My hardcover imagewrap photo book arrived late on Friday, and I’ve posted a sneak peek to my Facebook fans. Seems like folks are eager to see this review, no doubt since those Photobook America and Photobook Canada Groupons have been so popular. I was provided a complimentary photo book from Photobook America to try their service and here’s my review!
Part I of my review was all about the Photobook America design software – in my case Photobook Designer version 2.5.4 for the Mac.
I also posted some of the layouts and tips for designing your own photo book templates within the software.
Want to see the quick specs and overview for Photobook America?
Now here’s the actual book!
|Book size:||8 x 10 (width x height) Medium Portrait|
|Cover:||Hardcover – Matte Laminate Finish Imagewrap|
|Pages:||126 (double-sided), 216gsm (roughly equivalent to 146lb.) Premium Silk paper|
|Binding:||Side Stitched with reinforced spine backing|
|Price:||Normally $151.00 + $10.00 paper upgrade = $161.00 + $12.00 (shipping)Total: $173.00 less $115.00 complimentary credit
Out-of-Pocket after credit = $58.00
|Ordered/Shipped/Received:||Nov 8 / Nov 15 / Nov 18 (10 days)|
Photobook America’s Software
As mentioned, you can find a detailed review of Photobook America’s software in Part I of my review. To summarize, I found the design tools easy to use and full of features you would expect from a good book layout program.
In particular, I liked the following features:
- Duplicate spreads for easy reuse on another spread (under “Page” pull down window);
- Rearrange spreads and insert blank spreads in between pages for flexibility (also under “Page” pull down window);
- Easily copy a box or item so you don’t need to guess whether two boxes are the same size or have the same style attributes;
- The instant Fit to Page and Fit to Spread functions are always welcome. With a couple clicks, you can fill the page with your photo or place a single photo across both pages;
- Numerous options for photo containers – square, rectangular, circular, diamond shaped and unique “masks” such as hearts to change the shape of your photos;
- Rounded corners easy to apply for a different look;
- Control the opacity of your photos for different effects;
- Precise control over placement of elements using one-click alignment tools and coordinates;
- The “Preview” tool and the red guides are very accurate in showing you what you’ll get in your final book – very important when you’re making your own custom layouts;
- You can keep your book file on an external hard drive to save internal hard drive space. If you make as many books as I do, you’ll be glad for that!
Print Quality and Photo Book Construction
The book came in cardboard box encased in a clear plastic sleeve and wrapped in a layer of bubble wrap. The box wasn’t that sturdy, so the corners got a bit dinged.
The cover I chose was the imagewrap cover. It allows you to select a single image that goes from front to back as well as over the spine. I like the seamless look this provides rather than books that break down the covers into separate elements. You do have the option to have different images, but the wrap around effect shows off nicely with this book. The cover is matte, which is different from most photo book companies with full photo cover options. Most companies custom covers are glossy. I thought the colors came out well saturated and really had the look of a book you’d buy in a bookstore. A couple friends said it looked like a school textbook (probably in part due to the portrait orientation of the book). The cover looks closest to MyPublisher’s photo finish hardcover and Blurb’s ImageWrap – the name for the equivalent styles offered by both companies. It doesn’t have that soft feel of the MyPublisher cover, so it is different. The covers are pretty similar, but Photobook America’s gives you more options, as you can wrap the image across the full cover, including the spine – with MyPublisher’s and Blurb you can’t do that.
You can also title the spine which is an important option to have. The font is my own font from my computer. (P22 Cezanne is the font – you can Google it and find it online for free.) I like the flexibility of choosing your own fonts and I found the text and captions printed out nice and clear.
When you open the book, the first page is a single white sheet of standard paper much heavier than standard copier paper but not as heavy as cardstock. Next is a translucent vellum type page with a subtle texture of tiny dots. I’m a sucker for vellum overlays. The vellum type endsheet and white cover page is also repeated at the back for a nice finish.
The paper I selected is an upgrade. The standard paper is 170gsm (European) which is about 115lb. The upgraded 216gsm silk paper I selected is roughly equivalent to 146lb and cost $10 to add. Most photo book companies offer 100lb. paper, so according to the numbers, Photobook America’s standard paper is heavier in weight than most paper offered. This is my first book with Photobook America, so I can’t say for sure if that’s the case, but I can tell you that this upgraded paper is very thick and carries a nice weight. When I showed it to friends and family, I could see them feeling the pages, thinking that two pages had stuck together. This type of paper produces no bleedthrough whatsoever, meaning you can’t see the image on the other side so your layouts can take center stage.
My layouts came out as they appeared in the preview, which is important when you’re doing two-page spreads. The image loss in the gutter is very minimal. The paper is more matte than most photo books, which to my eye just slightly mutes the vibrance of the colors a bit when I compare it to the printing of MyPublisher for instance. I would really like to see the difference between the 216gsm silk paper and the 190gsm Photo Lustre Paper which was added as an option recently. I don’t recall it being available when I ordered my book, but I may have missed it. According to the information on the site, the photo lustre paper has a satin matte surface that looks and feels like a photographic print with the added bonus of “brillant colors, depth of contrast, low reflection” etc. I prefer matte photographs versus glossy, so I like the idea of a matte paper with the look of a photograph. I may have to use one of my Photobook America Groupons to do a side by side comparison with the lustre paper!
Here are some shots of the interior layouts. As mentioned earlier, you can read my post for a “how to” on creating these photo book layouts.
The binding is side stitched with a reinforced spine. It feels well-constructed.
Photobook America’s books are not cheap, but they don’t look cheap either. The book is more than twice as much as the comparable book by Blurb. If you haven’t tried my Photo Book Wizard yet, one thing it’s great for is doing cost comparisons. Below are the results after I entered the specs of this book and deleted the books that were not comparable such as black and white text books and other sized books. (The initial input here was hardcover, portrait, medium, 100 pages.)
I get lots of messages from readers asking for recommendations. To some folks, price is most important, to others print quality is foremost and price is secondary. Is Photobook America worth the cost? When we first saw it, my husband and I both were impressed with the quality of the book. Several friends said it looked like a store bought book, which is one of the best compliments you can get right? I liked the print quality of the Photobook America book more than the Blurb books I’ve done in the past, (but I still think Blurb does a good job overall). What sets Photobook America apart from Blurb for instance and many of the other photo book companies is the software. It’s loaded with features. Blurb allows for customizable layouts, but the tools are not as streamlined as Photobook America’s. You have to switch modes to alter the layouts in Blurb and then return to book layout mode to place the photos. With many other companies, especially those who do not offer customizable layouts, I feel restricted by the design tools. So for me, it’s a timesaver to find quality and excellent software in one package. Time is money – sometimes we don’t think of it in that way, but not having to create my layouts in an external program like I often do, is a huge factor for me. If you normally don’t make your own layouts and like the standard templates provided, then this may not be as important to you. But, after you get addicted to photo books like I have – you will likely get bored of the standard layouts and you’ll want to be more adventurous. You will want to create layouts that compliment your photos, not force your photos to fit into a template. One option that would be great is if Photobook America started offering a lay flat option – many companies such as Picaboo and MyPublisher have added lay flat options to their lineups and those have certainly been welcome.
I would be remiss in reviewing Photobook America without mentioning the Photobook America Groupon which for $35 gets you $115 towards your photo book. So, if you have the Groupon, making a book exactly like mine with paper upgrade and 126 pages would be $81.00 (before shipping). Definitely worth it. 70% off is huge and the company has said even though the Groupons are marked for 2-year expiration, they will continue to honor the discount even after two years. The last one offered was on October 19, 2010. I know this because of my Groupon Tracker! Bookmark it so you know when it comes up again.) What is Groupon? Read the details of how Groupons work here. What’s nice you can buy as many Photobook America Groupons as you like but you can only use one Groupon per photo book order. As for other deals, Photobook America has been offering 40% off their photobooks in the past few months that I have been checking. Please note, this deal cannot be combined with the Groupon.
Coupon Code: HOLSAVE40
Deal Expires: 11/30/2010
Photobook America makes a high quality photo book and the software is top notch. You will not be limited in design options and the software is easy to use. If cost is the main factor for you and you don’t have a Groupon, then keep your eye out for it by bookmarking my Groupon Tracker or my Photobook America Coupons & Deals page! We also have lots of fun on my Facebook page and we talk about the latest deals and tips!
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