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View Full Version : Photobook Canada's Big and Bold Square Photo Book: Some Strategy Required for Success

Jason Dunn
09-02-2010, 03:00 PM
<p><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1283037074.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><h6><strong>Product Category:</strong> Photo book</h6><h6><strong>Where to Buy:</strong> <a href="http://www.photobookcanada.com/" target="_blank">Photobook Canada</a></h6><h6><strong>Price:</strong> $127.78 CAD as configured with the 216gsm Premium Silk/Gloss paper (prices start at $110 CAD for a 40 page book 11" x 11" book)</h6><h6><strong></strong></h6><p><strong>Pros:</strong></p><ul><li>Incredible paper quality with the upgraded paper option;</li><li>Impressive print quality on the cover and inside pages;</li><li>Reasonably easy to use software.</li></ul><p><strong>Cons:</strong></p><ul><li>Severe accuracy problems with front and back cover images;</li><li>Tech support is somewhat lacking;</li><li>Expensive, even with a discount coupon.</li></ul><p><strong>Summary:</strong> If you read my <a href="http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/97676/the-great-photo-book-round-up-review-who-makes-the-best-photo-books.html" target="_blank">photo book review round up</a>, you'll know that <a href="http://www.photobookcanada.com/index.php" target="_blank">Photobook Canada fared quite well</a>; with their upgraded paper option, the paper was superb, and the print and cover quality were excellent. At the time, they didn't support spine printing, and I further docked marks because the image on the back was printed right at the edge of the cover - but I was nevertheless impressed with the final product. Within a few weeks of my review going live, Photobook Canada launched version 5.0 of their photo book software, and guess what missing feature it added? Spine printing! <MORE /></p><h1>Another Personal Project</h1><p>When it came time for me to work on a vacation photo book of my trip to Japan in 2008, I had to take my own advice and think about which company would be the best to use for the project. Based on the superior paper quality, the excellent printing and cover quality, and now featuring spine printing, I selected Photobook Canada. Having the 45% off coupon (<a href="http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/97676/11/1/15" target="_blank">you can find it here</a>) helped because I was paying for it out of my own pocket.&nbsp;</p><p>I won't be redundant and repeat the review I've already written - go read my thoughts about version 4.x of their software <a href="http://www.photobookcanada.com/index.php" target="_blank">in the big photo book review</a>. Just like the baby book project, I used <a href="http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/31340/gorgeous-photo-layouts-with-lumapix-s-fotofusion-v4.html" target="_blank">FotoFusion</a> to build my pages (including the front and back covers), and this time it was much easier and faster because I had experience under my belt. I wanted to build a square book this time, and Photobook Canada had an 11 inch by 11 inch book option that looked great - I'd have preferred a 12 inch by 12 inch book, but the one inch difference didn't matter much to me.</p><p><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1283039073.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p><em>Figure 1: Version 5 of the My Photo Books software.</em></p><p>In terms of the differences between version 5 and version 4 of the software, they aren't vast; curiously, it takes more steps to make a full-page image. In version 4, you could drag an image and select "Single Page Layout" - they removed this in version 5. Now you have to right-click on the image after you've dropped it on the page and select <strong>Fit &gt; Fit to Page</strong>. It's odd to have something as core as this become more difficult - I have to wonder what the developers are thinking. There's some improvement in terms of the front and back covers; there are some page styles that include a full-page image on the front, but none that include full-page images on both front and back covers.</p><p>Not wanting to have a repeat of the baby book with the back cover, I <em>very </em>carefully aligned the front and back images to meet up <em>exactly</em> with the fold lines in the software. We're talking pixel-perfect here. With shipping ($15), tax, and the upgraded paper option ($15), my book cost me $127.78 CAD - and that's <em>after </em>the 45% off discount coupon. The quality that Photobook Canada offers isn't cheap, that's for sure. My book was finished and I excitedly waited for it to arrive - I was really looking forward to seeing how great it would look!</p><h1><PAGE />When the Waiting Was Over...</h1><p><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/photobook-canada-review-04.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1283039519.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></a></p><p><em>Figure 2: The cover of my book. Beautiful, right? [Click image above for a larger photo]</em></p><p>When it arrived, I excitedly ripped open the package and had a big smile on my face as I saw the cover - this photo was one of my favourite from Japan, and the smooth cover looked and felt great. I loved how the photo covered the entire front of the book. Visually stunning. I flipped it around to look at the spine, eager to see spine printing from Photobook Canada for the first time.</p><p><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/photobook-canada-review-05.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1283039933.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></a></p><p><em>Figure 3: Egads! What are those images doing in the spine area? [Click image above for a larger photo]</em></p><p>My elation quickly turned to disappointment when I saw that the both the front and back images ran over into the spine area. It looked horrible! Anyone looking at the book would immediately see that it wasn't supposed to be that way. Click the image to see the larger view and you'll see it's more obvious than the image above.</p><p><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/photobook-canada-review-06.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1283039976.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></a></p><p><em>Figure 4: Alignment? Forget about it. [Click image above for a larger photo]</em></p><p>The back cover not only intruded into the spine area, but it was completely mis-aligned on the back. I had matched up the image to exactly touch the fold lines on all sides, so the image should have filled the entire back cover, with no black showing. Instead, I had a thick black border around the entire cover, but not an even one; there was more black showing on the bottom than on the top. I was extremely disappointed that this was how the outside looked - but what about the inside?</p><p><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/photobook-canada-review-07.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1283040055.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></a></p><p><em>Figure 5: The inside looked fantastic! [Click image above for a larger photo]</em></p><p>Flipping through the pages, I went back to being impressed with Photobook Canada - all of my images looked beautiful; the pages were exactly as I'd designed them, with nothing cut off or trimmed improperly. The inside of the book looked stunning, and the upgraded 216gsm Premium Silk/Gloss paper was so thick it felt like cardboard (but in a good way). This book would have looked incredible as a lay-flat book, but I didn't want to be limited by length (AdoramPix) or pay a fortune for it (Picaboo).</p><p>But what about the awful covers? I contacted the PR person at Photobook Canada that I'd dealt with for the baby book review, and she said they'd reprint it for me at no added cost. We discussed several approaches on the cover, and basically it came down to this: the accuracy of the software does not necessarily line up to the final printed product, so I needed to come up with a layout that was more forgiving. I didn't verify this, but from the appearance of the cover on the book they shipped me, I'd guess that Photobook Canada doesn't do any sort of visual verification that the final product matches the software layout. I think that's a real shame - if a customer is spending hundreds of dollars on a photo book, someone should be looking at it to make sure it's correct before it goes out the customer. I adjusted the front and back covers, and ordered the re-print.</p><p>I'd contacted tech support immediately after submitting my book, asking them to take a look and ensure that it would print without issue. By the time someone responded a few days later, however, the book was already off to the printer and it was too late to do anything about it. Rather unfortunate!<PAGE /></p><h1>Another Attempt: Success (Mostly)</h1><p><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/photobook-canada-review-01.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1283037074.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></a></p><p><em>Figure 6: The new front cover. A bit less impressive. [Click image above for a larger photo]</em></p><p>On the front cover I moved my image over to the right, away from the spine, so there was a healthy margin of black - my hope was that it wouldn't be printed on the spine at all. As you can see, it wasn't; but it looks a bit less impressive now. I really liked the way the original cover looked, printed all the way across the page.</p><p><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/photobook-canada-review-02.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1283040014.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></a></p><p><em>Figure 7: The spine - all spine, no cover, just the way it should be. [Click image above for a larger photo]</em></p><p>I didn't change anything on the spine, but you can see that by changing my approach on the front and back cover images, I was able to get a pure black spine, free of any of the front or back photos. Score!</p><p><a href="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/dht/2010/photobook-canada-review-03.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/dht/auto/1283040035.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></a></p><p><em>Figure 8: The back cover...still not quite right. [Click image above for a larger photo]</em></p><p>For my repeat of the back cover design, I opted to shrink the image so that there was a black border on all four sides of it. I thought for sure this would solve the problem; it sort of did. The image wasn't pushed into the spine area, but it wasn't aligned accurately; you can see there's a thin black border on the bottom, but not on the top. The image is slightly wrapped around the top. The back cover doesn't look awful, but it doesn't look great either - which is a real shame, because the inside looks <em>fantastic</em>.</p><p><object width="600" height="360" data="http://www.youtube.com/v/1HD27x82R6k&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" type="application/x-shockwave-flash"><param name="src" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/1HD27x82R6k&amp;ap=&amp;fmt=18" /></object></p><p>The video above gives you another look at some of the problems, but also the stunning quality of the paper and printing. To view it full screen, click on the video and go to the YouTube page - you'll see the full-screen option there.</p><h1>What Does a Customer Have to Do Here?</h1><p>I asked my contact again about the issue of accuracy, and she said that because the books are hand-made, it's impossible for them to get a 100% match to the software. That may be, but here's the problem: because Photobook Canada has such high-quality printing and paper, when someone picks up the book, it feels professional. It feels like an expensive coffee-table photography book. The fact is that even when the customer puts effort into coming up with a compelling design, they can't match it on paper - that's disappointing.</p><p>I'm sure there are numerous technical challenges when it comes to printing and aligning the front and back covers, but Photobook Canada either needs to somehow overcome these challenges and match the design the customer is submitting, or alter their software so the types of layouts I created aren't possible. Sure, I'd be disappointed not to be able to have a full-cover image on the front and back - but I'd rather work creatively inside the confines of a limited design that can be achieved with 100% accuracy, than think I can do anything I want and be disappointed when the final product doesn't match up to my vision. Photobook Canada shouldn't be offering customers the ability to create photo book covers that they can't make a reality. For $127, I expect to see on paper what I saw on the screen.</p><p>Ultimately, I'm proud of the book I created and am thrilled with the quality of the inside pages and cover - I display it proudly on my bookshelf in our family room, cover out. The flaws on the back cover irk me, but I know most people aren't as detail-oriented as I am, and probably won't notice it. I plan on using Photobook Canada for my next project, but will be going with an even less ambitious design than this one in an attempt to find some layout that they can execute flawlessly.</p><p><em>Jason Dunn owns and operates <a href="http://www.thoughtsmedia.com/" target="_blank">Thoughts Media Inc.</a>, a company dedicated to creating the best in online communities. He enjoys <a href="http://photos.jasondunn.com/" target="_blank">photography</a>, mobile devices, <a href="http://www.jasondunn.com/" target="_blank">blogging</a>, 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. He likes making photo books, but wishes everyone had the same eye for detail that he does.</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>