So far this week I have covered the Mpix photo book printing software. So today I will jump into the Booksmart software by Blurb printing services. Booksmart is available for both the Mac and PC platforms. Like Mpix and iPhoto, Booksmart is very intuitive and simple to use. The wizard function will assist you step-by-step in assembling your photo book using a variety of different templates. You also have the option of creating your book from scratch. You begin the process by selecting what size book you would like to create. There are four sizes to choose from, 7×7, 8×10 (portrait & landscape) and 13×11. It’s the 13×11 that makes Blurb stand out from the pack. So far it is the largest size book I have seen available (great for those coffee table books). All of the books are available in hard and soft covers except the 13×11, which is a hard cover only.
The next step in the process is the selection of a starter layout. There are a multitude of choices including photo books, yearbooks, cookbooks, and more. At any point during this process you can decide to just jump right in and start designing your book or continue to let the wizard guide you.
The next step in the process is to select the images that you want to use in your book. Blurb really got this part right. You can load images from your hard drive, from an iPhoto collection or directly from your online photo storage site, i.e, Flickr, PhotoBucket, Picasa, and SmugMug. If you are using iPhoto, Booksmart will interface directly with your image albums and allow you to drag your images directly into the book layout.
From this point, you will need to choose to drop the photos into the layout yourself or allow the AutoFlow feature to do it for you. If you choose AutoFlow, you have a little say in how the images are ordered but nothing too fancy. You can select Oldest to Newest, Newest to Oldest, or Alphabetical. This may work for you but I tried it but found that I preferred to drop in my own images. Also, the AutoFlow doesn’t use multiple page layouts, it just drops one image per page. This is fine if that is what you are after but I like to mix up the number of images and sizes on each page, especially since I was using 94 images.
Before jumping into the layout page, you need to choose one of the 3 available themes; Viewfinder, Darkroom, or Vivid. From here on out, it’s all about laying out your book. This is where I actually find the software to be a little lacking. The basic photo book layout contains 17 actual picture pages and they are default sized for a single image to fill the whole page (full bleed). I would prefer a variety of layouts that I could fill and then change as necessary but that’s just my personal preference.
There are a multitude of image page layouts available that handle anywhere from 1 to 16 images on a page. Almost all of them allow for text to be added as well. My big problem with the layouts are that they are completely static. Once you choose a layout, you can not resize the image boxes or move them around on the page. This can get frustrating when you are trying to fit that portrait image into the landscape sized box. With that aside, it’s still a pretty easy workflow. Just pick your layout and drag the images in from the side box into the desired page/location. The program isn’t completely without some image adjustments. You can increase or decrease the size of the image on the page but only within the confines of the image box that is defined by the page layout.
Once you are done, you can choose to publish your book or print a proof album. I find this a nice feature but just know that there is a proof watermark placed on the pages if you choose to print it yourself. Still, this is a nice option if you want to show a proof to a customer before sending the book off for final printing. Another great feature is the ability to invite contributors to your book. If you are collecting images from several people, say from a family gathering where several of you were taking photos, you can have them sign in and submit their images for the book project (very slick).
As for pricing, the Blurb books are very competitively priced. A standard 40-page soft cover book will run you $19.95. A hard cover with a dust jacket is $29.95 and a hard cover with an imagewrap is $31.95. The large format books start at $54.95 for up to 40 pages.
Likes – Price, Large Format (13×11 Landscape), Variety of book types to choose from, Image importing from online sources such as Flickr, Integration with iPhoto, Proof book printing, and online contributors.
Dislikes – Not enough variation in AutoFlow, No ability to move or resize images on a page, Inability to create custom page layouts and save them in a set.
All in all I would say that the Blurb Booksmart software does a great job in offering users a wide variety of styles and options for their book printing needs. My next project will probably get sent to them to check out their actual print quality although my reader feedback has, so far, been very positive on this point. If you would like to give the Blurb printing a try or just find out more information, head on over to the website where you can see more samples of the Blurb printing products.
*By the way, my iPhoto books arrived today and they look AWSOME!