Elizabeth Halford Photography {the blog} » photography in plain English

Book Printing Review: Blurb vs Apple vs Photobox

“This is an astoundingly helpful article. Huge appreciation for your efforts.” -Declan

Before Christmas, I promised that I was working on a book printing comparison. Now that the book I had printed has been gifted for Christmas, I can show it to the world! So I’m going to cover all things about the three books like the from the building to the paper to the spine and everything in between! One little note before we get started: I’m totally NOT a product photographer. These photos, quite frankly, suck. I kept moving my flash around and I suppose the different walls/ceiling/whatever else it was bouncing off of altered the temp of some of the images so you can’t judge the color quality from these images unfortunately. Ok so on we go!

Note: There are lots of printing companies but I just used the three biggest ones for my location {Europe}. I didn’t realize that Photobox isn’t available in the USA. It’s kind of equivalent to Snapfish which Americans use quite a lot.

{BUILDING}

Building the three books took completely different turns. I didn’t utilize the built-in templates from any of the companies. Instead, I used this album template from Vol25 in Photoshop and uploaded the pages.

Photobox has so many different book options and ideas

Apple – With Apple, you have to have iPhoto which means that you have to be on an Apple computer. Once you import the photos you want to use into iPhoto {or you import the JPGS of the album pages you made in Photoshop like I did} then you can build your book in just a few clicks. You just highlight all the images you want to use in your book, click ‘book’ and it guides you through the whole process. A few things I noted:

  • Apple has loads of really great themes all ready for you to just pop your photos in. All of the book companies do, but in browsing through, theirs appealed to me more.
  • Building a book was very easy and enjoyable
  • …however as you can see here there are very few size and cover options.

Photobox – Building a book with Photobox takes place all online. They don’t have any software you can download so you have to first upload all of your files into an album and then build your book. This takes a lot of time, but with the other methods of book building described above, the uploading takes place at the end. So either way, you’re waiting for an upload at some point in the process. Of the three, I found Photobox to be the most time consuming to figure out. However, the biggest benefit with working with Photobox was that I could pop the whole two-page spread I’d made in Photoshop into the book at once. Whereas with the others, I had to insert each page separately. Other things I noted:

  • There didn’t seem to be any reasonable way in which the image files organized themselves when I wanted to drag them into the book. So the pages were jumbled and not in the order I wanted them in.
  • On that note, I wanted to double-click on the files so I could see them bigger to read the text and verify that it was the one I wanted to use. Because I couldn’t view the files larger while building, I had to keep toggling back to my Photoshop in order to view the images large enough to read the text.

All the options from Blurb for building your book

BlurbBlurb gives you quite a few methods by which you can build your book. From tools for the beginner {I would recommend downloading their Book Smart program} to the super technical Adobe InDesign option, Blurb has many many ways to create a book. You can even make a book with Blurb from within Lightroom 3 and Ligitroom 4 beta! Far out! Some of the things I noted when building my book with Blurb were:

  • They have many awesome book size and orientation options. I went for a more bookish shape with Blurb where the other two were more like photo albums
  • Built-in copyright page at the beginning of your book {which you can remove if you want}
  • Of the three methods, Blurb had the clearest guides
  • Blurb had an undo button for when I made a mistake!

{PRICE}

The books were 52 pages.

Apple – The Apple book cost £50. Regular paper. I didn’t remove the adorable Apple logo. Who’d wanna do that? :)

Photobox – And with Photobox, the book was £61.47. With Photobox, you often get BOGO deals and so I also got one for free! I added matte premium paper and paid a couple pounds extra to remove their logo.

Blurb – With Blurb, it was £34.83. Regular paper. Logo stayed put.

{FRONT COVER}

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So now to how the book looks.

Apple – the Apple book came with a dust jacket and matching printing on the book itself which I thought was a wonderful element. The printing doesn’t wrap all the way around the spine, but it looks like it does from the front.

Photobox – The Photobox cover stops before it gets to the spine which is a bit off putting.

Blurb – The Blurb cover I chose was image wrap, although it doesn’t exactly wrap. It, too, stops at the spine and then continues at the back. But it still looks fab from the front.

{BACK COVER}

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The back cover of my book is very important to me. It’s the last impression a reader has and I think sets the tone for how they remember your book.

Apple – The back cover of the Apple book had to be blank. Boo! The only option they had was to place an image in the center of the back, but there wasn’t an option to have the whole thing accommodate my back page template. So I chose to leave it blank.

Photobox – The back cover options with Photobox were much the same as with Apple. There were no whole page full-bleed options to just pop in your whole back page image. As you can see, it kind of stops near the bottom where the huge PhotoBox logo is supposed to be, but I paid extra to have that removed.

Blurb – Yayy! Blurb let me put whatever I wanted onto the back so I got to use the actual back cover file I’d created to match my book.

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{INSIDE PAGES}

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Well this is the most important part to me – how the images actually look. In the comparison to the right, you can see that…

Apple – The the image printed by Apple had all the moody contrast that it was meant to have. The shadows were exactly right, nothing weird going on there.

Photobox – I don’t know what they’re thinking here. When I do a print comparison between Photobox and anyone else, Photobox always {sadly} loses. The highlights are blown, there’s no contrast, the shadows are lost. It’s harsh. Triple yuck.

Blurb – Nothing strange with the Blurb printing that I could tell. Much like that of Apple. A tiny bit brighter, but not to its detriment.

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{SPINE/BINDING}

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I think that the binding is the main place that gives away a book’s quality {or lack thereof}. I’m always judging a book by its spine!

Apple – The Apple spine and binding were very good quality. Very much like an actual hardcover book store book. There’s some stitching, but on closer inspection, the pages are still glued in. Not sure what the stitches are for.

Photobox – I’m not sure why I photographed the Photobox one closed. Maybe I couldn’t keep it open? Anyway, I thought it was pretty good for a glued-in binding. I don’t know if ‘glued-in’ is the proper term for it, but there wasn’t any stitching to be seen. It was very nice and, again, like a proper bookstore book.

Blurb – Although this one is also glued in, I found it appeared to be the cheapest. It was a bit wobbly within the cover itself as if the cover would have liked for there to be more pages in it? I didn’t really like it.

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{AUTHOR PAGE}

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It was really important to me that I get to put in information about the author – me! This makes it feel like a real book and allows me to put my face to the project.

Apple – I love how Apple let me put the author page on the dust jacket. Made me feel like a proper author!

Photobox – There wasn’t an option for this like with Apple, so I just made the file in Photoshop and popped it onto the first page.

Blurb – Likewise, I popped the Photoshop file onto the last page along with my branding on the opposite page.

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{BRANDING}

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Sometimes you don’t mind a brand making its appearance on your project. And sometimes you do. All the companies give you the option of removing it for a nominal fee {Apple doesn’t charge to remove}.

Apple – Apple has a cult following. It’s a status symbol. I think people might print through them purely because it’s another place to plaster their logo into their lives! And I love that it says “made on a MAC”. So naturally, I left it there.

Photobox – the Photobox logo was supposed to be on the back and quite large and obtrusive. So I paid to have it removed and place my own on the back cover instead.

Blurb – the Blurb logo was little and I think it’s actually quite nice. And being that they’re one of the new{er} guys, I wanted to leave it there.

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{PACKAGING}

I didn’t opt for special packaging or sleeves for any of my books, but Apple sent theirs awesomely packaged in a cardboard sleeve with the Apple logo. Love! Although it ended up in the trash eventually, it was a really nice way to receive my book.

Apple’s packaging

{EBOOKS & SALES POTENTIAL}

my book as an eBook

I was so so pleased to see that with Blurb, any book you create can also be purchased as an eBook for less than £2! Their eBooks are currently formatted in the .pub format for functionality with iBooks. So they can only be viewed on an iPhone, iPad or iPod but it says that other devices are coming soon! So how cool is that?!

If you want to sell your book to others, you can do that through both Blurb and Photobox. You can price your book so that there’s a profit which gets sent to you, although with the prices of printing, you have to price the books quite high in order to make a profit. So as wonderful as it would be to consider this a viable route for self-publishing, it isn’t really perfect for that function. But with the eBooks, you can capitalize on the new wave of people using devices for reading and make a great profit selling eBooks through Blurb! Hopefully they’ll release functionality for Kindle and other devices very soon.

{IN CLOSING}

So in closing, there are many different things to consider when choosing which book printer is right for you. It depends on what you aim to do with your book as well as your audience. Many times, price is the main factor in a decision, however quality is of utmost importance, especially when you want your project to be visually and sensually stimulating; pleasing to both the eyes and the fingertips. There are many things I loved about the Apple book and I loved that Photobox so often has BOGO deals so I can pass a copy on to a friend. But all things considered, I would say that Blurb came out on top. The ease of building the book combined with the forward-thinking way they’re harnessing current trends and technologies makes me very excited to keep my eye closely on Blurb in the future.

That said, you can see the whole book I made {HERE}! 100% of the profits from the book are being given to the House of the Heroes orphanage in the Philippines which is run by my close personal friends so I know exactly how the money is spent. So grab the eBook copy. I promise you’ll laugh your head off every time you look at this book!

Thank you so much for reading. It’s been fun looking into this topic and seeing my book printed in so many different ways.

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  • Rick

    I printed a couple of books with Apple. 

    I just love it. Easy to create, easy to send, great results and image quality!

    Regards

  • http://www.caterinalay.com/ Caterina Lay

    I don’t think anyone else goes to the lengths of using three different companies and then giving the low-down on their blogs! I’ve used photobox for everything before (I liked the print quality for my personal pictures) but I had really nothing to compare it to. I’m going to try blurb next time. Thank you for your practical insight!

  • Jill Reid

    Have you ever used Mypublisher.com?

  • http://dreamingladolcevita.blogspot.com/ Stephanie @ La Dolce Vita

    I really appreciate the comparison. I always wondered how my Blurb stacked up against the others.  I use them to do an annual photo album for my family, vacation books, and am now working on a cookbook.   One thing, upgrading the paper on Blurb makes it even better.  Thanks so much for all your work in comparing these! 

  • katie o.

    Okay, I actually used Blurb for Christmas gifts and was unimpressed with their customer service.  After creating an initial book and duplicating it to tweak into a slightly altered version, I ordered both only to receive the same version twice.  I might not be the most tech savvy person on the planet, but ordering books isn’t that difficult.  According to customer service at Blurb, I might as well be an idiot.  Will most likely try My Publisher next go round as I intend to make books from here on out.  However, love the comparisons. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=699542977 Amanda Hayler

    A very useful review Elizabeth…I’ve only used Blurb to do photobooks so I was interested in seeing how it compared to Apple and Photobox. I’m not a big fan of Photobox printing (only had prints done with them) so I doubt I’d ever do a book with them, but tempted to try out one with Apple. Thank you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/careyvorholt Carey Penton Vorholt

    What a wonderful resource for those of us looking to print our books!

  • Gayle Vehar

    LOVE the premium paper that Blurb has available!  Totally worth the extra cost!

  • Kyla

    Thanks for the awesome comparison! I’ve been using Apple because it’s so easy and I’ve loved the quality on everything they’ve done for me, but I love the side by side comparison, and I’m interested to check out Blurb now.

    One very minor thing…you don’t have to pay to remove the Apple logo. If you go to “View” and “Project Settings…” there’s a little check box that you can uncheck and it will take off the logo. Like you, I am a lover of all things Apple so I, of course, leave it on… :)

  • julie

    Thanks for this post — it’s very timely for me since I’m putting together a photo book for my daughter who’s graduating from high school this year.  I was wondering about the different online printing options and you helped in that regard.

  • Beth

    Thank you, thank you!  Since you mentioned you were going to do this post, I’ve been anxiously waiting to see the results.  Really appreciate you being so thorough.  

  • http://j-woodphotography.com/ Jessica

    This is perfect!  I was actually looking at albums yesterday and I had definitely stopped at Blurb.  
    Thanks for the great, honest reviews!

  • http://briggate.wordpress.com/ Lloyd Spencer

    I have used both Blurb and Photobox for many photobooks. Actually they are both pretty easy to use. Comparable in ease-of-use, price and quality. Blurb has the edge in some of its commercial aspects and I like the quality if I am making quite chunky, sizeable books. 

    You were coming at this with your own style, wanting to achieve a pre-determined look-and-feel. Most people will start off with their templates and images rather than using Photoshopped images to determine the look-and-feel.

  • Gilliancrow

    I am a great Blurb fan. However, one thing you did not mention was postage costs. Are they all about the same?

  • http://www.facebook.com/johnnybean Johnny Bean

    Great post – I’m a blurb user and big fan, love the adaptability of their templates, quality and alround ease of use, love that they don’t stand still, always moving things forward. I even use blurb for my wedding clients, and they love the results! Great blog Elizabeth – I shall be back!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Garrity/1270650567 Michael Garrity

    I am new to this whole thing of self-publishing a book, but am going to give it  a try, using Blurb. From what I have seen at the Blurb website, I have been impressed and that since you have some experience in this area and you picked Blurb as your new fave, that gives me confidence to go forward with doing my first book with them.

  • Cameron

    Very good review & comparison, Elizabeth. Your book also looks spectacular! Well done for putting this together.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=661337370 Lorna T Morgan

    Hi Elizabeth. I adore this. Did you use the Adobe In Design option rather than the others?

  • Cparkins14

    Just a tip about Blurb image wrap, from my experience, is that you can change the binding color so it blends with the image on the front and back. I first ordered one and it had the white binding, but then had found that I could add a color. FYI. I created a 160 page blog book and a 54 page book and have been satisfied with the final product. As for a cheap non color small book, I thought it was weird paying more for shipping for the book. Blurb was the cheapest best place for completely being able to customize the book with every detail that I had found.

  • Glenn

    Never seen a better
    post!
     

  • Cheap Printing Services

    Never seen better article like this! You mentioned the
    comparison tremendously. If you could compare the price then it would better
    for reads.

  • Linda

    Hi Elizabeth, it was interesting reading your comparisons. Up until now I have used Blurb and have always enjoyed the outcome. However, the only downfall is that I do think it takes a lot more effort to make up an album with Blurb. I have recently purchased a Mac and over the last few days created an album using their iphoto system. Much easier, and quicker I thought except it may have some bugs in it which I’m trying to sort out with them. I couldn’t add pages which others have experienced and a few other little issues. However, what I do like about Apple is that photos can be edited whilst putting the book together whereas Blurb does not have that facility, Also Apple seems to sort out the resolution of photos more effectively whereas Blurb doesn’t. Blurb brings up an exclamation mark which means I have to go back and find the original photo and run it through a third party software to bring the resolution up. If Blurb could improve on the aforementioned issues, I’d continue with them as they are definitely good value for money, but I don’t have the time to sit round trying to tweak photos.

  • Curious Photobook Customer

    This was wonderfully comprehensive. The amount of effort you put into distilling your experience down for your readers really shine through. Thank you very much for all your hard work!

  • disqus_wxwpdQapfr

    THIS COMPANY HAS TERRIBLE SERVICE. I ordered an expedited book, paid extra shipping and the book arrived damaged. they will not allow me to call them to discuss the issue or replace is in a timely manner. It is for a masters thesis project and all they say is sorry but I can’t guarantee any help with the issue. Now I have a damaged as in rolled bent all over the cover and back cover and they have the nerve to not even give me a supervisor to speak with. This is a faceless company with “no phones” as they say so they don’t really have to help customers when they make huge mistakes

  • elizabethhalford

    Hello who are you talking about exactly?

  • eeloh

    Hi Elizabeth, thanks for this post. I started to use snapfish because they have great discounts (found apple too expensive – maybe they price things more dearly in Australia – and like you, too restrictive) but found their interface weirdly incompatible with being on a mac. I love the book you created on blurb.

  • Declan Murphy

    This is an astoundingly helpful article. Huge appreciation for your efforts.

  • elizabethhalford

    No problemo, Declan! Thanks for the comment!

  • Camille

    I dont find where to print my book with ibook author?

  • Ordinary Punter

    This is a wonderful blog. Many thanks. I got to it because I made a photo album with Blurb and wasn’t impressed with their software (or the final price of it). When I wanted three pictures to a page, two of them were far smaller than I would have liked, and I found it very hard to get the captions where I wanted them and the size I wanted them. Probably I need to pay for their more advanced version. I am a great user of PowerPoint where I feel I could do anything, and wondered if anyone knows how I could transfer a PowerPoint into some self publishing (definitely hard cover) for my next photo album. Would be incredibly grateful for any advice.

  • Lynne

    I want to print a couple copies of a children’s book – one for each of my granddaughters – mostly print but a few photos re content to make it more interesting. Would Blurb work best for this?

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