Photo Book Group Test (Part 1)

Regular readers will know about my experience ordering a photo book from Apple using iPhoto 5 and cards using iPhoto 6. For my wedding I decided to get another book using the same pictures and, as far as possible, the same layout but order from three different suppliers: Apple, PhotoBox and MyPublisher. This is, therefore, going to be a four part article. This one is about the initial ordering process, then the next three will be posted when the books actually arrive.

All three orders were placed on the evening of Sunday 25th June. This is how it went.

First I looked at iPhoto as I (vaguely) knew what I was doing with it. This was a newer version of iPhoto (6 rather than 5) but pretty much all the comments I made last time are appropriate. That is: it’s incredibly easy to use, just drag and drop. If a picture is not of sufficient resolution a little yellow triangle appears to warn you. There are a number of decent themes. The only difficulty is that it seems to assume that I want a black cover on my hard-back book. As it happens I do, but I was sure there used to be a choice. It turns out there is, but only once you have clicked the “Buy Now” button. The order process is uneventful, picking up my details from my previous orders and allowing me to change them if required (I don’t). The book is just shy of 14Mb and it uploads as quickly as one might expect given the size. An email confirmation arrives shortly afterwards.

Next I decide to look at MyPublisher. MyPublisher works with both Windows and the Macintosh. For the former they provide a complete application, for the latter you can download an iPhoto plugin. I used the latter. The advantage of this is that all the lovely user interface elements are also present. Almost. One neat thing about iPhoto is that it only uploads the book once you have confirmed that everything is okay (including the price and delivery options). It, therefore, comes as a surprise when clicking the “Buy Now” button after downloading and installing the plug-in (very easy, which is why I didn’t mention it) and it immediately starts uploading it.

Once it has finished uploading it shifts focus to Safari where it asks for an email address and a password, then my address and credit-card details. And then it says that there had been a problem uploading the photo book (there were zero pages apparently). I’m not happy that they took all my personal details before announcing that there had been a technical problem.

The second time I upload things seem to go better. Upon completion it shows a screen where you can select various details of the book. MyPublisher has a better selection of covers both in terms of colours and finish (they have a leather bound book too). Thankfully they remembered my credit card details from last time. They do, however, have one last surprise for me: despite my address being in the UK (and them appearing to have a UK office), they charge me in US Dollars and charge me Fed-Ex shipping from the States.

Lastly I try PhotoBox. This is a two step process. Firstly: upload the pictures. There are a number of methods, but I choose the default which is a Java applet. You drag and drop image files into the window (I dragged them from iPhoto) and then click the “Upload” button. This takes a while as, unlike, iPhoto and MyPublisher, the full resolution images are being transferred. The pictures range from three to eight mega-pixels. In theory this should give PhotoBox the advantage when it comes to printing. We’ll see.

Stage two — building the book — is a web application. As a browser experience it is good and responsive. I try to keep the layout as similar to the iPhoto book as possible but some concessions are needed. I need to change the cover image, for example, and the first inside page, which is entirely text in iPhoto, had to be removed entirely. Page layouts are less flexible and selecting the right one is more of a manual exercise. While iPhoto dynamically changes the layout to cope with portrait versus landscape pictures, PhotoBox tends to crop the pictures and requires you to switch layouts yourself. All the formats leave space to enter captions for the photos. In trying to mirror the iPhoto layout we did not enter any, however there is still the niggling question of whether there are any “holes” in the design because of that. It’s not as WYSIWYG — you don’t see that acronym very much any more — as iPhoto.

The experience is not as good as that in iPhoto. It is, however, still very good.

I’ve not mentioned the prices of any of the books so far, and that’s because they’re all pretty much in the same ball-park: between £20 and £25 including delivery. That was including a discount from MyPublisher (seemingly “one time only” but I’ve been getting emailed the vouchers on a fairly regular basis since I first heard about the company). And for this month only PhotoBox had a special two-for-one offer, so I should be getting two identical books for the same price.

So that’s myexperience with buying process of three online photo-book merchants. Stay tuned for the results.



3 responses to “Photo Book Group Test (Part 1)”

  1. “and them [MyPublisher] appearing to have a UK office”
    they don’t have a uk office.
    they just like people to think they have.
    so even though you can pay in £ sterling, all printing and distribution is done in the USA.
    their distribution options still don’t allocate a tracking number to a shipment -so you don’t even know when your book is going to arrive.
    overall, MyPublisher creates a shoddy impression – why aren’t they up front about not having a UK base, and why on earth can’t they ship using tracking numbers ????
    very poor

  2. MyPublisher wrote to me with the truth:

    Thank you for contacting MyPublisher regarding your UK facility.
    Currently we are producing all books in the US. We produce at our UK facility when the volume reaches a level that requires a second production facility.
    Best Regards,
    Customer Service Team

  3. Thank You