Lately, the million dollar question among my readers has been, “What photo company should I use now that MyPublisher is closed?” You’ve been reaching out via e-mail, Facebook comments and Messenger on this subject ever since the announcement was made in February and I’m still getting these messages now – months after the closure came to pass in May. At the outset, I put together a FAQ/Q&A post about the MyPublisher closure, with a lot of info about the transition, so if you haven’t read that post or want a refresher, be sure to take a look.
Among those writing me are folks who didn’t hear about the closure until after the fact and some unfortunately had lots of books in the works. The one thing I can advise is to go ahead an open up the old MyPublisher software. The software resides on your computer so you can still see your books. Not all is lost – while you cannot upload them to MyPublisher any longer and there is no way to print from those files as is, at a minimum you can view your layouts and recreate them in different software with a different company (or do the layouts again on your own purchased software and then print them anywhere you like). I know it’s not the most expeditious solution, but at least you don’t have to redesign it.
As some of you may have been following, I had promised to follow up by making a photo book with Shutterfly to see how close I could get to the specs of my former MyPublisher books. Apologies if I didn’t specifically answer your inquiry – I’ve been focusing on getting this post up so I could point you all here. So, here we are!
A PRICE COMPARISON BETWEEN SHUTTERFLY AND MY PUBLISHER PHOTO BOOKS
Which Company Has the Better Price?
Every one has their own preferences when making photo books. Below is a screenshot of one of the last orders I placed with MyPublisher. Note that this order was for a quantity of two books, so divide the cost in half for an apples to apples comparison.
MyPublisher is the first photo book company I tried back in 2005. Since then I’ve made countless books with them. I’ve almost always maxed out my photo books at 100 pages since I love to take lots of photos and have a hard time leaving so many out. Normally I would wait for a free extra pages deal or 60% off discount before ordering. Later when new options became available, I would always choose the lay flat upgrade as well as the thicker premium satin pages. The latter was only a few dollar upcharge so that was a no brainer for me. I would also choose the matte cover and standard end sheets which were included in the price. So, each 100 page book cost about $52.00 after discounts, inclusive of shipping and taxes. That’s a great price for a large lay flat photo book.
A number of commenters mourned the loss of the beloved free extra pages deal. Yes, that deal was probably the best deal MyPublisher would offer to readers and one that I often requested from my contacts at MyPublisher for our Photobookgirl.com fans. I had never seen Shutterfly offer the same deal, and I even wrote about that in my February FAQ post, but lo and behold this past July, Shutterfly offered the free extra pages on their site and of course I had to jump on it!
PHOTO BOOK GIRL TIP: Shutterfly has its own unique pricing structure and it’s one of the few companies that allows you to STACK coupon codes. That means whatever codes you can get your hands on, you should try them all and see what happens. Keep trying different combinations until you get the lowest price. In your shopping cart, even if a code is initially kicked out, be sure to click on the ‘Details’ heading as well as the “See Saved Offers” – sometimes codes that are initially rejected are accepted after I go to take a look at the details. Don’t ask me how – it just happens sometimes. I usually get at least two codes to work on every order and lots of folks have said the same. Below is a screenshot from the order for this book:
You can have a total of 110 pages in a Shutterfly photo book, that’s 10 pages more than with MyPublisher. So if you’re getting free extra pages, you should definitely go for the max! Shutterfly breaks down its options differently so some things which were included with MyPublisher are add-ons in Shutterfly. Also note that I added a dust jacket for this order, which I don’t normally do for MyPublisher, but I thought for those of you that like dust jackets, I’ll order one so I can review it here.
The base price for the MyPublisher book for one 100 page book with the specs I detailed was $146.20 before discounts. A similar book at 110 pages with Shutterfly is $219.67. All in, after discounts and adding shipping and tax, the MyPublisher book ended up being $52.66. The Shutterfly book in this case was $49.38. As you can see in the savings detail for Shutterfly, I also had a free 8 x 8 photo book promo valued at $29.99 (btw you’ll find a similar freebie for new customers on my deals page) so I was able to apply that credit to my larger 8 x 11 book and I got the free extra pages. I also got free shipping (normally $8.99 for the first book) so that contributed to the huge discount in the end. So even with 10 extra pages and the dust jacket, the Shutterfly book was cheaper.
Keep in mind though, whether or not the free extra pages deal will come around as often for Shutterfly as it did for MyPublisher remains to be seen. The base price before discounts on the Shutterfly books is considerably higher, but remember to stack those deals when you can. I hope that we see the free extra pages deal come around more often. If I see it you know I will post it on my super duper deals page. More realistically I have seen the offers get to 50% off. If you can stack that with a free photo book credit or Groupon, then you can knock the price down considerably.
By the way, you may also note two freebies were also part of my order. I got the freebie coupons from the store – they printed out along with my grocery receipt. Shutterfly is really good at advertising to its target demographic at various stores where moms shop – grocery, Target, maternity stores etc. I’ve gotten so many free photo book or $20 offers I often forget about them. Normally I wouldn’t want to pay for shipping for freebie items unless I really wanted them or had a specific use in mind, but since I was going to get free shipping anyway because of the book I was ordering, this was the perfect time to tack on these other items at no extra charge. I love saving money!
PRINT QUALITY AND BOOK CONSTRUCTION
Which Book is Better?
Let’s take a look at the two books side by side.
Binding and Overall Book Construction
I can’t recall exactly when, but at some point Shutterfly adopted MyPublisher’s lay flat binding. Shutterfly calls it “Standard lay flat” to differentiate it from their Deluxe lay flat which is seamless (meaning there is no split in between the center of a two page spread) and printed on much heavier stock paper. The standard layflat is also a cheaper upgrade at $25.00 versus $50.00 for the Deluxe seamless upgrade (for the 8 x 11 size). Overall both books feel and look very similar although the binding on the MyPublisher book seems bound a little tighter. When I open the MyPublisher book the binding is so tight, the book cover wants to spring shut, whereas the Shutterfly book lays open. This might not be a great photo to illustrate this, but you may be able to tell that MyPublisher’s cover doesn’t lay all the way flat. It’s kind of suspended mid air. Also there’s more of the binding showing in the Shutterfly one, so that’s probably why it lays flatter. In each of the photos below, the Shutterfly book is on the top and the MyPublisher book is on the bottom.
Does it matter? Perhaps not. As long as the binding holds well and the pages stay bound together neatly, then no. Some may argue that you want the book to lay as flat as possible. I could probably get the MyPublisher book to flatten all the way down, but I’m one of those people who likes their books to stay as pristine as possible so I haven’t wanted to force the binding. Also as you can see in the photos here, the MyPublisher pages when viewed from the side look neater and better aligned whereas the Shutterfly one is not as uniform.
Additionally it looks like the Shutterfly pages are a bit jagged (I’m referring to the diagonal, slightly raised ridges) – perhaps the cutting machine could have used some sharpening?
Another detail – with the Shutterfly book the cover photo does not run all the way to the edge. The binding is black, whereas on the MyPublisher book, the cover photo runs all the way to the edge. Overall for binding and generally the way its put together, I prefer the MyPublisher book, but none of these things are a deal breaker for me.
Paper and Print Quality
The paper differs between the two companies but not greatly. The MyPublisher one is an upgrade, while this paper comes standard with Shutterfly. I honestly had a pretty hard time trying to discern a difference in feel between the two papers – any difference is pretty minimal. I’d say that the Shutterfly paper has slightly more texture and a bit more reflective, while the MyPublisher paper has a smoother satiny finish overall, but it’s very, very close. In comparing the Shutterfly paper in this book with an earlier Shutterfly photo book (standard paper but not with the standard lay flat binding), the paper has definitely changed. The current paper feels stiffer and thicker than what Shutterfly used to use. That’s a plus. So, if you made a Shutterfly photo book in the past and didn’t like the paper, you may want to give them another try.
For me the most important thing in picking a photo book company is how well my photos are reproduced in the book. I’m especially looking for that punch of color – that vibrance that makes my photos stand out on the page. The printed page cannot reproduce the luminosity of our computer screens, but there should still be proper exposure. The color should be true to the original, correctly reproduced and the image should be sharp and clear. Print quality was definitely something that I thought MyPublisher did really well and consistently well too. Not to say that I didn’t have occasion to ask for reprints over the years (which they promptly reprinted), but I could be pretty confident that the images would print out the way I wanted them to. I have to say, I was most concerned that Shutterfly would not be able to match MyPublisher in this category, but I was very pleasantly surprised. Side by side my photos printed out very similarly in both books. I’m very happy with how the colors reproduced, the sharpness of the printing and the proper punch was evident.
Here’s a few more shots of the books. Sorry about the glare. I took this pics with my iPhone 6. Again Shutterfly is at the top and MyPublisher is at the bottom.
They look pretty identical don’t they? That’s a huge plus.
Here’s a shot of the dust jacket. I’m not a big fan of dust jackets and I don’t think there was any way to customize the inside flaps. If you could I might be more inclined to order them. Dust jackets end up just getting put aside in my house as they’re always falling off my kids storybooks. But if you like them this is what they look like.
MAKING THE PHOTO BOOK
For those who follow my site, you’ve probably heard me say that I use my own software to make my photo books. For general info on the pros and cons of buying your own photo book design software check out this post – I will tell you that I find very little cons except for cost and even that I don’t find to be prohibitive if you make more than a few photo books per year. I personally use LumaPix FotoFusion which is a program that works offline – I don’t have to be connected to the Internet to use it. That’s what many of you liked about MyPublisher, a feature which Shutterfly does not have. I also like FotoFusion cause I have the ability to add shadows to make elements or photos stand out more, as well as the option to have photos with rounded corners (rather than square corners). These things are not crucial, but for me, they would be features I would miss because of my particular design style. For more about FotoFusion see my post (updated as of 2017).
For this book, since I was doing a comparison post, it made sense to take some of the layouts I made for my final MyPublisher books and use them again for my Shutterfly “test” book. I went into the FotoFusion program and I entered new page dimensions so the layouts would work in the smaller sized Shutterfly book. With one click, it automatically resized all my layouts from the non-standard 8.75 x 11.25″ page size of MyPublisher to the more standard 8 x 11″ photo book and I didn’t need to make any tweaks after doing so. You see that they turned out virtually the same despite the change in page size. If you also like to use your own software and are looking for specs for the page sizes, Shutterfly has a page on its site with actual dimensions of its photo books so you can plug them into your own design software. Information can be quite hard to find on the Shutterfly site so hopefully this is helpful if you’ve been wondering. Personally I don’t fiddle too much with exact dimensions. I usually just do a test layout and then check the preview to see if I’m losing any of the image. I’m relying heavily on the preview so it’s important that the preview be accurate. So far no problems.
Interestingly, while doing this post, I realized my Shutterfly book measures bigger than the stated 8 x 11″. It’s just about 8.75 x 11.75″ which makes the book larger overall than the MyPublisher book. It’s not unusual for book sizes to be advertised in round measurements, but it’s almost an inch bigger on each side. Shutterfly’s interior pages measure 8.5 x 11″. In contrast MyPublisher’s exterior measurements are as stated: 8.75 x 11.25″ and the interior pages are 8.25 x 10.5″. The whole time I thought that Shutterfly books were smaller but in fact that’s not the case. I have seen photo book companies make changes and tweaks over the years, so I’m not sure if this was a more recent change? I can try to find an old book to compare. Perhaps it’s the binding that accounts for the change. The measurements are not significantly different. For those who liked the MyPublisher’s Deluxe 11.5 x 15″, Shutterfly closest book measures 11 x 14″.
As a side note for some folks who were dismayed that their new books would not look uniform on their bookshelves along side their old MyPublisher books – well because they are both 8.75″ in height – guess what? They look the same size from the front! Good news for those who make Year in Review books or those who like a consistent look.
So, to get back to making the book, because I have my own software which is very full featured, I didn’t really have any strong feelings on either MyPublisher or Shutterfly’s software. I found both to be limiting in their own ways. Shutterfly’s flow is a little odd as any major editing of layouts requires the user to click on “advanced editing” which toggles to a different mode. You then have to exit this mode to go back to constructing your book, so there’s quite a bit of switching back and forth when making your book. I have however heard several compliments for Shutterfly’s Storyboard function where you can quickly drop photos onto certain layouts from a single master page. Keep in mind that I am probably pickier than the occasional photo book maker so Shutterfly’s software might work great for you. It has vastly improved since I started making books with them over a decade ago.
It’s hard to move on from a product you love and something you’ve become accustomed to, but as a photo book lover, there’s no way I could or would stop preserving my family’s memories. So of course I would have to figure out a replacement going forward. Although I probably made the most photo books with MyPublisher, it isn’t the only company I used on a consistent basis. MyPublisher happened to be my go-to for my vacation photo books however.
I’m glad that I sat down and finally had the time to finish this comparison post (with all of your encouragement of course)! Although I’ve been swamped with a toddler and a soon to be first grader (with a million summer activities), I think in part I was kind of procrastinating cause I didn’t think I would like Shutterfly’s version of my favorite MyPublisher photo book and honestly I didn’t want to face the disappointment. I’m not a stranger to Shutterfly. Shutterfly’s Deluxe seamless lay flat is my go-to for the books I make for my kids because the pages are so thick and durable, but I wasn’t that interested in trying the hinged lay flat until now. It makes sense that Shutterfly would try to win over as many old MyPublisher fans as possible and I can honestly say that I’m going to use them in future for this type of book. I was surprised to see how close the two books were to each other.
I think it’s going to come down to price. If Shutterfly consistently offers the free extra pages deal, or some similar discount – I’m ordering! Find all current Shutterfly deals here.
I know for those of you who don’t want online photo book software, it’s going to be rough. There’s only two companies I can think of that have downloadable software and that’s Blurb and Photobook America. Blurb doesn’t have lay flat photo books though. Photobook America does and I’ve reviewed their seamless lay flat books here. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other offline options out there, but I’m just not familiar or haven’t reviewed them yet. For another option, if you would be willing to buy your own software then that opens up a whole world of possibilities. If keeping your photo book designs is important to you, then I really think having your own software is crucial. Writing this blog for over 7 years now, many companies have come and gone and I’ve gotten too many messages from folks crushed at losing the books into which they’ve put so much thought and care.
I hope this post will help answer some of those questions you may have had. If not please feel free to comment below rather than emailing me as it will be more efficient and I’d like the discussion to be of benefit to others.
As always Happy Photobooking!
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