tax part 13% HST for Ontario, but it's frustrating after spending so much time making the book only to find them so hesitant to send me my book.

They only offer one method of shipping to Canada: $24.95 for shipping via the US postal service. Because it's US mail rather than a courier company, you won't have to deal with brokerage fees, etc. Remember that I didn't pay for my book, or shipping, so I'm just giving you my best guess here. :)

yanagapa
08-28-2010, 06:41 PM
I was a little more than annoyed when they said they wouldn't ship my book after I spent some good time creating it. After a while, I just went online and ordered it to see what would happen, they accepted my order. I then phoned in and they conformed that my order was accepted and indeed they would ship it to me at your stated 24.95 international shipping to Canada. When I asked why I was given conflicting info on orders shipped to Canada they just stated that it's store policy not to ship internationally but they will if it's ordered online. Sounds like a lousy policy, they should either do or don't straight across the board.

I brought it to the attention of someone who may be able to correct the website problem and allow Canadians to select a province. She's also going to look into why on the phone they say no but if you order it online they'll send it. Not a great way to run a company when people have so much choice out there. But it does look like they have a great product!

Jason Dunn
08-31-2010, 07:06 PM
I was a little more than annoyed when they said they wouldn't ship my book after I spent some good time creating it. After a while, I just went online and ordered it to see what would happen, they accepted my order. I then phoned in and they conformed that my order was accepted and indeed they would ship it to me at your stated 24.95 international shipping to Canada.

I'm glad you were able to get it ordered; AdoramaPix is really being ridiculous with this policy of theirs, so I hope they change it. I've updated the AdoramaPix section on my Web site to clarify this muddy situation.

Zaara
08-31-2010, 07:21 PM
Thank you for such a detailed review. I stumbled upon this just after printing my first book from Adoramapix (we're currently waiting for the delivery) & I'm glad that in retrospect I made a good choice (the main selling points for us was that my father's a keen amateur photographer & was familiar with Adorama's store & we wanted a flat book).

A few comments - spine printing shows up as a default option if you pick one of the "pre-designed" book templates. We chose an wedding book format for my parents anniversary party pictures which had a default "Bride & Groom" & "Date" on the spine & cover in matching fonts (the text box can be deleted if you don't want this). Also one thing we really liked is that Adorama provides 3G of free archival storage of our images (I'm a mac user - the Adorama site worked well even on my ancient laptop, & I didn't have the uploading issues you describe) and they offer the ability to permit others to view the images, print from Adorama & even download the original files if authorized by us. We liked this so our guests had the option to order individual pictures for themselves in whatever size they wanted without us having to manage sending prints or files to them.

We didn't order professional books from our event photographer due to the expense at the time, but my parents thrilled that these kind of options exist at much more reasonable cost and that they had the ability to work with me to personally select the pictures that meant the most to them. Its a different kind of experience to simply order a book versus being actively involved as a family in its creation, and I think they are much more excited to receive it as a result. We'll see if it meets their expectations!

Jason Dunn
09-02-2010, 04:17 AM
Thanks so much for stopping by to share your thoughts!

A few comments - spine printing shows up as a default option if you pick one of the "pre-designed" book templates. We chose an wedding book format for my parents anniversary party pictures which had a default "Bride & Groom" & "Date" on the spine & cover in matching fonts (the text box can be deleted if you don't want this).

Interesting! That's good to know, but I think it's a failure on the part of AdoramaPix to now put a default "Your Text Here" on the spine so we know what's possible. There's no way for me to know that unless they do (or I've previously been told).

Also one thing we really liked is that Adorama provides 3G of free archival storage of our images (I'm a mac user - the Adorama site worked well even on my ancient laptop, & I didn't have the uploading issues you describe) and they offer the ability to permit others to view the images, print from Adorama & even download the original files if authorized by us.

That's a neat feature! I didn't run across that feature, largely because I have my own methods of sharing photos with others, but I'm glad you found that useful.

Its a different kind of experience to simply order a book versus being actively involved as a family in its creation, and I think they are much more excited to receive it as a result. We'll see if it meets their expectations!

I can imagine! I haven't had the opportunity to do that yet, but it sounds like a good family bonding experience. :)

fpy
09-09-2010, 07:34 AM
Hello Jason,

Thank you for the great review. I cannot even imagine the time it took you to prepare all the books in the different formats and then to analyze them so meticulously. I am impressed.
I have a few questions.

In your original review both you and the Grandma's liked the AdoramaPix book. Why then did you choose to print your new book with Photobook Canada? Was it the page limitation factor? Did you think about having it printed at MyPublisher which now does have image wrap books?

Have you heard of Pikto? It is based out of Toronto. I think they may have a lay flat binding option.
With Photobook Canada there are 3 books I may be interested in - the Large Square - 11" x 11" Imagewrap Hardbook (40 pages from$110.00cdn), the Guest Book Square - 12"x 12" (40 pages from$110.00cdn) and the Archive Book - 8" x 10" (80 pages from$100.00cdn). Other than the size what is the difference between these? The descriptions seem to be the same (Matte laminated finish on hardcover, 170 gsm Premium Silk Paper (can upgrade to 216 gsm Premium Gloss), 300pp max, side stitched with reinforced spine, 4 or 6 colours Digital Offset). I presume your Japan book is the Large Square - 11" x 11"? You said you would have preferred a 12x12" book so why did you not go with the Guest Book?

I do like the idea of a lay flat binding. Smilebooks has this option. A 12x12" Deluxe Photo Book starting at $79.95USD for a 26 page book. They use silver halide photo paper for this specific type of book. Have you any information on the quality of this product?

I have made a number of photo books in the past (last one was in 2007 and printed through Future Shop which no longer offers this service but now prints via Kodak Gallery Canada). At the time as a new digital scrap booker, I was pleased with the outcomes but I am now interested in much higher quality final product. I have become much more picky (or detail oriented), hence the reason I have not printed anything for a while - I have been waiting for exceptional quality at an affordable price.

Basically, I am gearing up to make some photo books. They will be done in Photoshop CS5 and uploaded as full pages with full bleed - most likely as tiffs or jpegs. I do not need any of the company specific software or templates. I do my pages from scratch. I need to pick the printing company first so I can make my pages the correct size right from the beginning. Digital scrapbook supplies are traditionally 12x12" (300dpi, 3600x3600 ) or at times 8x10" (also 300dpi).These can be easily manipulated to other sizes if needed. I like the lay-flat binding but it is not absolutely critical. I would like a book the feels and looks professional. It is hard to pick something from the web rather than going to a shop and holding the product (I have done this at every photofinisher in Calgary and not been impressed - Black's, Costco, London Drugs, etc. even tried Walmart).



After so much hard work (takes me an average of 3 hours per page) the mystery as to the quality of the final product has prevented me from pursuing my hobby for the last 3 years (well not entirely - I have amassed almost 2 terabytes of digital scrapbooking supplies but now I have to stop and actually start an actual project). I would really appreciate your opinion on what my best choices are.


I really liked Logan’s book. You did a great job. When he is older this will be something he will look at for hours. I am sure your wife and family were also impressed by your book. Your hard work has paid off.

Thank You,
Fiona

caribbeansun
09-11-2010, 06:24 PM
Oh oh!

Based on your excellent review I downloaded the Photobook Canada software and I'm about 95% of the way through building my first effort. It's a big book - I'm at 80+ pages at this point and likely to add another 10 or so. I decided on the 15x11 format but now I'm worried on two points.

First, I shot RAW and the images have a native resolution of 240ppi which equates to 15.2" x 11.4" and 3648x2736 pixels. I've converted all the images to jpg. After reviewing comments on other sites I thought this would be all right for printing but you seem to be suggesting otherwise - help!?!?:confused:

Brightness - this one is more of a concern. At 90 or so pages I'm not keen on dropping $100+ to get dark images. Reconverting some 200+ images at this point is well daunting to say the least BUT if I have to then I have to. At least the layout is done and it's "just" a matter of refreshing the images. Of course increasing the brightness could and likely will result in adding noise to the images.:(

I did read PC's FAQ and their info on printing profiles and calibration which was frankly useless to me as I'm not a printer so it just left more questions than providing answers.

If you or any of the other readers here can offer some guidance I'd greatly appreciate it before starting down this path of editing such a huge number of photos.

Thanks in advance.

It sounds like resolution isn't a problem; 325dpi is plenty. The 8x10 photos you had printed, did you print those yourself at home? Or send them to a photo printing service? Most photo printing services do image optimization to adjust for brightness, contrast, etc. Photobook Canada doesn't do that - they print the images just as they are. So I wonder if that's a possible difference?

And because paper lacks built-in luminance like your LCD monitor has, they'll always look darker and a bit "flat". You typically need to edit your photos to look a bit too bright on the screen in order for them to look OK on the photo page. I have a friend who, when he's editing photos for use in a photo book, he'll turn his monitor brightness down to almost zero. Bottom line? It can be surprisingly hard to get great looking images printed on the page without some technical knowledge.

Zaara
09-22-2010, 07:15 PM
Hi, Jason!

Our Adorama book came & my parents are very happy with it. I haven't seen it yet, but they tell me it turned out very nicely. They really like the quality of the paper & photos & the lay flat pages - we put in a couple of photos across two pages of the musicians who played at their party & they came out very well.

They had two minor nitpicks - one, since they plan to take the book with them on a trip to show our elderly relatives the photos, they really want a gift box in which to store the book safely. Hopefully, Adorama will add this option soon (they say they are working on it). The other was that my mother was shocked by the level of detail in the hi res photos we used that showed up in the printing but not in our small monitors (she's complaining about her wrinkles showing!). That's something I need to learn about (its not really Adorama's fault!). If you could point me to any information on image resolution & what that means in terms of print quality & detail I'd be very grateful.

Given the relative ease of designing the book using Adorama's site & the reasonable cost I can see using their service again & certainly wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to others.

Jason Dunn
09-29-2010, 05:38 AM
Thank you for the great review. I cannot even imagine the time it took you to prepare all the books in the different formats and then to analyze them so meticulously. I am impressed.

Thank you. I'm glad you appreciate the work that went into the review. It was...difficult. :)

In your original review both you and the Grandma's liked the AdoramaPix book. Why then did you choose to print your new book with Photobook Canada? Was it the page limitation factor? Did you think about having it printed at MyPublisher which now does have image wrap books?

A couple of reasons. First, when I started working on it, I didn't want to have an artificial page limit and this was before I'd heard about them going past 50 pages. I didn't know for sure how long the book was going to be when I started, but I really dislike the idea of having to restrict myself right from the start. It might be OK for some projects, but not for this one (here's the review (http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/99951/photobook-canada-s-big-and-bold-square-photo-book-some-strategy-required-for-success.html) - did you see it?). Also, I really like the printing quality and paper of Photobook Canada. The AdoramaPix book is great, but in a different way...between the two, I prefer Photobook Canada.

Have you heard of Pikto? It is based out of Toronto. I think they may have a lay flat binding option.

No, I haven't. I just took a look, and they seem to be going after the fine art book builders; I focused solely on consumer-focused services (though MPix is more pro-focused than consumer-focused). The review would have been even harder if I brought fine art book printers into the picture.

I presume your Japan book is the Large Square - 11" x 11"? You said you would have preferred a 12x12" book so why did you not go with the Guest Book?

OK, I guess you have read that review. :) I'm looking at the software right now, and they don't list 12" x 12" as an option for the ImageWrap cover. The next size up is 12" x 14" and 15" x 11". I see the 12" by 12" Guest Book, and it says it has an ImageWrap cover, but it also says it uses matte textured paper "perfect for written messages"...so it doesn't sound like it's a photo book.

I do like the idea of a lay flat binding. Smilebooks has this option. A 12x12" Deluxe Photo Book starting at $79.95USD for a 26 page book. They use silver halide photo paper for this specific type of book. Have you any information on the quality of this product?

No, Smilebooks isn't a company I've dealt with. There are literally hundreds of photo book making companies around the world; it was hard enough reviewing only 12 of them. :D I am, however, hoping to grow this review over time with other companies.

I have done this at every photofinisher in Calgary and not been impressed - Black's, Costco, London Drugs, etc. even tried Walmart).

You're in Calgary? So am I! Small world. :)

I really liked Logan’s book. You did a great job. When he is older this will be something he will look at for hours. I am sure your wife and family were also impressed by your book. Your hard work has paid off.

Thanks! Yes, the goal was to create a family heirloom - something that Logan will treasure when he's older, show to his kids, etc. It was a lot of work, but absolutely worth it. My wife was blown away by it, as were all our relatives and friends. Logan is the only one who just didn't seem to appreciate it yet, but he will. :D

Jason Dunn
09-29-2010, 05:44 AM
First, I shot RAW and the images have a native resolution of 240ppi which equates to 15.2" x 11.4" and 3648x2736 pixels. I've converted all the images to jpg. After reviewing comments on other sites I thought this would be all right for printing but you seem to be suggesting otherwise - help!?!?

240ppi should be just fine - I've printed my 12 megapixel images at 16" x 20" and I can't see any pixellation. Don't sweat it. :)

Brightness - this one is more of a concern. At 90 or so pages I'm not keen on dropping $100+ to get dark images. Reconverting some 200+ images at this point is well daunting to say the least BUT if I have to then I have to. At least the layout is done and it's "just" a matter of refreshing the images.

This one is pretty much impossible to answer without seeing the images - brightness is a highly subjective concept; what's dark to one person is just right to another person. What's bright to one person is considered to have blown highlights to another person. You sound fairly knowledgeable, so I'd suggest taking some of those images, and building the smallest, cheapest book you can with Photobook Canada - use the 45% discount coupon in the review. If you can spend $20 or $30 just to see how your images will turn out, I'd say it's worth it for peace of mind. My 2 cents. ;)

Jason Dunn
09-29-2010, 06:02 AM
They had two minor nitpicks - one, since they plan to take the book with them on a trip to show our elderly relatives the photos, they really want a gift box in which to store the book safely. Hopefully, Adorama will add this option soon (they say they are working on it).

Yes, it's a bit surprising that most photo book companies don't include a box or envelope/sleeve of some sort. I was shocked when I reviewed a high-end $500+ book from Picaboo (http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/100402/photo-book-luxury-picaboo-s-ranch-style-book-reviewed.html) and it came in BUBBLE WRAP. No box!

The other was that my mother was shocked by the level of detail in the hi res photos we used that showed up in the printing but not in our small monitors (she's complaining about her wrinkles showing!). That's something I need to learn about (its not really Adorama's fault!). If you could point me to any information on image resolution & what that means in terms of print quality & detail I'd be very grateful.

This is kind of complex...if you print an 8.5" x 11" book, and you're looking at a landscape image at 11" in size on your screen, the monitor is displaying it at 96ppi - but the book will print at 300dpi. Meaning that on the printed page, you'll be seeing basically 3x the level of detail as on your monitor...but if you're looking at images in full-screen mode on, say, a 19" monitor (I'm not sure how "small" you consider small), the detail you see will likely be close to what you'll get on the page, assuming you're printing a large book and the image is a close up on a full-page print.

What it sounds like you're talking about is wanting to edit your images to preserve the...err...ego/vanity of your subject (I can't think of any other way to put it!)...and that's not something I have any experience doing. Beyond getting rid of red eye and the occasional blemish, I don't edit my photos with an eye to distorting reality and making people look younger/thinner/better than they really do.

There's no shortage of tools out there to do that though; Portrait Professional (http://www.portraitprofessional.com/) is one I see advertised in Popular Photography all the time. I've never used it, but it seems popular and the basic version is $49. Maybe your mom should buy it for you. :D

I hope that's somewhat helpful. :)

Melissa B
10-05-2010, 06:59 PM
Hi Jason,

Your review was very interesting, and I'm one of those who read the whole thing. I especially liked the video so I could see the final version and have you walk through it, it was super helpful.

I've been wanting to make some photobooks for a long time, but I haven't had too much luck. I found a company, smilebooks, whose program was fantastic, with lots of options for layouts and backgrounds, as well as the option to move things around and manipulate the templates, to give them a more personal feel. After hours, I went to order, only to realize that they don't ship to Canada at all (my fault for not looking into that sooner). Now my problem is that I can't seem to find a program that has all the options as smilebooks. I've been thinking of purchasing a layout programs, and was wondering what your thoughts are.

I have a mac, so I guess my options are more limited than on a PC. I know you review Fotofusion, but that's only for PC, correct? Since you have your mac now, what program are you using for it to create page layouts? I'm not an expert at technology, but I can manage quite well and learn quickly.

Some people have suggested Apple's Pages software, and I've been looking into it, but I can't tell if you can save the files as jpegs or not (which is what would be used in most photobooks companies). I'm thinking of using Adoramapix, as I'm very interested in the layflat option. My memory is bad, were there other companies offering the layflat option too?

Thanks again for all your hard work, it is most wonderfully appreciated!
Melissa

Jason Dunn
10-06-2010, 12:50 AM
Your review was very interesting, and I'm one of those who read the whole thing. I especially liked the video so I could see the final version and have you walk through it, it was super helpful.

I'm glad you found the review helpful, along with the videos. I tried to be as comprehensive as I could. :)

I've been wanting to make some photobooks for a long time, but I haven't had too much luck. I found a company, smilebooks, whose program was fantastic, with lots of options for layouts and backgrounds, as well as the option to move things around and manipulate the templates, to give them a more personal feel. After hours, I went to order, only to realize that they don't ship to Canada at all (my fault for not looking into that sooner). Now my problem is that I can't seem to find a program that has all the options as smilebooks.

You could always use a service like this if you really want to use Smilebooks:

https://www.borderlinx.com/m/

I'm not very familiar with Smilebooks, but if sounds sort of scrapbookie, so you might want to try www.scrapblog.com - they ship to Canada. I haven't used them for a book yet, just greeting cards. I really like their browser-based system, it's slick.

I have a mac, so I guess my options are more limited than on a PC. I know you review Fotofusion, but that's only for PC, correct? Since you have your mac now, what program are you using for it to create page layouts?

Yeah, FotoFusion is PC-only. I'm not using anything on my Mac right now - in fact, I'm barely using my Mac at all. I'm not very impressed with OS X to be honest...it's pretty hardware, but I'm just not using it very much.


Some people have suggested Apple's Pages software, and I've been looking into it, but I can't tell if you can save the files as jpegs or not (which is what would be used in most photobooks companies). I'm thinking of using Adoramapix, as I'm very interested in the layflat option. My memory is bad, were there other companies offering the layflat option too?

I'm not sure about that either; I don't use Pages, but I doubt it would be a good solution - you'd have to ask around though on that point. AdoramaPix is the only one doing the lay-flat pages right now at a reasonable cost; Picaboo does it as well, but it's only on their very expensive books. AdoramaPix will will SAY they don't ship to Canada if you ask, but they will in fact do so. It's really stupid. :rolleyes:

Anyway, I hope this helped. :)

kcahill
10-25-2010, 08:25 PM
Hi Jason,

I'm just curious - when ordering from Adoramapix (as a fellow Canadian) if I were to order 2-3 books would I be charged $25 PER Book, or for the total order?

Thanks! Incredible review by the way :)

K

Jason Dunn
10-28-2010, 12:54 AM
I'm just curious - when ordering from Adoramapix (as a fellow Canadian) if I were to order 2-3 books would I be charged $25 PER Book, or for the total order? Thanks! Incredible review by the way :)

Glad you liked the review! As for the ordering question, I'm afraid I have no idea - but I've just gone and found out for you. One book is $25. When I change my order to three books, it's $26.95 for shipping. So there's your answer...

shaneb
10-31-2010, 10:51 AM
Thank you for taking the time to do this comprehensive 12-way review. A couple of thoughts:

1) I'd considered doing something similar long ago, but I was concerned that contacting the printing companies in advance and asking for a free book would have the same potential issues as a food reviewer warning the restaurant in advance that he/she was coming. My concern was that the printers would devote extra attention to my "freebie" order knowing that it would be used for a comparative review. Based on the results of your research, it appears that this was not the case -- with many of the companies, at least. :) Do you think that any of your books are the result of "special treatment" because the printers knew you were doing a review?

2) Historically, I have tended to go with the lowest-priced option. This has had mixed results. Shutterfly tends to have good discounts (freebies, even) on their 8x8 20-page books, so I've gotten several of those, and the quality has been great. Photoworks also offered a freebie last year, and its quality was good, but both grandmothers agree that the Shutterfly books seemed more professional. Winkflash has periodically offered a flat-rate deal -- $20 for an 8x10 photo book in any size up to 100 pages (guess which size I got?) :) Their paper feels thinner, the photos don't "pop", the covers are generic, but they're hard to beat for price. I put together a book with 100 8x10 photos of our kid, mostly head shots. It's pretty eye-catching. Groupon (a website that offers 1 discount gift certificate a day for a business in your area) offered a great discount on books from A&I...a California-based business that is positioning itself as a small biz run by photographers/enthusiasts that prints its books in-house, guaranteeing higher quality. I bought the gift certificate, so now I'm committed. We'll see how their quality compares. Groupon is currently offering $100 in printing from Picaboo for $35...I almost bought the certificate, but I thought I'd google "Picaboo review"...and voila! I found your writeup, so I think now I'll take a pass on the Picaboo offer.

The more I think about it, the more I realize I shouldn't be too crazy about finding the lowest price. As you know, assembling a quality photo book can take hours and hours and hours...and what's your time worth? If the best printer's book costs an extra $20 over the cheaper option, that's a tiny price to pay for a book that takes hours to create and will be enjoyed for years.

Thank you very much for taking the time to do the writeup; a side-by-side comparison is much better than the scattershot reviews I see online that compare just one or two printers. I'm looking forward to v2 that features all of those "hundreds" of other photo book printers you mention..... :)

LauraFoy84
11-01-2010, 06:22 PM
Hi Jason, thanks so much for all the time and effort you put into this review. I came across it when I was searching for an alternative to MyPublisher. Like a previous poster, I especially enjoyed the video summaries you did, those really added to the review.

I've just placed an order with MyPublisher and during the checkout process I was offered the option of choosing a lay flat binding at a special introductory price of $25 for the classic book or $50 for the deluxe book. Offer here (https://commerce.mypublisher.com/media/img/common_new/LayFlatLearnMore.jpg) if you want to check it out.

I'm currently in the process of building a new book using the FotoFusion software for the first time. I really liked how customized you were able to make yours. I plan on having it printed with Photobook Canada, so I'll be able to make my own comparison of print quality. I'm also taking into account shipping costs and 'deals' like the buy one, get one free offer I just took advantage of on MyPublisher. Looking forward to receiving my finished products!

PT789
11-04-2010, 11:18 AM
Don't know how to say thank you enough, I had just received my first book from Blurb and I am satisfied with the result, but living here in Thailand my options were rather limited.

Just by coincidence found 'PhotobookThailand' (of the Photobookworldwide gang) this very afternoon, so I was searching for someone who has used their service just to get a real hand on experience, then I found your wonderful article... PERFECT!!!

One of the most important key for me is the software, so that part of your review was brilliant :D Among the other criteria (apart from the software) I have decided to give Photobook Thailand a try, lets hope they have the same quality worldwide.

Many, many thanks once again for your hard work :)

LuckyMeg
11-05-2010, 07:24 PM
How much I appreciate and needed your review. I just create a 100 page heritage album of my parents' lives using Creative Memories software, using photos scanned from as far back as the 1800s and I really needed to research who made the best photo books.

The only two companies I wanted also to research were Viovio and Mixbook, but you've given me a great start!

Jason Dunn
11-05-2010, 10:58 PM
1) I'd considered doing something similar long ago, but I was concerned that contacting the printing companies in advance and asking for a free book would have the same potential issues as a food reviewer warning the restaurant in advance that he/she was coming...Do you think that any of your books are the result of "special treatment" because the printers knew you were doing a review?

If I was independently wealthy, yes, I'd have preferred to do the test completely blind - ordering every book as if I were just another end customer (like I did with Picaboo). I'm not, however, and the $1400+ it would have cost me to do that didn't fit in my 2010 fiscal year budget. ;)

As you can tell by some of the flubs in the books that I was sent, I think it's fair to say I wasn't given any special treatment ;) - if I were Engadget or Lifehacker or Walt Mossberg, I'd probably have been given special treatment. I'm not that important, so I think these companies gave me the same treatment as a regular customer. What they didn't know, of course, is that this review would become likely what is the single most popular photo book review of this type online. I just checked my stats, and my review has been read over 250,000 times. :D

2) Historically, I have tended to go with the lowest-priced option. This has had mixed results...The more I think about it, the more I realize I shouldn't be too crazy about finding the lowest price. As you know, assembling a quality photo book can take hours and hours and hours...and what's your time worth? If the best printer's book costs an extra $20 over the cheaper option, that's a tiny price to pay for a book that takes hours to create and will be enjoyed for years.

Indeed! :) I think going the cheapest route makes sense when you're doing multiples of the same book - giving everyone in the family a copy for instance - but if you're only doing one or two, I think going for the highest quality possible (within reason of course) is advisable. Like you said, it's going to be a keepsake for years to come, so don't cut corners.

Thank you very much for taking the time to do the writeup; a side-by-side comparison is much better than the scattershot reviews I see online that compare just one or two printers. I'm looking forward to v2 that features all of those "hundreds" of other photo book printers you mention..... :)

You're quite welcome...as for the v2, well, I'm going to add to this slowly, but have no plans for a v2 that would be similar in scope. That would be a little...much. :eek: :D

Jason Dunn
11-05-2010, 11:04 PM
I feel a twinge of embarrassment in posting this :o but, if anyone wants to show their appreciation in a tangible way for this review I've put together (and keep updating), here's an easy way to do that (https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_donations&business=A52V5JQAWWZ8N&lc=CA&item_name=Photo%20Book%20Review%20by%20Jason%20Dunn&currency_code=USD&bn=PP-DonationsBF:btn_donateCC_LG.gif:NonHosted). :) I really appreciate the compliments and emails I get, but wanted to offer this as a completely optional alternative for anyone that feels like this article saved them money, time, effort, or sanity. :D

Jason Dunn
11-05-2010, 11:13 PM
Hi Jason, thanks so much for all the time and effort you put into this review. I came across it when I was searching for an alternative to MyPublisher. Like a previous poster, I especially enjoyed the video summaries you did, those really added to the review.

You're quite welcome - I'm glad you liked the article, and the videos. It's funny, I had someone criticize me for posting the videos - because watching all of them would take about an hour - but they're, of course, completely optional and just add another angle for learning about the final product. I'm glad you appreciated them. :)

I've just placed an order with MyPublisher and during the checkout process I was offered the option of choosing a lay flat binding at a special introductory price of $25 for the classic book or $50 for the deluxe book. Offer here (https://commerce.mypublisher.com/media/img/common_new/LayFlatLearnMore.jpg) if you want to check it out.

Wow, that's so cool! I didn't know they had that option - I un-subscribed from the My Publisher email updates because I found them far too frequent for my liking...it seemed like every week I was getting one or two emails from them. Really irritating. I'm *really* excited to see another publishing offering lay-flat pages though, so I'll have to contact them to check it out...

I'm currently in the process of building a new book using the FotoFusion software for the first time. I really liked how customized you were able to make yours. I plan on having it printed with Photobook Canada, so I'll be able to make my own comparison of print quality. I'm also taking into account shipping costs and 'deals' like the buy one, get one free offer I just took advantage of on MyPublisher. Looking forward to receiving my finished products!

Sounds great - please come back here and post about your experiences and impressions of the products. In particular, let me know if your Photobook Canada book has any problems with the alignment of the cover. ;)

Jason Dunn
11-05-2010, 11:21 PM
Don't know how to say thank you enough, I had just received my first book from Blurb and I am satisfied with the result, but living here in Thailand my options were rather limited....Just by coincidence found 'PhotobookThailand' (of the Photobookworldwide gang) this very afternoon, so I was searching for someone who has used their service just to get a real hand on experience, then I found your wonderful article... PERFECT!!!

You're quite welcome - I'm glad you found the review helpful. It's exciting to see people from all around the world commenting on how helpful they found it. I love Thailand - went there in 2006 - and hope to go back again some day. :D

Here's a newer review of a Photobook Canada book (http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/99951/photobook-canada-s-big-and-bold-square-photo-book-some-strategy-required-for-success.html) as well...

Jason Dunn
11-05-2010, 11:39 PM
Glad you liked the review!

The only two companies I wanted also to research were Viovio and Mixbook, but you've given me a great start!

Both companies are on my list of places to check out next - Viovio in particular has contacted me several times, eager to get into the review, so they're at the top of my list. No ETA on when that will be, but hopefully by the spring at the latest...

Jason Dunn
11-24-2010, 01:58 AM
Hey everyone - since creating this article earlier this year, I've gone out and purchased a Mac Mini. Using iPhoto '11, I've created the original baby book project, and I contacted Apple to ask for their involvement in this review based on the demand from readers (iPhoto was easily the #1 requested photo book company). Over the course of about six weeks, I emailed Apple's PR department three times, and left one voicemail with them. They never returned any of my emails or my phone call. There's nothing quite like being ignored. :rolleyes:

Anyway, it will cost me $78.58 CAD to get the iPhoto book printed - it's 60 pages long, and the only option available right now is a dust jacket because Apple thinks that only people who spend $199 on Aperture deserve a photowrap cover (http://www.apple.com/aperture/resources/print-products.html). The book itself is $69.59 and the shipping is $8.99.

Here's the problem: I refuse to give Apple $78.58 of my own money to include them in this review. Every other photo book company gladly offered me a free copy of my book to be included in this review, and I will not pay out of my own pocket to include Apple in this review. It just doesn't feel right to treat Apple as being "special" compared to the other photo book companies.

So if anyone reading this would like to see the iPhoto book included in this round up, please donate some money (https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_donations&business=A52V5JQAWWZ8N&lc=CA&item_name=Photo%20Book%20Review%20by%20Jason%20Dunn&currency_code=USD&bn=PP-DonationsBF:btn_donateCC_LG.gif:NonHosted) ($5 minimum please) toward making this happen. Once I get the $80 I need to pay for the book, I'll edit this message and won't accept further donations for the iPhoto book. I'm simply looking to cover the cost of the book.

Thanks for your support!

mrkaplan
11-25-2010, 08:30 AM
hey awesome job on all those reviews! anychance you have reviewed lulu.com. i liked there layouts but was wondering on there picture quality? also was questioning how bad the photos would come out when the caution sign is displayed on screen. unfortunately most of the pics i have aren't tack sharp :( but curious if they will still come out somewhat decent

Jason Dunn
11-26-2010, 09:54 PM
hey awesome job on all those reviews! anychance you have reviewed lulu.com.

Nope, I didn't look at Lulu - they're a book printing service, not so much a photo book printing service...but maybe they produce great photo books, I have no idea. :)

anthony11
11-29-2010, 12:16 AM
Many thanks for your amazingly amazing review of photo book vendors. I'd spent time trying to synthesize a decision from various sources regarding one or two vendors, but your comprehensive, detailed, and insightful survey helped me pick Adoramapix with confidence for my brother-in-law's wedding book, which I'm currently authoring. A few notes:

o As of late November 2010, at least, the Name column resizes for me - this may be new since your experience. I get a very occasional warning sign, but those files succeed upon a retry. I transferred from local files only, no online gallery sites. Incrementally adding photos to a project after it's begun can experience some glitches in getting the new shots to show up, but doing everything from a single browser tab, rather than opening a second just to add photos, helps a bunch. I do wish that folder/gallery hierarchy were preserved when pasting photos into a project, as scrolling through 300+ shots in one merged scrollbar is awkward, especially when sorting is quirky. Had I exported from Lightroom with more metadata, sorting might be better.

o I'm a bit surprised at what you wrote regarding spine printing. I understand that you were creating your book on full manual, but for the purposes of a review for a wider audience I'm surprised that you apparently didn't check out the themed templates, which feature visible placeholders for spine text that are trivially filled in. It'd even be easy for someone like you wishing full-page layouts to start with the General -> Pre-Constructed layout which provides a full-bleed placeholder on every page, though unlike the themed templates the spine doesn't show example text.

Jason Dunn
11-30-2010, 05:01 AM
Glad you found the review useful. :)

I'm a bit surprised at what you wrote regarding spine printing. I understand that you were creating your book on full manual, but for the purposes of a review for a wider audience I'm surprised that you apparently didn't check out the themed templates, which feature visible placeholders for spine text that are trivially filled in.

I built that book about eight months ago, so I unfortunately don't remember the exact details. All I can say is that at the time I was building the book, whatever path I took didn't lead me to believe that spine text was a possibility - default text blocks are a key visual indicator to the user of what's possible, and I think AdoramaPix could have done a better job. Other book building software made it more obvious that I could do spine printing, and I think that matters.

caribbeansun
12-11-2010, 04:48 PM
I'm not the OP you replied to but thought I'd relay my experience with Photobook Canada.

Based on your review and the desire to have highest quality AND a preference to not have to deal with cross border issues PC was the choice for me.

The books were good, not excellent. Perhaps my expectations were too high...

What I observed:

1) Special ordering/delivery instructions - followed perfectly
2) Some images had a distinct lack of sharpness. I realized after the fact that I should have resharpened photos prior to upload so this is on me although I couldn't account for the difference in sharpening for identically PP'd images - don't know
3) Some images had unusual colour shifts again same PP with different outcomes. The results weren't horrible but were definitely noticeable to me, will those that receive the books for XMAS notice - I doubt it as I'm more OCD than many
4) B&W conversions came out much softer than colour images - I'm still puzzling over why that happened but might relate to the manner in which I did the conversions.
5) Cover image alignment - yup, it didn't work. Having read your review I was overly careful on this, going so far as to use a B&W with most of the border being black but there's a limit to what you can do and of course, Murphy's Law, the white ended up wrapping over the spine by a few cm so it looks a bit funny. Is it a big issue? No, not really.
6) Inside cover sheets messed me up - I wasn't expecting the extra blank pages on the inside and this resulted in a bit of an oddity for my first couple pages as I thought I was printing text on the inside front cover and the back of the first page - nope, ended up with a blank inside cover, blank front and back of the first "page" (it's not exactly a page - lighter weight so not entirely sure how to describe it) and then the printing. Lesson learned.
7) I printed a 15x11 landscaped book BTW.

All in all the results should be a hit with gift receivers (I HOPE) but not an entirely satisfying result for a project that took probably 40+ hours of work to organize and obsess over details and $400+ in costs.


Thanks again Jason for your hard work on the review and the follow up you've done on the forum.

Cheers!


Sounds great - please come back here and post about your experiences and impressions of the products. In particular, let me know if your Photobook Canada book has any problems with the alignment of the cover. ;)

LauraFoy84
12-14-2010, 03:45 AM
Sounds great - please come back here and post about your experiences and impressions of the products. In particular, let me know if your Photobook Canada book has any problems with the alignment of the cover. ;)

Hi Jason, I just received my order from Photobook Canada so I can finally offer my thoughts and comparison between them and MyPublisher. (This ended up being longer than I anticipated, but I was trying to be thorough)

I'll start with MyPublisher. I made two 8x10 landscape books with imagewrap covers using MyPublisher's software from start to finish. Their software is vastly improved from the last time I used it and they frequently put out updates. They have a great variety of layouts and now offer a lot more customization for the photo and text boxes.

I had my two books ready to go and I waited for a two-for-one offer to come up, which they do pretty often with MyPublisher. I submitted them for print and quickly received two e-mails back describing an error found in each book. It was the same type of error, a text box was apparently too small and cutting off a portion of text.

Big kudos to their quality control people for spotting this, but I can't imagine why their software didn't flag it in the first place. They suggested that in the future as a final check to go over the 'Bookshelf' version that you can upload because this will be a representation of exactly how it will look when printed.

I originally placed these orders on Nov 1st and even with the cancellation to correct the error I had the finished products in my hands on Nov 4th. I live in Canada so they also had to clear customs in that time.

The final product is great; it’s a nice thick paper with a matte finish inside and on the cover. Everything was well aligned and there were no major brightness or colour issues. I did find that any night time images though came up darker than I would have liked. Another issue, that’s sort of not really an issue, is if you get up really close to some images you can see printer lines. I only discovered this because I was looking at it with my glasses off the other night lol I noticed that this seemed to be especially true on smaller pictures. Any full page images were crystal clear.

Now here’s my biggest problem with using MyPublisher. The only available option for international customers is FedEx International Priority shipping at a whopping $19.98 per order. My books came in around the $45 mark, so this is sort of an outrageous mark-up. Making things worse is the invoice I received three weeks later from FedEx for an additional $14 on each order. This is because they fronted about $2.50 in HST for each order and then charged me $10 for that ‘service’ and then subsequently taxed that service charge.

I realize that this isn’t MyPublisher’s fault directly, but as far as I can tell other courier services just get COD for the taxes rather than charging a crazy service fee 5 times the value of the taxes. This is a major drawback for Canadian customers and I’ll definitely think twice before using their service again, solely because of the shipping issue.

Now on to Photobook Canada. As I mentioned in my last post I chose Photobook Canada after reading your review. I liked that I wouldn’t have to deal with customs and import fees as well. I made an 8x8 imagewrap hardcover book and I wanted two copies. I figured the boost to 40 pages as a base offer would offset the difference in base price (with MyPublisher offering only 20 pages). So I specifically designed this book with a 40 page limit in mind.

Like you, I used FotoFusion to build my pages and then loaded them into the Photobook software as full page images. I didn’t get too familiar with the Photobook software because of this, except for my experience designing the cover which I did in their program. Hands down I prefer MyPublisher’s software. As you pointed out, they use software common to a few companies which sort of says that the software isn’t a priority for them.

The ordering process was a bit confusing, with there being an online portion and then having to return to the program to upload everything. I took advantage of their 40% holiday offer. Not quite as good as MyPublisher’s two-for one, but pretty close. Each book came to about $50 after standard shipping, which on the whole came out to be cheaper than MyPublisher after the FedEx service charges.

Their communication wasn’t as good as MyPublisher, who periodically send out updates about your order status. I had to e-mail them and ask for an update because I couldn’t access my account on their website and nobody got back to me from their tech support department. The order was placed Nov 30th and I received them Dec 13th via UPS. Slower than MyPublisher to be sure, but I didn’t really need the books in 3 days anyway, just needed them in time for Christmas.

Given the issues you encountered, the first thing I noticed when I pulled them out of the bubble wrap was the spine printing. One book had nailed it spot on, but the other one had some of the cover image wrapped over into the spine. Also the barcode at the bottom right on the back cover wrapped over properly on the first book, but ended up on the edge of the second. I handed my mother the second book while I browsed through the first.

http://i1136.photobucket.com/albums/n488/LauraFoy84/covers.jpg

Even though I thought I had left a comfortable margin around the inside edges, keeping away from the ‘shaded’ portion they show in the software, I find that a lot of the images seemed to get sucked into the center. I also found that a lot of images printed darker than I’d expected. This is a bigger issue for this project because it included a lot of night time photos. It’s not so bad that I’d want a refund or reprint, but it’s darker than I’d have preferred.

http://i1136.photobucket.com/albums/n488/LauraFoy84/centerofpage.jpg

Aside from the brightness issue, the print quality is great. I haven’t had as much time with it as I have with the MyPublisher books, but I haven’t noticed any printer lines, even from super close up. I stuck with the standard paper quality. The pages are thinner than MyPublisher’s, but they don’t feel cheap or anything. They’ve got a nice silky feel to them.

Now for the problems. As I was gazing admiringly through my work, my mom said to me, “You used that same picture a third time?” Referring to my cover image that I’d used on an inside page as well, but not a third time. I looked over to see what she meant and I realized that somehow they had double printed all my pages. There’s a whole second copy of the pages tacked on after the first copy in just one of the books. Very strange. At least it was in the book with the poorly aligned cover, so they’ll get another shot at getting that right when they reprint it for me.

One good thing I should mention is that in the 80 page book, when you lay it down on the table because of the volume of pages, it almost lays flat on its own. This totally solves the center of the page problem I’d mentioned earlier. However also because of the volume of pages (I think) a couple of the pages are already coming unglued from the binding after only being flipped through a few times.

http://i1136.photobucket.com/albums/n488/LauraFoy84/binding.jpg

I e-mailed Photobook Canada right away to address the double printing issue. I haven’t heard back yet (it was just this afternoon), but based on your experience with them and reasonable customer service I’m assuming that they’ll reprint it properly for me. How they resolve this for me will decide if I use their service again.

I hope that this is useful to somebody!

Laura

Lee Yuan Sheng
12-14-2010, 04:38 AM
That's really poor binding there. Reminds me of all my game handbooks where they won't stand up to much opening...

Jason Dunn
12-18-2010, 05:26 PM
I'm not the OP you replied to but thought I'd relay my experience with Photobook Canada.

Happy to have you chime in! :) It's great to build up a series of user reviews - in the end, that's more helpful to people than whatever I say by myself.

Some images had a distinct lack of sharpness. I realized after the fact that I should have resharpened photos prior to upload so this is on me although I couldn't account for the difference in sharpening for identically PP'd images

Sharpening is like voodoo...sometimes it works the way you expect, and other times it doesn't. When I export from Lightroom, I always set it to sharpen for the screen at "high". That tends to work pretty well most of the time and in general I have no complaints about how my images turn out. On the other hand, 99.9% of them are hand-held shot, not on a tri-pod, so I don't have expectations of tack-sharpness.

Some images had unusual colour shifts again same PP with different outcomes. The results weren't horrible but were definitely noticeable to me, will those that receive the books for XMAS notice - I doubt it as I'm more OCD than many

That's quite unusual. Did you contact Photobook Canada tech support to ask them about this? That seems like a printing error to me.

B&W conversions came out much softer than colour images - I'm still puzzling over why that happened but might relate to the manner in which I did the conversions.

That's also quite curious - I can't think of a reason why B&W conversions would cause images to go soft. I wonder if that's some of the random softness you mentioned above?

Cover image alignment - yup, it didn't work. Having read your review I was overly careful on this, going so far as to use a B&W with most of the border being black but there's a limit to what you can do and of course, Murphy's Law, the white ended up wrapping over the spine by a few cm so it looks a bit funny. Is it a big issue? No, not really.

I'm sorry to hear that you got nailed by this as well. This is, by far, the #1 problem with Photobook Canada. What's worse is that in my discussions with them, they don't seem to acknowledge that it's something they need to improve upon - they seem to simply feel it's within the margin of error. My advice is to, at the very least, complain to them about the inaccuracy and their need to improve it. Maybe if they hear it from customer after customer, they'll try to improve.

6) Inside cover sheets messed me up - I wasn't expecting the extra blank pages on the inside and this resulted in a bit of an oddity for my first couple pages as I thought I was printing text on the inside front cover and the back of the first page - nope, ended up with a blank inside cover, blank front and back of the first "page"

If I could go back in time and re-shoot my videos, I'd make a special point of showing people the inside pages on the front and back, because you're not the first person to get tripped up by this. :(

All in all the results should be a hit with gift receivers (I HOPE) but not an entirely satisfying result for a project that took probably 40+ hours of work to organize and obsess over details and $400+ in costs.

I know how you feel. There's a lot of inherent unknowns in a photo book project, and for people that have a high bar for quality, it's a somewhat nerve-wracking experience. My advice for next time on a multi-book order, if you have the time and funds, is to order one sample book first and check the results, then tweak the remaining books to improve the final result.

Thanks again for chiming in, it's really helpful to hear from other users - especially users like yourself who have an eye for detail. It makes me feel good to know I'm not alone in having high expectations for a photo book that I'm spending a lot of money on. ;)

Jason Dunn
12-22-2010, 02:06 AM
Hi Jason, I just received my order from Photobook Canada so I can finally offer my thoughts and comparison between them and MyPublisher. (This ended up being longer than I anticipated, but I was trying to be thorough)

Wow! Laura, you're a superstar! :D Really great feedback, I'm sure others will find it helpful.

I'll start with MyPublisher...Now here’s my biggest problem with using MyPublisher. The only available option for international customers is FedEx International Priority shipping at a whopping $19.98 per order. My books came in around the $45 mark, so this is sort of an outrageous mark-up. Making things worse is the invoice I received three weeks later from FedEx for an additional $14 on each order. This is because they fronted about $2.50 in HST for each order and then charged me $10 for that ‘service’ and then subsequently taxed that service charge.

Yeah, as a fellow Canadian I can only nod my head and say that I've been there and done that. For the purposes of this review, I had the companies put the value of the books as $10 so I could escape the beating of the courier brokerage fees; as you can imagine, with 15+ books being sent to me, I'd have gotten crushed by brokerage fees.

The basic rule of thumb is this: any company in the US that uses USPS (postal service) is great because there are no brokerage fees. Sometimes there's GST and a $5 processing fee from Canada Post, but that's it. The trigger point for all the couriers is $20 CAD...something that's $19.99 CAD in value has no fee, but as soon as it's $20 CAD, blammo, you get hit with fees. It sucks, but it's the way the system works.

Now on to Photobook Canada. As I mentioned in my last post I chose Photobook Canada after reading your review...Their communication wasn’t as good as MyPublisher, who periodically send out updates about your order status...Given the issues you encountered, the first thing I noticed when I pulled them out of the bubble wrap was the spine printing. One book had nailed it spot on, but the other one had some of the cover image wrapped over into the spine. Also the barcode at the bottom right on the back cover wrapped over properly on the first book, but ended up on the edge of the second...and I realized that somehow they had double printed all my pages. There’s a whole second copy of the pages tacked on after the first copy in just one of the books...However also because of the volume of pages (I think) a couple of the pages are already coming unglued from the binding after only being flipped through a few times.

Sheesh. It's kind of crazy that Photobook Canada has such poor quality control - if anyone had bothered to look through your book, they'd have noticed the duplicate pages and saved you the trouble as a customer of dealing with it. Ditto for the bar code on the inside cover - I'd be ticked if it was as visible for you as it is. What I find confusing is that I just checked my 11" x 11" Japan book and don't have a bar code. I'd find that quite ugly actually - I wonder when they started including that?

Photobook Canada has excellent print and paper quality, but AWFUL quality control. I'm unsure if I'll use them for my next book project because I just don't feel like I can trust that they care about putting out a solid product. :(

LauraFoy84
12-22-2010, 05:49 AM
Hi Jason, I just wanted post a quick follow-up. I received two reprints today from Photobook Canada, instead of just the one that I expected. The cover image wraps slightly onto the spine, but not as noticeably as before. The barcode is where it should be. My last page also has a barcode on it, not sure if yours has that one or not.

In my communications with the production department they mentioned that there had been an error and that the books were each made in a different way. The doubled up book was bound altogether differently, as it turns out. They gave me the option of which way I'd like my reprints. Given that the lay-flat one has pages coming out already I opted for the more tightly bound one.

I'm quite pleased with the way they handled my grievances and I would give them another shot in the future. At the moment though my next photobook has been created with Blurb's software. I just need for my bank account to recover from the holidays before I can order that one and compare!

Happy holidays,
Laura

GWM
01-27-2011, 11:41 AM
I was interested to read your review which I stumbled on via another forum. I've done quite a few books through Blurb. The thing I like is total flexibility with design, by using PDFs generated by InDesign. Do any of the other companies offer this?

Jason Dunn
01-27-2011, 07:03 PM
I was interested to read your review which I stumbled on via another forum. I've done quite a few books through Blurb. The thing I like is total flexibility with design, by using PDFs generated by InDesign. Do any of the other companies offer this?

That was outside of the scope of this review - I'm mostly consumer focused, and your average consumer isn't going to generate a PDF. So, unfortunately, I'd say that would be research you'd have to do on your own by checking out each of the vendors in this round-up. Probably wouldn't take very long, and if you wanted to report back the results, I'm sure other people looking for the same info would appreciate it!

BarbV
02-02-2011, 10:49 PM
Hi, I just ran across your fantastic reviews while researching the best photobook sites to make basketball team photobooks to commemorate the season. This will be the 3rd year I've done team photobooks; the first year I used Mpix and last year used Smilebooks. My experience with the two was generally satisfactory - in different ways - but unsatisfactory in others. I'd like to use Mpix again if my major problem with them can be corrected, namely, the paper choices Mpix offers. I'll rundown a summary of my experience with both Mpix and Smilebooks to add to the already excellent information in your reviews and forum.

Mpix: I initially picked Mpix after doing much online research. It was the only site that was regularly endorsed by professional photographers, in particularly my idol, Scott Kelby of Photoshop User and author of many books. His description and examples looked wonderful, so I selected Mpix. As I found out after the fact, Mpix has two different photobook printers and services, one for professional photographers through the parent company, Miller Imaging Services, and one for the rest of us through Mpix. Scott Kelby was, of course, using the professional service, but this certainly was not pointed out in the endorsement or ad or whatever it was that I read. To use the professional service, one has to register and be accepted as a professional client. I actually tried doing this since I was starting a small design service, and was rejected by Miller! Too small, I guess.

Anyway, on to my experience with Mpix. The first question I had was what paper? Mpix offers 3 choices: 100 # text, pearl and linen. Since I couldn't find a description of each of these (I was looking for that normal soft gloss paper that you see in coffee table photo books), I called and talked to an actual person. Unfortunately, even after I described what I was after, I couldn't get a definitive answer. The support rep said that the 100# text is "regular book" book paper. Is it soft gloss? It's more matte, she said. The pearl has a pearly sheen, popular for wedding books and B & W photos. The linen has a "subtle" texture and is heavy and feels expensive but isn't. When I reiterated what I was looking for and asked which paper fit that description best, she suggested the linen, which is what I went with. Bad call. It wasn't at all like that soft gloss paper that is so good for showing photos at their crisp best. Their linen paper wasn't the soft glossy paper I was looking for, although it did have a hint of gloss and luckily for me, no discernible texture. So my question to you, Jason, is: what is the 100# text paper like? Is it matte like printer cover stock (or a 3x5 index card), or is it the soft gloss I'm looking for? Or neither. Can you help? I'd really like to go with Mpix again, but won't if none of their papers is the soft gloss offered by virtually every other photobook printer.

The rest of my Mpix experience? My photos were much darker than those I printed out at home. I've since read about the LCD screen brightness vs. print factor, and am trying to correct for that by somewhat overbrightening all the basketball photos this season. Since the paper was almost matte, the photos didn't pop off the page in that nice oversaturated way. The only oversaturation was in the red/orange range - the court floor and players' skin came out way too oversaturated orange. Not a pretty picture.

The best part about Mpix, and the reason I'd like to give them a 2nd chance (and now that I've read your review, another reason to choose them...), is their superb customer service. As you might imagine, producing a book for the end of a high school basketball season is a time crunch. You want to get pictures in it from virtually the entire season if you can, and if you go into the playoffs, it starts extending the season into the next sport (baseball, lacrosse, track, etc.). And you want to have your books in hand to deliver to the parents at the end-of-season banquet so everyone can ooh and ah and have a great time with them. So basically, you need to get your book ordered and back to you within a week or so! Mpix was fantastic in this regard. I ordered a few sample books first, and by paying the $20 extra - over and above the nominal ground shipping charge - for overnight shipping, I had them in 3 days. And when I then ordered the bulk of the books (an additional 15), I had them again in 3-4 days. The best part is that both times, the shipping charge was the same $20 (or maybe $25) for all the books! I still don't know if this was a mistake on their part, but I got 15 30+ page books overnighted across the country (Mpix is NY, I'm in California) for $20ish dollars US! Counting the 3 coach gift books, when we divided up all the charges, the cost was still only $55 per parent. With no coupon, which I hadn't considered looking for.

Smilebooks: In between my 1st and 2nd basketball books, I made a Father's Day book of photos of our twins' junior year for my husband and father-in-law. I decided to give Smilebooks a shot, since their European awards were impressive, their cost was reasonable, and they have sizeable coupons all the time. Their paper was the soft gloss, and they offered a photo-wrap cover that most of the others didn't, where you can have a panorama sized long rectangular photo wrap from the back cover, across the spine, and end on the front cover. I blew up one of my son's baseball photos that showed the ball coming off his bat, basically cut off the top and bottom 1/4's, and it looked wonderful! (The catcher ended up on the back, with my son and bat/ball on the front, in case you're wondering.) I thought that the continuous photo across the spine looked more professional, somehow. Do any of the other good photobook printers offer that, too?

In that Father's Day book, the Smilebooks colors were true - exactly what I pictured on my computer screen. Not darker, not oversaturated, just exactly what I saw. I was so happy. Their software was easier than Mpix, or at least less buggy, and it was a breeze to put together a book. I basically used a few of their solid-colored backgrounds and sized and placed photos wherever I wanted. The font choices and what styles you could apply to fonts were limited, but I believe that's standard in the online softwares.

The biggest problem with Smilebooks? They're based in Europe and offer no choices for anything other than standard shipping that I could find. I had to rely on what I could find online because I also could find absolutely no way to contact a human being - no phone number, no email, no nothing. Since that first order, they've started a Facebook page that you can post a question to and a customer service rep may, or may not, answer you in a timely way. So, anyway, the time from ordering to receiving with Smilebooks was about 2 weeks, with no way to track the status of my order or shipment. I was biting my fingernails the whole two weeks, since I had no idea if it would actually take 2 weeks or 2 months!

The Smilebooks experience was so positive that for the 2nd season basketball book, I persuaded the team mom to postpone the end-of-season banquet to accommodate Smilebooks longer shipping times. Unfortunately, my second Smilebooks book was not as error-free as the Father's Day book. When the books arrived, barely in time for the banquet, the colors were, like the Mpix books, darker and with the reds/oranges much more saturated than what I saw on the screen. Trying to account for the difference between my 1st and 2nd Smilebooks, I discovered in online forums that Smilebooks has several different printers that they send orders to, that which printer prints which orders appears to be randomly assigned, and that some of their printers seem to be more satisfactory than others. I haven't researched any of this in the past year, so perhaps that situation has improved. The best part about that Smilebooks order was that I had a 50% coupon that I applied to the whole order, so, although the book was longer and the shipping charges were more than Mpix, the overall total when divided among the parents was about $10 less!

I hope that this additional info on Mpix and Smilebooks is useful to your audience. Besides my question about the Mpix paper, can you tell me which of the printers that you reviewed provided the most true-to-what-you-saw-on-the-screen colors, in terms of saturation/brightness/contrast - or which ones took your pages and (gasp) made them look even better, fairly popping off the page?? It seems like such a crap shoot, trying to guess how much to increase photo brightness, reduce red/orange saturation, and whether or not to use the software's 'optimize colors' feature, etc. to get a decent looking representation of the photos you input to the printer. Any advice on this?

Thanks for your exhaustive and enlightening reviews, Jason. I'm exhausted just writing this post, no where near your 15,000!

Lee Yuan Sheng
02-03-2011, 06:15 AM
With regards to brightness on prints vs LCDs, most print experts advocate a brightness setting on your monitor to as low as 90 nits. I personally use 120 and it works well enough; can't get any lower because my monitors at 0 brightness are barely below 120!

Jason Dunn
02-03-2011, 10:14 PM
Whew! That was quite the write up Barb - thanks for sharing your experiences with all of us.

So my question to you, Jason, is: what is the 100# text paper like? Is it matte like printer cover stock (or a 3x5 index card), or is it the soft gloss I'm looking for? Or neither. Can you help? I'd really like to go with Mpix again, but won't if none of their papers is the soft gloss offered by virtually every other photobook printer.

I dearly wish I could answer this question for you, but the Mpix book was one of the ones I gave away to family members - when this project was over, nearly all of the books were given away. And since it's been almost a year since I did this, I honestly can't recall the exact nature of the Mpix paper. I'm watching my YouTube video of the Mpix book and at the 1:36 mark I talk about the Mpix paper. Listening to what I saw combined with what I remember of it, it's different from the paper in pretty much every other book I went with. Less glossy, less "pop" than other books - but I liked the effect in my book. Did you watch that video?

In retrospect, I should have talked more about the paper in the written part of each review. At the time I was head-down trying to get it all done.

My advice? Order the smallest, cheapest sample books you can get with the different paper so you can decide for yourself. Since this is a business for you, consider it an investment in making sure you're creating the products that people will want to buy.

Besides my question about the Mpix paper, can you tell me which of the printers that you reviewed provided the most true-to-what-you-saw-on-the-screen colors, in terms of saturation/brightness/contrast - or which ones took your pages and (gasp) made them look even better, fairly popping off the page??

I'd say that I covered that fairly well in the review of each printer. Some of them, like Shutterfly, messed with my photos a bit when I let their "optimize" setting do it's job. Most of them left my pictures alone. Photobook Canada had some of the strongest overall paper + printing quality. If you want your images to look better when printed, I think improving the pre-production photo adjustment is paramount.

jalinga
02-04-2011, 08:00 AM
i recently shot for a wedding and am planning on building my 1st photobook for the couple. your review has helped me a lot in choosing the best sites to go with in order to create a HQ and professional looking album. Based on your review, i am down to deciding in between Mypublisher, Photobook Canada and Adoramapix. From what i can understand, they each have their good and bad points.
Mypublisher, i like the fact that their software is easy ro use, they offer great quality paper and printing and now even offer a lay flat option for an extra 25$. The downpoint is their shipping and brokerage fees which at the end makes it an expensive book.
Adoramapix, they also seem to offer great quality printing and paper. I really like the fact that the lay flat option is standard in all of their books. However, you can ohnly choose between a 50 or 76 page book, their shipping charge is quite ridiculous and i dont even know if they'll be extra charges when the book arrives at my door.
As fpr Photobook Canada, i like the fact that it's a canadian based site which means no brokerages/duties fees, their shipping charges are reasonable, they seem to provide excellent print and paper quality. The only down side is their terrible quality control when it comes to getting the front, spine and back cover well aligned.

So basically i am torn between these 3 sites. I just wanted to know what was your trick in order to get the back and front cover well aligned when you ordered your book the second time around from photobook Canada? And do all of these sites allow you to design your own pages in photoshop and then upload the picture as a whole? And last will i get charged extra fees when i order from all US sites when they dont offer USPs shipping?

Jason Dunn
02-05-2011, 04:11 AM
...their shipping charge is quite ridiculous and i dont even know if they'll be extra charges when the book arrives at my door...And last will i get charged extra fees when i order from all US sites when they dont offer USPs shipping?

That's the one good thing about AdoramaPix's high shipping charge: it comes via USPS, which means no brokerage fee coming into Canada. Anything that comes in via courier - UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc. - will have brokerage fees. Anything that comes in via the postal system (USPS) will not.

So basically i am torn between these 3 sites. I just wanted to know what was your trick in order to get the back and front cover well aligned when you ordered your book the second time around from photobook Canada?

Did you read about how I altered my Japan photo book (http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/99951/photobook-canada-s-big-and-bold-square-photo-book-some-strategy-required-for-success.html)? That has examples of how I changed the cover around. If I was to order from Photobook Canada again, and I will, I'd just try for a simple cover that doesn't try to get too crazy in terms of mm-perfect layouts.

And do all of these sites allow you to design your own pages in photoshop and then upload the picture as a whole?

Yes, all of them allow you to upload images exported from Photoshop. You just export as a super-high quality JPEG (90% quality) then import each page as a single, full-page image.

Jason Dunn
02-05-2011, 05:33 AM
Got a little surprise for everyone! If you're interested in purchasing FotoFusion (http://www.lumapix.com/web_store/store_newlicenses_online.shtml), use the coupon code DHT20 to save yourself 20% off the price. The coupon is valid until April 1st, 2011.

I've also added a section about FotoFusion to page one - it helps explain how I used the program to create the pages.

jalinga
02-07-2011, 07:21 AM
thanks for your help Jason. I have finally decided to go with Adoramapix based on everything i've read on it. The only problem is i've started using their online program and am now uploading the pics to build my photobook. Is it normal that the uploading process is taking a ridiculous long time? I'm using the option to upload from my pc, as far as i know, my computer is not that slow. Most of my pictures size range from 10 to 20 mb per file. But it's taking me 15 mins to upload 4-5 pics. Is this normal?

Jason Dunn
02-07-2011, 08:25 PM
The only problem is i've started using their online program and am now uploading the pics to build my photobook. Is it normal that the uploading process is taking a ridiculous long time? I'm using the option to upload from my pc, as far as i know, my computer is not that slow. Most of my pictures size range from 10 to 20 mb per file. But it's taking me 15 mins to upload 4-5 pics. Is this normal?

10 to 20 MB for a JPEG image is extremely large - are these photos, or are they entire pages you've laid out in Photoshop or another program? If so, that's probably normal - or perhaps even on the large side. Regardless, it's all about the upload speed on your Internet connection: 15 minutes to upload 100 MB of data is normal for a low-end Internet connection (512 KB or 1 Mbps upload speed). It has nothing to do with the speed or your computer; it's 100% about the Internet connection speed.

jalinga
02-07-2011, 10:01 PM
10 to 20 MB for a JPEG image is extremely large - are these photos, or are they entire pages you've laid out in Photoshop or another program? If so, that's probably normal - or perhaps even on the large side. Regardless, it's all about the upload speed on your Internet connection: 15 minutes to upload 100 MB of data is normal for a low-end Internet connection (512 KB or 1 Mbps upload speed). It has nothing to do with the speed or your computer; it's 100% about the Internet connection speed.

i see. most of these files are not even pages that i've laid out in PS but rather the pictures themselves that have been post processed in PS. I shoot with a Canon 7d (18mp) in raw files that i later convert to jpegs, maybe that's why the files are huge. Oh well, i guess i will only have to be patient in uploading them.

One more question though, when you used Adoramapix or any of the other companies to print your photobooks, did you have to calibrate your monitor in order to get accurate colour printing of your photos?
I have never calibrated my monitor before, nor do i have any software to do it with. In other words, i am pretty clueless about this whole process.
I saw that their site has provided an Adorama ICC printer profile. Is this file going to be any use to me even when my monitor has not been calibrated and if it is, how i go about to set it up?

Jason Dunn
02-08-2011, 12:40 AM
i see. most of these files are not even pages that i've laid out in PS but rather the pictures themselves that have been post processed in PS. I shoot with a Canon 7d (18mp) in raw files that i later convert to jpegs, maybe that's why the files are huge.

What program are you using to convert the raw files to JPEG? When you're setting the JPEG compression quality, anything more than 85% quality is a waste in my opinion. Even at HUGE print sizes (13" x 19") you'll never be able to see compression problems. Saving with higher quality settings just gets you bigger file sizes.

One more question though, when you used Adoramapix or any of the other companies to print your photobooks, did you have to calibrate your monitor in order to get accurate colour printing of your photos? I have never calibrated my monitor before, nor do i have any software to do it with. In other words, i am pretty clueless about this whole process.

I edit my photos on a colour-calibrated Dell Ultrasharp 27" monitor. There's no point in calibrating your monitor if it's a cheap TN panel monitor; IPS panel monitors are the only way to go if you're serious about colour. You'd need to get a colour meter though, and calibrate it. I use a Huey Pro for instance.

It sounds like you're just getting started at the whole photography/printing thing, so there's no point in getting too worked up about it. See how your book turns out and decide if it's worth the effort to buy a new monitor, colour calibration device, etc.

jalinga
02-08-2011, 01:09 AM
What program are you using to convert the raw files to JPEG? When you're setting the JPEG compression quality, anything more than 85% quality is a waste in my opinion. Even at HUGE print sizes (13" x 19") you'll never be able to see compression problems. Saving with higher quality settings just gets you bigger file sizes.



I edit my photos on a colour-calibrated Dell Ultrasharp 27" monitor. There's no point in calibrating your monitor if it's a cheap TN panel monitor; IPS panel monitors are the only way to go if you're serious about colour. You'd need to get a colour meter though, and calibrate it. I use a Huey Pro for instance.

It sounds like you're just getting started at the whole photography/printing thing, so there's no point in getting too worked up about it. See how your book turns out and decide if it's worth the effort to buy a new monitor, colour calibration device, etc.

I usually edit my photos in Adobe camera raw then i sometimes open the files in PS CS4 to add some filters before saving them in a jpegs format. And when i save them, i select the maximum quality for my pictures (quality#12), so that's how the pics came out so big. how much should i lower my picture quality to in order to set my JPEG compression to just 85% ?

So basically you're saying that i shouldnt even bother calibrating my monitor or even using their ICC printer profile setting to print my photobook? In this case, should i use their color correction feature or just rely on my own editing of the pictures?

Really thank you so much for answering all of my questions. You've been very helpful.

Jason Dunn
02-08-2011, 01:14 AM
...i select the maximum quality for my pictures (quality#12), so that's how the pics came out so big. how much should i lower my picture quality to in order to set my JPEG compression to just 85% ?

Ah, that would be the reason. :) Try this as an experiment: save one image at Quality 12, then one image at Quality 10. Zoom in to 100% on both and toggle back and forth between them and see if you can tell a difference. If not, then use Quality 10 from now on.

So basically you're saying that i shouldnt even bother calibrating my monitor or even using their ICC printer profile setting to print my photobook? In this case, should i use their color correction feature or just rely on my own editing of the pictures?

You can try using their ICC profile, but that means you'll probably need to end up re-editing some of your images from the raw files. And, unfortunately the ICC profile they have is probably based on the assumption that people using it have a monitor capable of displaying things properly...which means an IPS panel.

I'm personally not overly picky about colour accuracy in my printed images; I've never loaded up a custom ICC profile from a book printer and have been happy with the results - but, again, I do edit on a colour calibrated monitor so I'm starting from a solid foundation.

I'm happy to help. Remember I do accept tips (https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_donations&business=A52V5JQAWWZ8N&lc=CA&item_name=Photo%20Book%20Review%20by%20Jason%20Dunn&currency_code=USD&bn=PP-DonationsBF:btn_donateCC_LG.gif:NonHosted). :D

neomits
02-19-2011, 05:21 PM
Hey Jason.

Love your review. As a brand new parent, I will be referring back to this for help as I make my decision on who to use to print.

Quick question. I loved the layout of your book and was wondering if you had it shared on any of the sites or anywhere else. I could probably piece together most of it from the videos, but really enjoyed your layout and story telling and wanted to see it from start to finish if possible to help as I put my daughter's together.

If you don't want to for privacy reasons I understand.

Thanks for all this wonderful info

- Tim

Jason Dunn
02-23-2011, 11:35 PM
Love your review. As a brand new parent, I will be referring back to this for help as I make my decision on who to use to print.

Hi Tim! I'm glad you liked the review. Enjoy parenthood - it has ups and downs, but there's nothing else like it on earth. :)

I loved the layout of your book and was wondering if you had it shared on any of the sites or anywhere else.

Nope, I haven't shared it anywhere. The layout isn't anything special - each page has a few images arranged around how much text there is. There's not really an easy way for me to share it...maybe as a FotoFusion template? But that's not really a road I'd want to go down to be honest.

neomits
02-24-2011, 05:04 AM
Hi Tim! I'm glad you liked the review. Enjoy parenthood - it has ups and downs, but there's nothing else like it on earth. :)



Nope, I haven't shared it anywhere. The layout isn't anything special - each page has a few images arranged around how much text there is. There's not really an easy way for me to share it...maybe as a FotoFusion template? But that's not really a road I'd want to go down to be honest.

I meant just for ideas for a baby book. Looks like you put a lot of time into it.

Shutterfly has a community sharing section if you still have a copy there.

Jason Dunn
02-25-2011, 03:34 AM
I meant just for ideas for a baby book. Looks like you put a lot of time into it.

Oh, I see. Well, for the first half or so of the book, I covered several of the stages of development (http://www.babycenter.com/6_your-pregnancy-8-weeks_1097.bc) - I wrote up text that told my child how he was developing at each stage ("At eight weeks you had webbed fingers and toes"). That sort of thing. :)

Jason Dunn
04-29-2011, 07:14 AM
Hi everyone! Just a quick update: I've added two new book options from MyPublisher. I had the baby book reprinted using their new "photo finish" cover option, and it catapulted its way to my #1 favourite version of the book: MyPublisher was already top-notch in the printing department and had excellent paper, but I was really ho-hum on the book jacket concept. That's now been fixed, so I've essentially revised my conclusion to make MyPublisher the winner.

But wait, there's more...

They've also added a lay-flat page option and a super gloss printing option. Both add significantly to the cost of the book, but the results are JAW DROPPING. Please check out the video in full screen, 1080p mode to see what I mean.
:D

LisaEHuddyfan
05-02-2011, 04:20 PM
Wow - this was a great read.

I am having a cookbook printed as a birthday gift for [H]ouse star, Lisa Edelstein. Spent the last couple months collecting recipes from her fans all around the world. We officially have at least one recipe from every continent (except Antarctica). If I do only one recipe per page, we're looking at between 125-150 pages.

I still have to make all the decisions as to what size book, cover type, page type, etc. But this was a great start to at least narrow it down at little. So thank you!!

Jason Dunn
05-02-2011, 09:34 PM
Wow - this was a great read...I still have to make all the decisions as to what size book, cover type, page type, etc. But this was a great start to at least narrow it down at little. So thank you!!

Happy to help - I hope the cookbook turns out great! :)

Cross_
05-05-2011, 03:10 AM
Thank you very much for the review !

I just received my baby books from Shutterfly and wish I had read this review beforehand- would have saved us some $$$.

The cover/back print quality was excellent, but the other photos were a mixed bag. Mostly passable given the $15 price tag per book, except that 20% of the photos had noise/grain. Why did I bother running Lightroom's noise removal and uploading high res images when shutterfly's printer then adds noise back in ? :mad:

FYI: I was trying to get some print samples from viovio and blurb. Both refused the request and they did so with identical email responses. So either it's the same company or they have customer support outsourced to the same group.

Jason Dunn
05-06-2011, 10:27 PM
Thank you very much for the review!...Why did I bother running Lightroom's noise removal and uploading high res images when shutterfly's printer then adds noise back in ?

I'm glad you liked the review! I didn't notice any particularly boosted noise, but this would vary based on each image of course and there are no hard and fast rules. Shutterfly's print quality would be best described as "budget" - like you said, for $15 per book, it is what it is.

FYI: I was trying to get some print samples from viovio and blurb. Both refused the request and they did so with identical email responses. So either it's the same company or they have customer support outsourced to the same group.

Interesting! I'd guess that consumer-focused services like these don't have providing samples as part of their mandate. I usually suggest that people order the smallest, cheapest book possible to get an idea of what they're getting.

RubyW
05-13-2011, 10:13 PM
What an in-depth review! I'm a social media marketer for Kinzin (http://www.kinzin.com), and I just wanted to add to the mix that Kinzin makes great photo books too. There are templates you can play with and you can easily drag and drop photos onto each page. Add captions if you wish! The best part is that you can share photos privately with family members or friends. Shipping across Canada is only $3.99.

http://www.kinzin.com

yannakm
06-29-2011, 09:41 PM
Thanks for the great review.:cool:

I ordered a 11.5"X15" wedding photobook from mypublisher.com based on your review. I chose them because of the fact that they offer such large format ,lay flat pages and because my wife loves leather (no dirty jokes please ;)).

I just realized what the photobook you reviewed is the classic hardcover book with 115-pound paper as opposed to the 182-pound paper that comes in the deluxe hardcover book I ordered.

Since the super high gloss paper is thinner than the 115-pound paper and produce better picture, is there any chance my paper or the print quality would not be as good as the one in your book?


Also, I was currious how does winkflash.com compares to the reviewed photobooks. I just can't understand how a 12"X12" 100 pages leather covered photobook can be sold for less than $40.:eek: Even for a 20 pages book it would seems too cheap.

Don't get me wrong, I know that you usually get what you pay for, but I also know that if you use your ressources to their full capacity, you can still get a decent final product.

yannakm
07-05-2011, 03:22 AM
Just received my order from MyPublisher.com and can only say that I am deceived.:(

On the bright side I can say that I was a little worried that my Photoshop touch-up would be noticeable once printed, but it's not the case at all. In fact the print quality is not as good as what I was expecting, so even the biggest enlargement of retouched pictures seems fine.

I don't know the proper term to explain it, but dots and lines are noticeable on every pictures. It's not like in an Archie comic book but still noticeable. I'm no expert, but the print quality doesn't seems on par with a 4X6 print you would get at Costco, so I won't mention MPIX prints from Endura paper.

I noticed that the frames that should be exactly at the same height from the left page to the right are a little bit off. Also, some pages have some white unprinted dots on the black background. Finally, there are two scratches on two different pages.

I have never seen photo books before so I can't really say if it's normal or not, but I am waiting for 4 more photo books from adoramapix.com I ordered for familly members. Once I receive them, I'll be able to say if the print quality of my MyPublisher.com book is normal.

If the print quality from adoramapix is considerably better, I guess I'll have to blame the 182 pound paper, since the reviewer never tried it and seems to really like the print quality at MyPublisher.com.

yannakm
07-05-2011, 03:49 AM
Here is what I mean.

http://i1091.photobucket.com/albums/i398/yannakism/mypublisher.jpg

Is it normal :confused:

Jason Dunn
07-07-2011, 03:19 AM
Glad you liked the review. :)

Since the super high gloss paper is thinner than the 115-pound paper and produce better picture, is there any chance my paper or the print quality would not be as good as the one in your book?

I don't believe there's any correlation to between paper thickness and print quality; it's related to the type/quality of printer that is being used. If I had to guess, I'd say that MyPublisher uses a different printing press for the supergloss paper.

Also, I was currious how does winkflash.com compares to the reviewed photobooks. I just can't understand how a 12"X12" 100 pages leather covered photobook can be sold for less than $40.:eek: Even for a 20 pages book it would seems too cheap.

I can't help you there I'm afraid - I've never gotten a book from Winkflash.com. I tend to believe you get what you pay for though - when I look at the costs of the books from Blurb and ArtsCow, the quality is right in line with what you pay.

Jason Dunn
07-20-2011, 11:45 PM
Here is what I mean.

http://i1091.photobucket.com/albums/i398/yannakism/mypublisher.jpg

Is it normal :confused:

That looks a little worse than I'd expect, but it's so hard to tell from a photo. Since you're quite particular about quality, I think you're going to need to do your own research and order from multiple places until you find exactly what you want.

cdlillard
07-22-2011, 07:28 PM
Hi Jason,
Thank you so much for your detailed reviews. I am making a photobook for my wedding photos. In your video review of myPublisher you mentioned that if someone wants a wedding album they may want to choose something else. I am not an expert. Your vacation photobook with layflat pages and supergloss looks great to me and I thought I would try the same thing for my wedding photobook. Is there some reason why I wouldn't want supergloss pages for my wedding album? What would be better?

Thanks so much,

Christi Lillard :p

Jason Dunn
07-24-2011, 08:12 PM
Glad you liked the review. :)

Your vacation photobook with layflat pages and supergloss looks great to me and I thought I would try the same thing for my wedding photobook. Is there some reason why I wouldn't want supergloss pages for my wedding album? What would be better?

It's all a matter of personal preference, but when I think of most wedding photos, I imagine a sophisticated, tasteful series of images...and the supergloss paper is more fun and flashy. So there's no technical reason why it wouldn't work, it's more of a style thing. But maybe if you had fun and flashy wedding photos, it would be a perfect match. :D

yannakm
07-28-2011, 07:02 AM
I'm back from vacation and have received the photobook from Adoramapix.
The quality from an 8X8 regular photobook from adoramapix is WAY better than the Deluxe one from Mypulisher.com:eek:
Pictures looks like they are processed in a lab as opposed to be printed from an inkjet printer.
Paper is way thinker. Only the color seems not as vibrant as the one from MyPublisher.com, but it's normal as I didn't color correct them using their ICC profile but let them do the color correction for me.

I just wrote to MyPulisher and will see that they have to say.

I don't believe there's any correlation to between paper thickness and print quality; it's related to the type/quality of printer that is being used. If I had to guess, I'd say that MyPublisher uses a different printing press for the supergloss paper.Is it possible they use as different printing press between the paper for the classical book and the one for the deluxe as I still don't understand why the print is so bad?

yannakm
07-28-2011, 07:30 AM
Hi Jason,
Thank you so much for your detailed reviews. I am making a photobook for my wedding photos. In your video review of myPublisher you mentioned that if someone wants a wedding album they may want to choose something else. I am not an expert. Your vacation photobook with layflat pages and supergloss looks great to me and I thought I would try the same thing for my wedding photobook. Is there some reason why I wouldn't want supergloss pages for my wedding album? What would be better?

As per my recent experience with MyPublisher.com, I could only recommend you to use the supergloss paper as Jason haven't actually seen prints from the 182 pound paper of the Deluxe photobook.

That is, unless you want to go with the classical hardcover which is almost half the size (in total square inches) of the deluxe photobook.

Jason Dunn
07-28-2011, 05:23 PM
Is it possible they use as different printing press between the paper for the classical book and the one for the deluxe as I still don't understand why the print is so bad?

It's possible, but it would be very surprising for them to admit it or give you any sort of explanation. These companies tend to be pretty vague on those sorts of details...

yannakm
08-01-2011, 03:04 PM
Just to let you know, I took some pictures of the Photobook I received from mypublisher and contacted their customer support.
In less than 6 hours they gave me a full credit to reprint the album($230 credit + free shipping to Canada), no other questions asked.:eek:

Not to take any chances, I took the supergloss upgrade to make sure the print is good, so the reprint cost me $20.

I had some issues using the newer version of the software, and they gave me answers in less than a minute using the chat help on their web site.

I don't know how the photobook will look like, but I have never seen customer service this good.

Jason Dunn
08-01-2011, 03:31 PM
I don't know how the photobook will look like, but I have never seen customer service this good.

Wow, that's impressive! :) Glad to hear they took care of you. And I hope I didn't steer you wrong with the Supergloss option... :o

yannakm
08-02-2011, 09:23 PM
I hope I didn't steer you wrong with the Supergloss option... :o

It better looks good, or else...:p

Seriously, I have faith in you. I know you took a lot of time to create an unbiased comparison of all those sellers.

Also, the fact that the CSR at MyPublisher gave me credit without asking me to ship them the photobook makes me believe there was definitely something wrong with the printing.

Even if I don't like the finished product that much, my wife was already happy with the book and it was for her I created it in the first place. Still, since I am the one that spent hours working to make sure everything was perfect, I couldn't expect anything else than great result, especially after seeing the $19.95 AdoramaPix photobook I created afterward.

I will let you know for sure about the finished product.

yannakm
08-06-2011, 05:29 PM
Received the photobook from MyPublisher yesterday. I would say that I am very satisfied with the result.

There where no printing problems, dots or scratches like on my first photobook.

I will second Jason's opinion that the supergloss paper is a must if you want to get the best print quality from them. There are still some downside to it as it's a real fingerprint magnet and you can still see that the pages are printed as opposed to being processed as when you look at the pages closely, you see lines and dots. It's more subtle than on the 182 pounds paper but still visible. Also, the pages seems fragile, prone to dent and feel thinner than the 182 pounds.

Apart from that, I have absolutely no complains about the photobook and think that for the price I paid, I don't think I could have gotten a better product.

Too bad I didn't try Adoramapix using their ICC profile and doing the color correction myself to really compare the products equally. The problem is that I tend to like the paper and the process way more from AdoramaPix, but I like the color a lot more from MyPublisher. For my next photobook, I think I will order from AdoramaPix and color correct the pictures using their ICC profile to give a fair comparison.

To sum it up, my wedding album finally reflect the time and effort I've put into it.

Big thanks from myself and the lady to Jason as I doubt I would have made the same choices without his review.

Newbie99
08-14-2011, 06:58 PM
Jason - thanks for the great review. I have question about your Picaboo reviews as I have a gift certificate from them so I'm kinda locked in. I was wondering if the print quality of the Ranch book was that much superior to the Classic book.

Specifically, did you have to brighten the photos for the Ranch book as you did for the Classic reprint? Also do you think you would have changed your Poor Rating of the Classic's print quality if you were able to brighten the photos in LR or was there another problem with the Classic photos?

Thanks
Al

bRIZZAd
08-15-2011, 09:40 PM
Thanks for the great Photo Book reviews! Quite the breakdown - I only wish I had found it a year ago. My wife & I put together photo books as center pieces for our wedding reception (by PhotoInPress.ca), for guests to flip through (instead of the all too typical projected slideshow). It was a lot of fun to do, and helped build some confidence that we could do our own photo book when it came time for the wedding photos.

We ended up using Smilebooks out of the USA. Their cost when compared to anyone else for lay-flat pages, coupled with their frequently offered coupon codes made them an extremely affordable option when compared to Adoramapix & Picaboo at the time I was looking around. I simply had a colleague out of the USA ship them to me (I too, am in Calgary). Thanks for your previous mention of BorderLinx.com! Luckily, Smilebook will soon be shipping to Canada (or at least parnering with a Canadian printer... I am not sure which is the case) as they have launched a Canadian website (http://www.smilebooks.ca). Their support people have told me they are hoping to launch this month in August, 2011 though it could be later.

Thank you for mentioning LumaPix FotoFusion as well! I have already created our Egyptian Honeymoon photo album natively in Smilebooks' software, though may look into FotoFusion for subsequent projects. I did a travel blog/journal and used this in the photo book - so layouts had become a bit more complex and cumbersome. Their software held up fine, though I like the idea of exporting single JPEG's to use as full page bleeds, as the majority of my book involves plenty of stitched panoramic landscapes.

A technical question for you regarding photo books & vignettes. Although you have done full page bleeds for everything... I have done a few photos as vignette's (either fade edges to white, or fade to black). Having a background color on the Photo Book page of either Black or White, do you believe this is too risky to assume the Black from the photo will be printed seamlessly to the Black of their background color? Same situation for fade-to-white images & white backgrounds Should I instead, create a page layout in Photoshop instead and not risk this?

Jason Dunn
08-17-2011, 12:32 AM
I was wondering if the print quality of the Ranch book was that much superior to the Classic book. Specifically, did you have to brighten the photos for the Ranch book as you did for the Classic reprint? Also do you think you would have changed your Poor Rating of the Classic's print quality if you were able to brighten the photos in LR or was there another problem with the Classic photos?

I'm looking again at the little Picaboo baby book I did, and if you ignore the fact that the prints are dark and therefore muddy-looking, the print quality is decent. I don't have the Ranch book in front of me to compare it with, but the paper is so different the print quality would be hard to compare apples to apples.

The real problem with the Picaboo book was that the photos were already fairly bright; I'd be blowing the highlights if I boosted them much more. Maybe Picaboo's process is better now and I just had bad luck. I do know their customer service is excellent, so my advice for you is to make your photos as bright as you can (without blowing the highlights), and hope for the best. :)

Jason Dunn
08-17-2011, 12:41 AM
Glad you liked the review. Neat idea with the wedding centre pieces...

Having a background color on the Photo Book page of either Black or White, do you believe this is too risky to assume the Black from the photo will be printed seamlessly to the Black of their background color? Same situation for fade-to-white images & white backgrounds Should I instead, create a page layout in Photoshop instead and not risk this?

It would very likely be a mess. I'd strongly encourage you to do create your vignette's in a graphics program, export the whole image, and do it in the book as a full page bleed. Be aware of the aspect ratio of the printed page though, and match it, so you don't get unexpected cropping (and always play it safe by allowing for slightly more cropping that they tell you there will be).

bRIZZAd
08-17-2011, 01:46 AM
It would very likely be a mess. I'd strongly encourage you to do create your vignette's in a graphics program, export the whole image, and do it in the book as a full page bleed. Be aware of the aspect ratio of the printed page though, and match it, so you don't get unexpected cropping (and always play it safe by allowing for slightly more cropping that they tell you there will be).

Thanks for the reply!

Not exactly what I had hoped to hear, but what I expected! I wouldn't have to re-do all pages, but probably half. I can't order yet anyways until SmileBooks officially launches in Canada.

Here is an example page to illustrate what I am talking about as far as using vignettes/fade-to-black. Similar scenarios exist in my photo book that fade to white as well:

HI-RES:http://i.imgur.com/T9ZB6.jpg

http://i.imgur.com/T9ZB6l.jpg

The selected image is faded to black on the far left-hand side, with the background color of the pages being black. The clip-art in the corner of the text also has all sides faded to black. All new 'days' in my travel blog photo book have those too.

Jason Dunn
08-17-2011, 04:43 AM
Here is an example page to illustrate what I am talking about as far as using vignettes/fade-to-black. Similar scenarios exist in my photo book that fade to white as well

That's a really cool effect. I might very well be wrong - I've never attempted anything like that, but the odds of the transition from your image to the effect in the software might be jarring. Maybe if there's text over it, it would be partially hidden and not a big issue. Might be worth ordering a really small/cheap version of your book - even just a handful of pages, the minimum size - and seeing how it looks.

bRIZZAd
08-18-2011, 07:01 PM
That's a really cool effect. I might very well be wrong - I've never attempted anything like that, but the odds of the transition from your image to the effect in the software might be jarring. Maybe if there's text over it, it would be partially hidden and not a big issue. Might be worth ordering a really small/cheap version of your book - even just a handful of pages, the minimum size - and seeing how it looks.

That's a good idea, I may just order a cheap book first with these effects. Currently my book is @ $130 for 82 pages (max) w/ lay-flat pages. Could be an expensive experiment otherwise, even when I apply a % savings coupon code.

I contacted Smilebooks, and they informed me they have some color gradient masks similar to what I've done with that large Abu Simbel photo (fading one side to black). I only had to download those afterwards from within the software. They guarantee no issues using those, so I will use those where possible. I like the transition since my photo book has so much text, it really works nicely with some images.

Though I do have images where multiple sides have been faded, which they don't have image masks for (nor can you can control the intensity using their image masks). They offered to have their color specialists check a couple of my images to verify whether they would be an issue or not - so at least I'll know ahead of time that I absolutely must change what I'm doing.

Might be a couple months, but I'll report back with how things turned out with the final product.

bRIZZAd
12-05-2011, 11:53 PM
Might be a couple months, but I'll report back with how things turned out with the final product.

Well, it's been more than a couple months though I've finally ordered my photo book. Things turned out great. I used a combination of their image masks where I am doing simple fades to the page color (black/white). The Abu Simbel page as previously shown turned out like this:

http://oi39.tinypic.com/5ds36q.jpg

HI-RES (terrible cell-cam photo though): http://i.imgur.com/MCmb1.jpg

They also respect .PNG files that have Alpha-Channel transparencies. This can allow you to create your own ClipArt beyond their own collection. I used this in a few areas of my book (like the ripped ticket in the bottom left of the next photo):

http://oi40.tinypic.com/jaewxk.jpg

Can't beat the price. 82 lay-flat silver-halide photo pages amounted to ~ $80 USD after applying a 40% discount coupon (they regularly offer 20-50% off every other month or so). Less than $1/pg for this kind of product is hard to beat. Any of the lay-flat photobooks are actually printed in Germany due to their proprietary process I believe.

Jason Dunn
12-06-2011, 03:22 AM
Well, it's been more than a couple months though I've finally ordered my photo book. Things turned out great. I used a combination of their image masks where I am doing simple fades to the page color (black/white). The Abu Simbel page as previously shown turned out like this.

Wow, that turned out great! Amazing results. So that's a two-page layout of an image with a PNG gradient put on top, then text on top of that? I really like that effect. Thanks for coming back to share. :)

bRIZZAd
12-06-2011, 06:09 PM
Wow, that turned out great! Amazing results. So that's a two-page layout of an image with a PNG gradient put on top, then text on top of that? I really like that effect. Thanks for coming back to share. :)

It is a two page layout, with the one Abu Simbel image stretched across 2/3 of the layout. I used their color gradient image mask to fade the left-hand side of the image, so it blends with the black background (set in their app). The text is layed over top using their application as well. Their color gradient image masks do have limitations when compared to doing the same thing in photoshop. There are only a couple choices for intensity (how strong the fade is or where it starts from on an image). Regardless, I used their color gradient image masks where possible to avoid potential print quality differences vs. screen.

I leveraged the .PNG Alpha Channel transparencies on images like this one. There is a transparency to allow their black background color to reach right up to the jagged edges on the image:

http://i.imgur.com/Nfy6B.png

Jason Dunn
12-07-2011, 06:58 AM
I leveraged the .PNG Alpha Channel transparencies on images like this one. There is a transparency to allow their black background color to reach right up to the jagged edges on the image:

I did that a lot myself - I'm a big fan of transparent PNG files. Though not of how big they are when it's a photographic-style image with a lot of detail...the file sizes are HUGE! :eek:

AmberSteele
12-07-2011, 10:48 PM
Hi Jason,

First off, I loved your review, it was awesome (and I would donate to support your effort but I'm not working currently so I can't; maybe some day!).

I wanted to address something that seems to keep coming up here though- the ICC profiles. You've mentioned a few times that unless you have a color-calibrated and super sophisticated monitor that it doesn't matter and not to bother. This simply isn't true. I have a degree in photography and one of the things we spent a whole semester on was color management (not that it makes me an expert by any means- you could spend a lifetime learning about it I'm sure!). While the monitor certainly plays a part, the ICC profiles deal with the printer and the paper, and they can make a HUGE difference in the way a print turns out. Each printer has a specific color gamut that it can print (and that includes how many shades of grey, etc.), and each paper absorbs ink differently (not to mention that each printer uses a different kind of ink/dye/pigment), so you're in essence looking at how a print will turn out on a specific printer with a specific paper. And obviously having a great monitor will help to see these differences better, but they're usually clearly visible no matter what you're using. :)

Dinger928
02-16-2012, 11:40 PM
Jason,

Great article. Having read the entire thread here, I'm still wondering if you feel that Mypublisher still gets your top vote? I was hoping to use them now that I have accumulated enough photos of the things I wanted to put into a book. Plus it doesn't hurt that now they are offering a buy one, get one....

TIA

Jason Dunn
02-22-2012, 07:38 AM
Great article. Having read the entire thread here, I'm still wondering if you feel that Mypublisher still gets your top vote?

Yes, I plan on using MyPublisher for my next photo book project. They're really top notch!

BudPritchard
08-28-2012, 07:25 PM
Finally found a Photobook site that is the easiest to use for my wife. Allows her to drag and drop photos and textboxes, move and resize objects, select backgrounds and layouts, etc without having separate edit and arrange functions.
Font sizes in text box can be different on separate lines.
Downside is when pictures are selected from standard dialog box, it can take a few minutes to upload.
Coffee break time!
The web page window has no back and forward buttons. Other programs did not operate this way and you could navigate off the page and lose everything you were working on. This happened to us.
Web page has save button so you can save things at critical times. The program also performs a autosave at certain times and intervals.

Best we have used so far.

bRIZZAd
09-06-2012, 09:03 PM
We ended up using Smilebooks out of the USA. Their cost when compared to anyone else for lay-flat pages, coupled with their frequently offered coupon codes made them an extremely affordable option when compared to Adoramapix & Picaboo at the time I was looking around. I simply had a colleague out of the USA ship them to me (I too, am in Calgary). Thanks for your previous mention of BorderLinx.com! Luckily, Smilebook will soon be shipping to Canada (or at least parnering with a Canadian printer... I am not sure which is the case) as they have launched a Canadian website (http://www.smilebooks.ca). Their support people have told me they are hoping to launch this month in August, 2011 though it could be later.

As a follow up - SmileBooks never did launch their Canadian website - although Black's Photography has partnered with CEWE Color to supply their PhotoBook services. They finally have added CEWE's premium Lay-Flat bindings & photo paper offerings this week as of September 4, 2012: (http://www.blacks.ca/User/feeds/blog/id/11761)

Unfortunately Black's prices are 20-25% higher than SmileBooks for the same product (dissappointing, considering it is the same product created in Germany & simply re-shipped). That said, at least if a Canadian is unable to have a friend re-ship from the USA for them using SmileBooks, at least they can support a Canadian retailer without that hassle.

FYI!