Company: Apple Computer
Price: from US$ 9.99
A few weeks ago I decided that it was time to try out iPhoto Books. I once tried my luck with a windows application, but found the results at the time to be so simplistic, that I scrapped my work in progress, went out to WH Smith and bought a proper photo album, had the pictures printed and ended up putting it all together myself.
As my brother is getting married in August I was thinking of something special to do for him after the wedding. I thought of a DVD with the wedding pictures from relatives and friends (using iLife of course). Something that would be popular with many of the guests.
But what about the technophobes? And what about that special feeling you get when you sit down a your photo album and take a look? Nothing can beat that feeling, so I went for it and put together an iPhoto Book and had it delivered – just to make sure that the end result would be worthwhile.
Creating the book with iPhoto
It couldn’t have been easier. You select your pictures, click on the book icon and get started. Select the type of book to create, whether it be softcover or hardcover, single sided or double sided. These are your choices as of today (03 May 06)
Small (3-pack only) 2.6 x 3.5 inches
Medium 6.0 x 8.0 inches
Large 8.5 x 11 inches
Large (single-sided) 8.5 x 11 inches
Large (double-sided) 8.5 x 11 inches
You’ll find one to suite your needs, I am sure of that. I personally selected the large, double-sided, hardcover, selecting the cover in burgundy instead of black.
After your selections, you’ll go in and chose a design template, and there are many. Some are simple, others are sophisticated, but all are well designed. I ended up playing around with quite a few of them before settling on “formal”. Our friends at Apple did a fabulous job and that’s all I can say about it. iPhoto is a superb application and if you don’t believe me, take a look at Guy Serle’s outstanding review on MyMac.com. I fully agree there should be 5 out 5 stars for the application and the order process.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with the basic cost of most Apple products, but I am not too certain about this one. The large hard cover doesn’t come cheap, but I figured everything I ever bought from Apple was superb quality, so it will be worth it. Apple has to charge German VAT at 16% on the book and so to compare the basic cost I took out the VAT. The net price is €24.99 or roughly US$ 31.50. Slightly higher than what it would cost in the US, but not too bad. But that’s not what I pay, the basic book comes at US$ 36.50 – and that is a steep price. When I lived in the US almost ten years ago I would order computer stuff from out of state and save myself the Sales Tax – not sure this is still possible.
The thing that really got me however is postage and packaging, at € 9.25 I personally think that Apple has lost it. When I got the book I found out why it had to be so expensive. It came all the way from Long Beach, California. The thing that made me smile big time is that apparently Apple shares my feeling about the steep price and chose to declare the custom value to be US$ 18.99 or € 15.00. Naughty, naughty… The whole thing is quite strange, you buy your books in the Netherlands (that’s where the bill comes from), your credit card is charged in the United Kingdom, but delivery is made from the United States – a truly international company!
Finally, the book arrives
If you don’t life in the United States you’ll have to wait – it takes 6-10 business days to get your book from the US. There is a large box, in which you will find a smaller Apple designed and branded box, in which you’ll find your book, nicely protected in a plastic envelope.
The first impression of my book wasn’t all that positive. It has a nice burgundy linen hard cover, which looks good – but the “formal design” has a rectangular photo on the front cover. Apple printed it and glued onto the linen, unfortunately at the corners it doesn’t stick all that well, not the premium finish I would have expected from Apple.
The next thing I noticed is that the colors of the photos in the book are rather dull and sometimes – how to best describe it – washed out, as if someone felt the need to “automatically adjust” them. Maybe the real problem is that I picked photos, which I have taken over the last five years or so. I know these photos well, had them printed several times on the internet and knew which photo I expected to be stunning. But they weren’t… So maybe that’s a problem, but when comparing quality, I think this is the best way.
So I figured I wasn’t impartial on this one, took it to friends and had them look it over. They knew some of the pictures and they were quite impressed by the photo book for the most part. But some had the same feeling as I did about the print quality. This is as close to a literal quote as I’ll get: “aren’t those the framed pictures you have in your living room? I can’t help it, but they don’t look quite as nice in here…”
I looked at the photo book again and again, and decided that it is a nice book, well designed, but I also feel that if you are really passionate about your pictures you might end up quite disappointed. Somehow it all feels as if Apple had somewhere a really nice laser printer and was doing them from someone’s cubicle. The idea is fabulous, the software side of things works great, the designs are splendid – the book a tad disappointing.
I am sure if you were to give it as a gift the person receiving it would love it. There is so much you can do with text and pictures and those designs that you couldn’t quite do with an ordinary photo album, unless you are very talented.
So I am left with making a decision on how many points to award. If you ever took the time time to review our rating scheme you know that I am allowed to award 5 points, and I think you should click that link in a second.
I’ve decided to give it 3 out of 5 points… I might just be too demanding, but the washed out colors, the front image that is coming off, all of that hasn’t left me with a better impression. Please do comment on this one, I’d really know your experience with the photo books, maybe I just got unlucky…