Photo albums bound and digitally printed as photo books are the new phenomenon on the web. From wedding and baby books to travel and memory, everybody seems
to create their own coffee-table style book. These books are printed on photographic paper and provide beautiful color saturation in a variety of cool layouts.
Photo books are usually created offline using free downloaded software that provides ample page layout choices and makes it almost effortless to design your photo book masterpiece. Almost every digital printing service on the net offers to create an impressive coffee table photo book for you using the beautiful images you shot during your recent vacation to Hawaii. Kodak Gallery, Shutterfly, DotPhoto, Wallgreens Photo Center to name a few. And they are all fantastic and will supply you with a great service and a high quality photo book. However, most of these services will charge a relatively high price for these books and do not offer you a place to sell these books to potential customers.
So I decided to publish a photo book which would include a collection of favorite photos I have taken in the last few years.
First thing, I selected the images for my book Beautiful Darkness and put them all in one folder for easy access.
Next, I set out to find the right publisher for my bestseller. Since I’m always looking for DIY projects and wanted to self publish my book, I decided that print-on-demand was the right way for me to go.
The print-on-demand process utilizes digital printing technology which makes it possible to print and bind a book as soon as it is ordered, one copy at a time, in just minutes.
There are plenty of free print-on-demand publishers out there which will happily print a high quality book for you. Some of these publishers will let you set your price and sell your book through their website.
After a quick inquiry I decided to publish my book and evaluate the process and quality with 4 different free POD publishers: Lulu, VioVio, Samy’s Camera and everybody’s favorite, Blurb.
In this review I will focus on these areas of comparison:
• Ease of use
• Binding and print quality
• Turnaround time
• Customer service
• Extra features
• Online store
If you want to publish a premium portfolio with Lulu they will be more than happy to print it on premium quality paper for you which they describe as a 100# silk coat finish paper.
In order to create a photo book you will need to use their book creator software Lulu Studio which opens on their website and therefore you don’t need to download anything to your PC .
Setting up a book with Lulu Studio is quite simple and in fact it takes just about a couple of hours to create the book. (wow!)
Once you open Lulu Studio you will choose the theme of your book. There are about 20 different themes to choose from and you can change your theme at any time.
Next you will upload your images or import them from other online sources such as Flickr, Facebook or Photobucket. Drag and drop your images into a nice selection of page templates, add some text and voilà you’re done! Your book is ready to be published.
Lulu lets you publish your book and buy copies, or set a price and sell it on the Lulu Marketplace. But you will probably want to limit the number of pages as the book’s price starts at $25 for a 20 pages 9”X7” book with $0.50 for any additional page after that.
If you ever get to talk to the people at Lulu you will find they are quite nice, however, it is quite difficult to reach them. On their help page there is a nice Live Chat feature however this chat is not always available, in which case you can email them by filling out a form and creating a support ticket.
They reply quite quickly, however you cannot write back. If you do need to reply you are forced to go to their website and submit a new support request and good luck trying to explain your previous conversation with them. They will answer rather quickly again and hopefully you won’t need to say anything or else you will need to log into their website and submit yet another support request. So, even though they are always ready to help and answer questions, their system is a let down and they get a low ranking for their customer service.
One of the best features they offer at Lulu is a free storefront called Author Spotlight where anybody can sell their self published books.
This storefront is simple to set up and you can even incorporate YouTube videos, Facebook, and Twitter.
I find the printed book to be similar to what I’ve designed on the screen. The cover looks quite appealing. The interior paper is premium quality and the printing is top quality, vivid and just superior to any book I’ve published in the past using standard POD. What I don’t like about this book is the quality of binding which appears like it won’t hold for any length of time.
To publish a photo book with Blurb you will need to download BookSmart and create the book locally on your PC.
BookSmart is simple to use and you will learn how to use it as you go.
You begin by choosing your book’s dimensions and entering the title and author name. Next, choose the theme for your book from topics such as portfolio, journal, poetry, and wedding. Now, just upload your images into BookSmart from your computer or from an online source such as Flickr or Picasa and you are ready to begin designing your book.
The main difference between BookSmart and Lulu Studio is that BookSmart leaves lots of room for creativity. There are more than 70 page layout choices and not only can you manipulate any of these layouts any way you wish but also you are essentially working with layers of background, text and images, much like working with Adobe inDesign. And since the design is exceptionally flexible and your options plentiful, BookSmart lets your creative juices flow and completely captures your interest. The result is that designing a book with BookSmart stretches out over a longer time but it is also more enjoyable.
Once the book is ready it can be uploaded to Blurb from within BookSmart.
After I ordered a copy I waited a week until the book was printed and ground shipping took another week or so.
The cost of the book is not exactly low but quite reasonable as far as print on demand goes; a Standard Landscape 10×8 inch premium print Hardcover ImageWrap 80 page book is priced at $51.69
The book is printed on premium paper and the print quality is very good!
The book cover is beautiful and the binding is sturdy.
You can sell your book through Blurb’s bookstore. It is nothing fancy but you can set your price, available book formats, and set a preview of your book.
One thing is for sure, Blurb has more goodies than any other print-on-demand service and is fully geared toward the online photographer community. It has tools such as inDesign plugin, conversion to ebook for ipad and iphone, Blurb Bookshow, badge creator and more.
To make your photo book with Viovio you need to log in online to VioVio Designer to design your book. This software is easy to learn and offers many layout and design choices. The photos can be uploaded from your PC via web or ftp, or from Flickr, The overall photo upload is quite fast. They offer a few free templates for your book but you can also purchase some unique designs from their marketplace. When you build your book you can choose between designing your own pages or let the program auto fill the pages with your photos.
VioVio offers a nice selection of book sizes with different binding types.
Prices are very comparable with other POD services, however they require $10 if you wish to remove their logo from the back of your book.
The main drawback in using Viovio is that in order to sell your book in their online bookstore you will need to purchase a retail annual membership for $35.
Print quality is quite fine; saturated colors and nice tonal range for the black and white photos. And one last note, the book cover is glossy. That would not be my choice for this book, but then again I didn’t get to choose.
I’ve been a loyal customer of Samy’s Camera for years now. Samy’s is our local major camera store in Los Angeles. When they told me about their new photo book service, I knew I had to give it a try.
When making a book with them, the first thing to do is download and install their Creative Solutions software. This software is outstanding with lots of pre-made layouts, backgrounds, and frames, a fast learning curve and a straightforward workflow.
When you launch the program choose to start a new project. In the next window choose the size and titile of your book, then simply begin designing it. Most of the design works by dragging and dropping the layouts, backgrounds, frames and photos into the pages. When you are done the software will check your book for you and warn you if anything is wrong. Next, you can order your book from within Creative Solutions.
Books are available in a small selection of sizes for a price that is comparable with other services.
The main difference between Samy’s photobook service and others is that it’s really just a service that allows you to create one book but does not supply you with the opportunity to actually publish and sell it.
That said the quality of the printed book is superb!
The paper is of high quality and heavier than any papers used by the others. Color photos are brilliant while the black and white photos are even toned and printed in a way that made me fall in love with them all over again.
|Ease of use
||Lulu Studio. Very easy and fast paced however, LIMITED design options.
||BookSmart. Easy to learn with many layout and design choices.
||Viovio Designer. Easy and fast with several creative selections.
||Creative Solutions. Superior book creation software.
||A for cover, paper and printing.
C for binding.
|Price (For 80 pages 9″X7″ Imagewrap Hardcover printed on Premium paper)
|$59.99 (+ $10 to remove their logo)
||Shipped in 3 days.
||Shipped in a week
||Shipped in 5 days
||Shipped in 3 days
||Upload photos from Flickr, Photobucket, Facebook or SmugMug.
||Convert to ebook for iPad. Facebook or Instagram book. BookShow for a website or facebook. And more.
||Apple iPhoto Books
|Upload your own PDF
|Online book store
||free stylish storefront
||Very simple book store
||Only if you pay for the annual membership
If you like this article, you might want to consider downloading the
PRINT ON DEMAND AND SELF PUBLISHING 101 pdf file.
The Print on Demand and self publishing 101 PDF file contains 24 pages of detailed instructions accompanied by images and related links which will guide you through the world of Print on Demand self publishing, book design and online marketing.
This article is the result of 8 years of experience in designing and self publishing books.
In this article: Starting with an idea, designing the book, Adobe InDesign, Which Print on Demand should I choose?, Standard books POD, Lulu & CreateSpace, Publishing a Photo book, Publishing on Amazon,
marketing your book, tools you can use etc.
Thank you for your support!