A big reason why I chose Blurb and Mpix was the option to create smaller square format photo books in hardcover format. Snapfish also offers an 8 x 8 square format, but I liked the idea of a smaller book that could easily fit in a purse. My Publisher only offers a softcover 7.75 x 5.75 and no hardcover small book option. Mpix’s 5 x 5 and Blurb’s 7 x 7 therefore seemed to fit the bill.
I also intended to give the smaller size books as gifts for our parents and close family. In the past I’d given my parents photo books of our family vacations. My mother was so pleased with them, she announced that in future she would prefer a nice book of photos at Christmas every year instead of me spending money on other types of gifts. My mother is not a computer person in the least and she would always say she missed out on seeing our family snapshots because my brother and I never printed our photos anymore and would just store them on our computers. One of the main reasons why I started printing photo books in the first place was to share photos with my non-tech savvy mother. If I ever want to write a post about the durability of these books, I’ll check on the amount of wear and tear on the several photo books I’ve made for my mother as she loves to show them to her friends!
Size: 7 x 7
Cover: full-photo custom hardcover and rear cover
Cost: $33.95 with premium paper
Specifications on other Blurb photo books.
Size: 5 x 5
Cover: full-photo custom hardcover and rear cover
Cost: $50 with pearl paper
Specifications for other Mpix photo books.
Pros & Cons
1) Cover & Spine
Blurb’s cover is the most customizable. Blurb allows a full-page bleed on the front cover and back cover, and titling on the spine, printed directly on the hard cover surface for complete customization of the exterior of the book. The cover is matte which means that it doesn’t show fingerprints and has more of a “real book” look to it.
Mpix offers a high gloss laminated type cover and allows a full bleed photo in front and back. It’s shiny and most like a glossy photograph. In the photo below you can see the reflective quality of the Mpix cover on the left. It doesn’t appear that the spine can be titled though unless I missed something. The big disappointment I had with Mpix was that when I first opened it, it separated at the binding in the rear, exposing the staples holding the book together. After that, I was afraid to open it too much. I’ve never had that problem with the other company’s books. Also Mpix only allows for 50 total pages for the 5 x 5 book, which especially with a smaller book, isn’t quite enough pages for most of my projects. In contrast, you can get up to a whopping 440 pages in Blurb (100 max in My Publisher and 150 pages max for Snapfish).
2) Print Quality & Paper
Blurb’s print quality is very good, but not quite as sharp as MyPublisher. I ordered my books using the premium paper option which the website says is a 100 lb, silk finish which is 35% heavier than the traditional paper (80 lb. and matte). The paper feels substantial and feels heavier than the MP paper, though the MP paper has a glossier finish than Blurb. I’ve never ordered the regular paper, so I don’t know from personal experience how different it looks or feels.
Mpix’s print quality was better than Blurb in that it was brighter and the photos appeared sharper, but the print quality was still slightly under the quality of MyPublisher’s. I ordered the pearl paper which lent a nice sheen to the pages – not as glossy as MP, but not as matte as Blurb. I was expecting more from Mpix printing since I’ve ordered prints from them before, and their metallic finish prints with luster coating is really amazing, but I would have to say that I was disappointed with the print quality and the durability of the book.
3) User Interface & Software
Blurb and Mpix has software that you download to your computer versus working on your books online. I found both easy to use, but I’d give the edge to Blurb as I found Blurb to flow a bit more smoothly and a little more intuitively than Mpix. I have to admit, that I don’t generally like to read directions (gasp!) but like to jump right in. Only if I get stuck do I consult the help section or Google for a solution. I think that software should be easy to use from the get go. If it takes too long to figure something out, it won’t take long to tire of it.
4) Layouts & Templates
The main distinction between the grouping of MyPublisher and Snapfish in one review and Blurb and Mpix in this review is in one word – customization.
Blurb and Mpix offers complete customization by allowing you to create your own templates and also by altering their templates. Blurb allows you to create custom templates and save them for future projects, but I couldn’t find that function in Mpix. It’s nice to be able to open a folder with the custom templates you’ve created on a past project when you’re making a new book. In both Blurb and Mpix you can also create a two-page spread and place your photo as background for the template.
Mpix has 5 themed book templates, one of them being a wedding template. When you select and drag the template into the book page, it populates the book with various layouts over a series of blue-gray patterns including swirls, faded roses and polka dots.
Blurb offers 15 themed templates. None are specifically named “wedding” but there are a few that may work if you want to use a template.
It all depends on personal preference, but I don’t like using the themed templates – you can make a very nice looking book by letting your photos speak for themselves. Some of these backgrounds can get too busy. You can probably tell that I favor custom layouts and plain backgrounds for the most part unless that background is a photo.
(UPDATE February 7, 2011: MyPublisher now allows you to customize your layouts, but it is not as flexible as Mpix and Blurb. You can resize and move the photo and caption boxes, but there is no alignment tool, so you’re left guessing a bit whether the boxes line up in your layout.)
5) Cost & Coupons
When you add in the fact that the small 5 x 5 Mpix book at 50 pages was $50.00 before shipping and the 7 x 7 Blurb book with 80 pages was only $33.95 with premium paper option, the Blurb book is a much better deal. Especially since I intended to make multiples of these books as wedding thank you gifts, Blurb was more economical for that. Even with Mpix’s slight edge over Blurb on print quality, the cost and bad binding on the Mpix book makes Blurb the clear winner. Both Blurb and Mpix offer deals from time to time. When I ordered my Blurb books I got free shipping. Be sure to check out our photobook coupon page to check for the latest deals.
Also check out one of our newest features – the Photo Book Software Comparison tool. Take any two companies and compare their software specs side-by-side:
Check out more information on photo book publishers and overview of photo book software.
Update: June 13, 2010 – Want to know what a lay flat photo book is?
Update: July 19, 2010 – Check out my first lay flat wedding photo book.
Wedding photography by: SecondPrint Productions